The new Societies Act will receive first reading at the
BC Legislature today.
Yesterday evening, by teleconference the Minister of Finance,
the Honourable Michael de Jong, announced that he would introduce a
bill proposing a new Societies Act in the BC Legislature
on the afternoon of March 25. The Minister noted that consultations
had brought to light a number of different views on the various
provisions of the proposed new legislation as set out in the White
Paper released in August 2014, but that the overwhelming desire of
the voluntary sector was that the government move forward with the
It appears likely that the Bill will differ in a number of
respects from the draft legislation that accompanied the White
Paper. The Minister noted in particular several revisions that have
been made as a result of concerns expressed in consultations.
Public Interest Remedy - Section 99 of the White Paper, which
would authorize members of the public to commence an action against
a society for failure to act in the public interest has not been
included in the Bill. This will come as a welcome relief to many
societies which were concerned that this section would
significantly increase litigation against societies by parties who
disagreed with their views.
Minimum Age of Directors - In response to a concern voiced by
student societies that individuals under age 18 would not be
permitted to serve as directors, the Ministry has introduced a
power for the government to authorize by regulation certain
societies to have 16 and 17 year old directors.
Unalterable Provisions - Some societies were concerned that
unalterable provisions were being done away with completely. The
new legislation introduces a compromise. While unalterable
provisions will become alterable, a new power in the legislation
will allow societies to set in their bylaws a supermajority
threshold for altering specifically designated provisions. This
threshold could be unanimity. This mechanism will allow societies
that wish them to keep in place "nearly unalterable"
Member Proposals – Some societies were concerned about
the new power in the White Paper that would allow 5% of the
membership to compel the board of a society to add an issue to the
agenda of a meeting. The bill will provide a compromise. While the
threshold will still be set at 5% of members, in order to be placed
on agenda the proposal must have the support of at least 2 voting
members and the board will have discretion to reject the proposal
if it is substantially similar to an issue that has already been
proposed in the past two years.
While these were the only changes specifically mentioned, the
Minister did not state that these are the only differences from the
legislation proposed by the White Paper. We are hopeful that
certain other technical concerns will also be addressed.
The Minister acknowledged that it is unusual to provide a
briefing in this manner prior to the Bill being introduced in the
Legislature. For that reason, he was unable to take questions or go
into further detail on the teleconference. He thanked all those who
had helped to shape the draft legislation and expressed confidence
that it will serve BC's 27,000 societies well.
We will provide further news once the bill is tabled and
available for review. Stay tuned!
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