As we are starting to emerge from the pandemic, we are back to an ever changing landscape. As noted in our last article, Clarity Through the Fog; Navigating Proxies in Electronic Meetings, the government had set July 10, 2021 as the expiry date for the strata corporation's ability to hold electronic meetings without a bylaw. Given that the COVID-19 pandemic continues and while the province is starting to move towards "normal", it is clear that restrictions will prevent some strata meetings from proceeding if that date is not extended. To deal with that issue, the government is in the process of amending legislation necessary to set a new deadline in Bill 11 – Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2021.
July 10, 2021 or December 31, 2021?
If you recall, Ministerial Order M114 dated April 15, 2020 granted strata corporations the power to hold strata meetings electronically without a bylaw. On July 10, 2020, M114 was repealed. It was incorporated into the Covid-19 Related Measures Act. That legislation set a deadline to 90 days after the expiry of the last extension of the state of emergency related to the Covid-19 pandemic. It also gave the Lieutenant Governor (the "LG") the power to create regulations to set a different deadline (but that deadline could only be a maximum of one year from when the Covid-19 Related Measures Act came into force). On February 16, 2021, the LG did just that and ordered that the portion of the Covid-19 Related Measures Act that allowed strata corporations to conduct their meetings electronically be repealed effective July 10, 2021. This is how we ended up with the July 10, 2021 deadline in the first place. Section 1 of Bill 11 amends the deadline to read December 31, 2021. Bill 11 has passed third reading. It has not yet received Royal Assent. Section 1 of Bill 11 is meant to come into force as of July 10, 2021. It seems that strata corporations will have until December 31, 2021 to amend their bylaws to allow for electronic meetings if they wish to continue to do so and haven't already amended their bylaws to allow for it. While some strata corporations can't wait to go back to in person meetings, there are a number who have embraced this transformation recognizing that there are times when holding a strata meeting electronically makes sense. Those strata corporations should mark their calendars and amend their bylaws!
At the same time, Dr. Henry's re-opening plan is in full swing. So the question becomes at what point can strata corporations hold in person meetings. While we may not know precisely what the future holds, we know what is currently allowed and we have a roadmap for the next few months.
Dr. Henry`s Re-opening Plan and What it Means for General Meetings
On March 25, 2021, Dr. Henry announced the four step re-open plan. On March 28, 2021, the Gathering and Events Order was updated to allow for strata meetings to be held indoors to a maximum of 10 people and outdoors to a maximum of 50 people, but only with a COVID-19 safety plan and the additional requirements set out in that order. The government has since further updated the Gathering and Events Order on June 6, 2021. As it applies to strata meetings, the update does not change the requirements. Effectively, at step 1, in most cases strata meetings in person are all but impossible to host.
Step 2 of the re-open plan is set to start at earliest on June 15, 2021. When it becomes effective, indoor organized gatherings for up to 50 people with a COVID-19 safety plan will be permitted. Masks remain mandatory in public indoor settings and physical distancing is required. If the same requirements carry through from the current Gatherings and Events Order, this will mean the following measures have to be maintained in order to host a general or council meeting:
- there is a COVID-19 safety plan;
- there is an organizer;
- access to the event is controlled;
- there is sufficient space available to permit attendees to maintain a distance of two metres from one another, unless they are all seated;
- the attendees maintain a distance of two metres from one another when standing, unless they live together;
- attendees of the meeting must remain seated, except when voting and registering, to obtain food or drink, or to use the washroom facilities;
- measures are put in place to prevent the congregation of attendees outside the venue;
- the place is assessed for areas where participants may congregate, and measures are put in place to avoid congregation;
- physical devices, markers or other methods are used to guide and assist attendees in maintaining a distance of two metres from other participants, if they are not seated;
- if there are tables provided, no more than six persons are seated at a table, even if they live together, and there are at least two metres between the backs of the chairs when occupied at one table, and the backs of the chairs when occupied at another table, unless the chairs are separated by a physical barrier;
- hand sanitation supplies are readily available;
- washroom facilities have running water, soap and paper towels for hand washing and drying purposes, or hand sanitation supplies.
In addition, the organizer must monitor the number of persons attending and ensure that number doesn't exceed the maximum capacity set out in the venue's COVID-19 safety plan, collect the first and last names, telephone number or email address of every attendee, retain that information for 30 days for the purpose of contact tracing and then destroy that information after 30 days.
Similarly, step 3, which will start at the earliest on July 1, 2021, is expected to allow for even larger organized gatherings with a COVID-19 safety plan, though the precise numbers are not spelled out. Nor is it clear whether the same requirements that currently apply will continue to be in force.
What to do Moving Forward
The gatherings and events orders and competing legislation can be difficult to navigate, particularly when updates on these orders are so frequent and dependent on variables related to vaccination rates and maintaining reduced case numbers and hospitalizations. In order to ensure that you aren't cancelling pre-emptively planned in-person general meetings, we suggest not trying to plan in-person general meetings until at least step 3, which will be at the earliest on July 1, 2021 to determine whether to consider booking an in person general meeting. With the extension of the ability to hold electronic meetings without a bylaw promised by Bill 11, it just might make more sense to stay the course, hold the meeting electronically at least for the next few months.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Clark Wilson's Strata Law group.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.