March 24, 2020

During a meeting held early this morning Victoria City Council considered a motion to declare a state of local emergency. According to Councillor Ben Isitt, declaring a local state of emergency would enable the City of Victoria to “provide relief to residents and safeguard the economic base of our community.” The City of Victoria deserves praise for taking a leadership role on this issue, by offering support to the working class -- particularly since the province has yet to step up to support residential or commercial tenants.

The Declaration of State of Local Emergency under consideration would obligate both residential and commercial landlords to “continue to provide the [residential/commercial rental premises] for the duration of the emergency on the same terms and conditions (including rent) as existed on March 1, 2020.” In addition, it prohibits residential landlords from issuing eviction notices for non-payment of rent, and commercial landlords from “taking any action (including evictions, distress, or other remedy whether in law or equity) based on failure of tenant to pay rent” for the duration of the emergency.

Council voted to postpone the motion until Thursday, in light of an indication from Ministers Farnworth and Robinson during a conference call yesterday that the province would be “taking some significant measures in the coming days,” according to Mayor Helps. In their public address yesterday, Premier Horgan and Minister James also stated that a package for renters would be announced on Wednesday. “Whether or not the renters’ package will include measures that will be available in time to help with rent payments due on April 1st, just 6 days from now, remains to be seen,” said BC Ecosocialists Board Member Alannah New-Small.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth (the same person who ordered the RCMP invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory) has explicitly discouraged municipalities across the province from declaring a state of emergency, said Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun, according to a report published in the Cowichan Valley Citizen yesterday. “Leadership from the province to protect residents from losing their homes and livelihoods during this pandemic crisis has absolutely been lacking. BC is lagging behind jurisdictions across North America including Doug Ford’s Ontario and Dallas, Texas, by failing to ban evictions during the pandemic.