British Columbia is continuing to support local governments.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial government is allowing them to hold public hearings electronically.

“Local governments will be a key partner in our recovery effort,” says Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson. “Construction and development activities are expected to be a key part of B.C.’s recovery efforts – and building housing, in particular, affordable housing, will contribute to our goal to provide affordable housing for all British Columbians. Amending this order will allow local governments to continue their work on land-use decision-making and keep building their communities for the people they serve.”

Under the Emergency Program Act, the province is helping local governments, improvement districts and the Islands Trust continue to make important decisions for their communities.

As community input is a major part of land-use decision-making, even for those decisions that do not require a public hearing, local governments are still expected to find ways to encourage public participation.

They’re required to hold public hearings for some development applications before making a decision.

A significant delay in processing development applications could result in cost increases or cancelled projects and could negatively impact the province’s economic recovery.

Local governments should be as transparent as possible by keeping the public informed on any decisions or changes through their websites and social media.

Each will need to determine what electronic method works best for it.

At the time of public notice, the local government will be expected to provide information on how people can participate in the hearing, such as calling in or video conferencing.

Local governments will also continue to be required to accept written submissions for public hearings, whether in-person or electronic.