New act will help formalize, unwind emergency orders

THE B.C. Government has introduced the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, legislation that will allow for the provisions created for citizens and businesses in response to the pandemic to be formalized and unwound as appropriate after the provincial state of emergency ends.

“This legislation will support the delicate work of formalizing and unwinding emergency measures relied on by British Columbians during the pandemic in a way that recognizes that the impacts of COVID-19 may still be felt for an extended period after the state of emergency is over,” said David Eby, Attorney General, on Monday. “British Columbians can be confident that these emergency orders will not end abruptly the moment the declaration of a state of emergency ends. They will have adequate notice to prepare.”

Currently, all ministerial orders made by the solicitor general under the Emergency Program Act (EPA) end immediately at the conclusion of the provincial state of emergency. Specific orders already made will be extended in the legislation after the end of the state of emergency by 45 or 90 days. Given the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19, the act will also provide the possibility for extension of COVID-19 related orders by up to one year after the act is brought into force, if required. The act will also incorporate current ministerial emergency orders so the legislature may pass and formally recognize them.

Separately, the act allows for the creation of regulations that provide protections from civil liability. For example, emergency orders to protect essential service providers, such as child care operators, and amateur sport organizations from liability, where they operate responsibly and in accordance with public health orders and guidelines, are already in place to respond to concerns from those sectors.

Finally, the proposed legislation introduces two permanent, targeted amendments to the EPA that clarify the powers available to the minister under section 10 to “do all acts and implement all procedures that the minister considers necessary,” and delegates some specific powers to cabinet instead of a single minister.

“Our government took a range of actions to keep communities safe and support essential service workers throughout the pandemic,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “This legislation assures British Columbians that the measures we’ve put in place to fight the impacts of COVID-19 will be there as long as needed.”