Limitation Periods applicable to the Environmental Management Act

British Columbia’s Environmental Management Act sets out a comprehensive scheme with respect to the remediation of contaminated sites.  Central to that scheme is section 47 of the Act, which permits a party who has incurred the cost of remediating a site to bring a court action to recover the costs of remediation.  In a typical Environmental Management Act action, the party who has incurred the cost will seek contribution from the property’s previous owners and operators.  Even though the mechanisms in the Act are designed around the principle of “polluter pays”, the provisions of the Act make it difficult for parties who have owned or operated a site to escape liability, as the burden of proof is on those parties to show that they fall within one of the Act’s limited exceptions found in section 46 of the Act.  As a result, actions under the Act can often involve parties that have had no involvement with the property for decades.  As a result, a frequent question asked by parties finding themselves in such a dispute is whether or not the BC Limitation Act applies, or whether there are any time limits associated with bringing such a claim.

Although the Act does apply retroactively in the sense that all previous owners and operators the property can be found liable for the cleanup, a plaintiff does not have an indefinite time in which to bring their action.  In First National Properties Ltd. v. Northland Road Services Ltd., 2008 BCSC 569, the court confirmed that the BC Limitation Act does apply to remediation claims pursuant to the Environmental Management Act.  In that case, the court found that the limitation clock started running once the Plaintiff was aware of the cost to remediate.  In J.I. Properties Inc. v. PPG Architectural Coatings Canada Inc., 2014 BCSC 1619, the court confirmed that the six year limitation pursuant to the 1996 Limitation Act was applicable.

Prior to the passage of the 2012 Limitation Act, it appeared that an amendment would be made to the Environmental Management Act to the effect that an action could be brought at any time. However, when that legislation was passed, no consequential amendments were made to the Environmental Management Act, so it remains at this time that the Limitation Act applies.  Thus, a plaintiff who incurs remediation costs ought to bring their cost recovery action swiftly, as the Act’s two year limit will likely come into play.  Further, it remains to be considered in a future case what effect, if any, the discoverability provisions of the new Limitation Act have in respect of a cost recovery claim.

About the Author:

W. Eric Pedersen is a lawyer practicing in the civil litigation department at Velletta & Company. Mr. Pedersen has worked with the civil litigation department to achieve successful outcomes for individuals and businesses, appearing in Provincial Court, Supreme Court, and the British Columbia Court of Appeal.  Find out more about Eric by clicking HERE.

The British Columbia Franchises Act

Franchise_Act

For the first time in British Columbia franchises are now subject to legislation with the enactment of the new Franchises Act (the “Act”) which took effect as of February 1, 2017.

 

With the enactment of the Act, British Columbia is the sixth Canadian province with franchise legislation, joining Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

 

The B.C. Government recognizes that franchise purchasers are making a significant investment, however they can sometimes be at a disadvantage when solely relying on the information provided by the company offering the franchise, due to a lack of knowledge, experience, and access to expert advice. The Act helps to rectify this imbalance and support the expansion of franchises by standardizing regulatory requirements, while at the same time encouraging investment in B.C. Franchisors selling franchises in B.C. must now deliver a compliant disclosure document to prospective franchisees at least 14 days before the execution of a franchise agreement or the payment of any consideration in relation to the franchise. This disclosure includes (but in not limited to) a description of the business opportunity itself, a list of all fees and costs a franchisee must pay to acquire and operate the franchised business, details of any litigation involving the franchisor or its affiliates, a description of any territory granted, and a list of existing and former franchisees for prospects to contact for more information. Audited or reviewed financial statements must also be a part of the disclosure package, together with copies of all contracts the prospective franchisee is required to execute.

In addition, the Act imposes retroactive application for certain claims, including damage claims relating to breaches of the duty of fair dealing and the right to associate. This means, as of February 1, 2017, franchisees and franchisors are able to make claims for breaches of the duty of good faith and fair dealing in the performance and enforcement of franchise agreements entered into prior to February 1, 2017.

Below is a brief summary of the main provisions of the Act.

The Act:

Application – the Act applies to any franchise agreement entered into and to any renewal or extension of a franchise agreement that was entered into before, on or after the Act comes into force.

Fair Dealing – a duty of fair dealing, which includes acting in good faith and with reasonable commercial standards, is imposed on both the franchisor and the franchisee in the performance and enactment of a franchise agreement.

Right to Associate – a franchisee may associate with other franchisees and may form or join an organization of franchisees.

A franchisor and a franchisor’s associate must not, directly or indirectly, penalize, attempt to penalize or threaten to penalize a franchisee for associating with other franchisees, or for forming or joining an organization of franchisees.

Disclosure – a franchisor must provide a prospective franchisee with a disclosure document including financial and other relevant information about the franchise at least 14 days before the signing of the franchise agreement and the payment of any consideration.

Right of Rescission – conditions are set for the franchisee to rescind a franchise agreement upon a franchisor’s failure to provide satisfactory disclosure.

Damages – if the franchisee suffers a loss because of a misrepresentation in a disclosure document or in a statement of a material change, or as a result of a franchisor’s failure to comply with the provisions of the Act dealing with disclosure requirements in respect of material change, then the franchisee has a right of action against the franchisor, the franchisor’s broker, the franchisor’s associate and everyone who signed the disclosure document.

Attempt to Affect Jurisdiction Void – provides that a provision in the franchise agreement to restrict the application of the law of the province is void with respect to claims arising under a franchise document to which this Act will apply, including in respect of arbitration.

In conclusion, the Act is intended to benefit franchisors by continuing to establish uniform regulatory regimes across Canada and standardize franchise practices already followed by more sophisticated franchisors. Likewise, the Act will provide appropriate and needed legal protection to B.C. franchisees who are typically small business operators.

View the full text of the British Columbia Franch1ises Act.

 

Natalia M. Velletta is an Articled Student at Velletta & Company. Before pursuing her passion for law, Natalia attended the University of Victoria where she obtained her undergraduate degree in Education. Natalia also worked for the Government of British Columbia under the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles.