British Columbia's Restart Plan

June 2, 2020

This post was originally published May 7, 2020 and was updated on June 2, 2020.

On May 6, 2020, British Columbia officially announced BC's Restart Plan, which lays out a phased approach for the province in order to balance rebuilding the economy with keeping the transmission rate of COVID-19 as low as possible. In this post, which will be updated regularly as developments occur, we discuss the latest British Columbia re-opening steps and phases. Response by the government of British Columbia has differed in several aspects from the rest of Canada. Particularly, most businesses were not required to close provided they could operate safely and adhere to applicable law.

Phases and Timeline

BC's Restart Plan outlines a series of four (4) phases as follows:

Phase Timing Description
Phase 1 Ended May 18, 2020 Essential services are operational.
Many businesses providing non-essential services are permitted to remain open provided they adhere to health and safety guidelines.
Phase 2 May 19, 2020 - Current Under enhanced protocols, the retail sector, restaurants, cafes, pubs, hair salons, barbers and other personal service establishments will re-open or continue to operate provided they adopt and implement sector safety plans as they are finalized and comply with sufficient distancing measures.
Phase 3 June to September If transmission rates remain low or in decline, more enhanced protocols will be released pertaining to the re-opening of hotels and resorts, parks and select entertainment.
Phase 4 To be determined

Phase 4 will see the resumption of activities requiring large gatherings such as live audience professional sports, concerts and international tourism.
Phase 4 is conditional on at least one of the following:

  1. wide vaccination;
  2. community immunity; or
  3. broad successful treatment.

Response by the Government of British Columbia

Compared to other provinces in Canada, the government of British Columbia has taken a different approach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While many other areas imposed strict lock down policies that required the closure of non-essential businesses, British Columbia allowed many non-essential businesses to remain open provided they could operate safely and in alignment with various orders and guidance, as applicable, released by the Provincial Health Officer (the "PHO") and any other applicable provincial and federal laws released in order to combat the spread of COVID-19. Because of this, British Columbia's economy has continued to operate during the pandemic. However, many businesses closed despite not being required to, either as a result of reduced demand, or to protect their customers and employees and do their part in flattening the curve.

Overview of Released Guidelines

Employers are required to follow orders and guidance released by the PHO, including the ban on gatherings over 50 persons, enforcing self-isolation measures for employees who have previously travelled, and any ministerial order made pursuant to the Emergency Program Act, as applicable. A list of relevant industry-specific guidelines already released by the PHO, such as retail food and grocery stores, mining and smelting and construction sites, can be found here.

As part of BC's Restart Plan, employers and retailers are being asked to follow the guidelines contained in the BC COVID-19 Go-Forward Management Strategy and BC COVID-19 Go-Forward Management Checklist publications as part of the resumption of businesses, institutions and industries. These publications explain basic facts about the transmission of COVID-19 and subsequently provide measures to be taken in order to reduce transmission in a variety of settings, including personal or social interactions, the workplace and child care and educational settings. 

Going Forward

Businesses that have not been required to close pursuant to an order by the PHO may re-open or continue to operate provided that they adopt and implement industry-specific measures as they are finalized.

All employers must be able to demonstrate that they can operate safely. WorkSafeBC is committed to helping employers and workers restart safely by providing educational materials, consultation and workplace inspections. Every employer is required to have a COVID-19 safety plan that asses the risk of exposure at their workplace and implements measures to keep their workers safe. A template COVID-19 safety plan can be found on the WorkSafeBC website.

WorkSafeBC will also work with industry associations to ensure that the direction and guidance they provide to their members meets the requirements set out by the PHO. Protocols for specific industries such as agriculture, construction, hospitality, small business and retail can be found here.

DISCLAIMER: This publication is intended to convey general information about legal issues and developments as of the indicated date. It does not constitute legal advice and must not be treated or relied on as such. Please read our full disclaimer at www.stikeman.com/legal-notice.

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