Good morning, 

Today marks eight weeks since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in British Columbia. 

Earlier this morning, Premier John Horgan and Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General MIke Farnworth announced the next steps they are taking with respect to the provincial state of emergency, which was declared just over a week ago.  

This morning’s announcement was multi-pronged, including a number of detailed ministerial orders issued by Solicitor General Farnworth under the province’s Emergency Program Act , as well as the release of a definition and list of “essential services”. 

New Ministerial Orders:

The ministerial orders below go into effect immediately and will remain in place for the duration of the provincial state of emergency. 

Establishing a new Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit 
  • Province will be taking a more active role in coordinating essential goods and services movement by land, air, marine and rail;
  • Repeals any bylaws that restrict the delivery of goods at any time of day;
  • Retailers must regularly report on inventory of critical supply; and, 
  • The province will identify and take control of warehouses and other facilities for gathering supplies and resources, if required. 

Banning the resale of essential supplies 
  • Prohibiting the resale of food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment, cleaning and other essential supplies; and, 
  • The province will work with retailers to restrict the number of items that can be purchased at the point of sale. 

Enabling enforcement of provincial health officer’s orders 
  • Province is enabling municipal bylaw officers to support enforcement of the provincial health officer’s orders for business closures and gatherings; and, 
  • In line with offences under the Public Health Act, enforcement could include fines of over $25,000, or even jail time. 

Passenger and car ferry services to reduce service and provide priority access 
  • Province will ensure all passenger and car-ferry services provide minimum service levels and priority access for residents, and essential goods and workers

Protecting vulnerable British Columbians  
  • Regulatory and administrative barriers will be removed to make it easier to support critical services for vulnerable people, like food banks and shelters; and, 
  • Evictions due to loss of income related to COVID-19 that would otherwise be allowed under the Residential Tenancy Act will be prevented or suspended. 

Suspending local states of emergency 
  • Effective immediately, the province is suspending local states of emergency specific to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • The only exception is the City of Vancouver, whose state of emergency was declared under the provincial Charter; 
  • This measure ensures responses are coordinated under the provincial state of emergency – replacing a “patchwork” of local emergencies, says Premier Horgan; 
  • Gives municipal councils the ability to hold more flexible meetings to expedite decisions; and, 
  • Local governments are being asked to identify any local, publicly owned facilities that could be used for self-isolation, testing, medical care, warehousing and distribution (e.g. community centres, convention centres, etc.). 

Essential Services:

The second component of today’s announcement was the release of a list of what is considered an essential service amidst province-wide closures of certain types of businesses. The government has defined essential services as those daily services essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning. 

The list of essential services is broad and wide-ranging, and for brevity’s sake, can be found at the bottom of this link . In consultation with the provincial health officer, the services deemed essential should and are encouraged to remain open. They must, however, follow the orders and guidance provided by the PHO. 

Both Premier Horgan and Minister Farnworth emphasized that this is not an exhaustive list, and one that will continue to be revisited over the coming days and weeks. The response to COVID-19 is a new and ever-changing situation, and as we all adapt, so, too, will the definition of the essential services that keep society running. 

It is important to stress one particular caveat emphasized by both Premier Horgan and Minister Farnworth: 

“In consultation with the provincial health officer, any business or service that has not been ordered to close, and is also not identified on the essential service list, may stay open if it can adapt its services and workplace to the orders and recommendations of the PHO.”

This provides flexibility to businesses and organizations who were not included on today’s essential services list, but who also have not been mandated to close by the provincial health officer.

According to the provincial government’s news release, the measures introduced today – designed to support the provincial health officer and Minister of Health in executing a coordinated, cross-government approach to COVID-19 response and recovery – are unprecedented. 

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or require further analysis on today’s  announcement. We will continue to actively monitor developments and provide you with the best information we can to help you, your employees, and your family navigate through this unprecedented time. 

Thank you on behalf of the Earnscliffe team.