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The Legislative Watch

The fourth session of the 40th Parliament of British Columbia had a relatively unusual fall sitting, with the government wishing to pass further legislation concerning natural gas development and in particular liquid natural gas. The session has largely been taken up with accusations of negligence concerning the tragic death of children under the care of the government. There have been further allegations of senior members of the government not obeying the freedom of information legislation, by deleting documents that the Privacy Commissioner has previously stated should not be deleted.

In the midst of this political rancour, there have been a number of bills passed, some of which may be of importance to trial lawyers.

The New Legislation

The Family Maintenance Enforcement Amendment Act, 2015 (Bill 32) makes a number of changes to this important area of the law for family law practitioners. The new legislation authorizes the director to reallocate payments among creditors, provides further reasons why a debtor is not liable to pay an annual default fee to the government, provides a six year limitation period for government claims for default, permits the director to serve a notice of attachment on persons who have indemnified other persons who owe money at to a debtor, allows the director to serve a document outside of BC with the same legal effect as if it were a notice of attachment, permits the court to issue an order to a person who is before the court whether or not the person is been summoned or apprehended under this Act, and permits the Provincial Court to enforce Supreme Court orders without the requirement of certification.

These changes should simplify some of the procedural matters that have been of concern to practitioners in the past, and will grant boader authority to the director.

The Motion Picture Amendment Act, 2015 (Bill 33) broadens the power of the director, repeals or replaces most of the previous legislative definitions, permits the director to impose administrative penalties for contraventions, revises the director’s authority to approve or refuse to approve adult motion pictures, and generally sets up a relatively new regime to deal with movie censorship. There are a number of changes concerning fees and licenses to distribute motion pictures. If you are advising clients who were involved directly or indirectly in this business you will want to review these fairly dramatic changes.

The Red Tape Reduction Day Act (Bill 34) makes the first Wednesday in March each year as a Red Tape Reduction Day in British Columbia. This will not be a statutory holiday.

The Workers Compensation Amendment Act (No. 2), 2015 (Bill 35) makes a number of procedural changes concerning annual reports from the Board, alters the make-up of joint committees on health and safety, increases the duties of employers to notify the board of any accident involving a fire or explosion that had a potential for causing serious injury to a worker, requires specific steps to be taken for investigations, and in particular requires an employer to provide an investigation report within 30 days of any incident. These changes will place more burdens on employers and increase the amount of information that must be provided to workers, so if you do act for workers in the circumstances you will want to review these changes to advise your clients of their new rights.

The Auditor General for Local Government Amendment Act, 2015 (Bill 36) seeks to correct a number of problems that occurred arising out of the appointment of the first auditor general for local government. Local governments were not pleased with that auditor general, and ultimately neither was the government and apparently litigation ensued. This bill is designed to clarify the role of that auditor general and to allow that person to act more effectively. It remains to be seen if these changes will have the desired result.

The Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 2015 (Bill 37) makes minor changes to a larger variety of acts, mostly correcting errors in the forms contained in those acts. The bills most likely to affect trial lawyers would include the Adult Guardianship Act, the Enforcement of Canadian Judgments and Decrees Act, the Health Care Costs Recovery Act, and the Ombudsperson Act. None of the changes appear to be substantive.

The Provincial Immigration Programs Act (Bill 39) creates a director of Provincial Immigration Programs, who administer these programs, which are joint agreements with Canada. The director will have statutory immunity, can review denied applicants, can share personal information with various bodies, and will have inspection powers as well as the ability to set fees.

The Miscellaneous Statues Amendment Act (No. 3), 2015 Bill 41) amends statutes concerning some educational institutions but of more interest to trial lawyers would be the changes to the Child, Family and Community Service Act to allow for the director to make agreements with young adults and extend certain support services to young adults. This change appears to follow the tragic deaths of a number of young people who had turned 19 and were no longer in the direct care of the government.

The Electoral Districts Act (Bill 42) is a very significant bill enacting the changes recommended by the 2015 Electoral Boundaries Commission Final Report, and creates two new electoral districts in the Lower Mainland and makes boundary changes to 48 of the 87 electoral districts that will exist at the time of the next election in 2017. It is always important for trial lawyers to know who their local legislative representatives are so that the interests of clients are properly advanced by legislative changes which may occur. In this case, both the major political parties have agreed with the various changes to electoral boundaries. However, it has been suggested in the legislature as part of the debate on this bill that a number of these boundary changes are not constitutional in that they create electoral districts which are not in keeping with the size and numbers of electors as set down in the Supreme Court of Canada cases. It remains to be seen if anyone will challenge this legislation.

Article by Ian Aikenhead, Q.C.

Used with permission of the Trial Lawyers of British Columbia, previously published in the Verdict magazine.



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