Saturday, March 13, 2010

Consultations for Reform of the British Columbia Society Act

The Deputy Minister of Finance is seeking comments on reform of the Society Act. In a message issued in December 2009, a couple of structural issues are identified as follows:

Two fundamental structural issues regarding the Act have already been raised. The first concerns the nature of the corporate model most appropriate for societies and whether a more sophisticated business law framework should be adopted.

The lack of up-to-date corporate governance rules has been identified as a barrier to the efficient functioning of societies. For example, societies are currently required to have three directors (one of whom must be resident in the province), and directors can only be indemnified with the approval of the court. While these extra controls may be appropriate for certain types of societies (e.g. charities), societies that are not recipients of public money perhaps need not be so constrained. Other corporate statutes have moved toward greater streamlining and flexibility in these areas. For example, the BCA requires only one director (with no residency requirement) and indemnification of BCA directors no longer requires a court order. As well, the BCA’s modern framework for corporate reorganizations and other fundamental changes is not available to societies.


The second fundamental issue concerns the extent to which the Act should contain regulatory provisions or other rules that constrain the operation of societies. Most corporate statutes are non-regulatory in nature -- that is, they merely provide a framework for incorporation, governance and dissolution, and contain few, if any, provisions that purport to regulate or control the composition or activities of the corporations created. The Society Act, however, contains a number of regulatory provisions, including the following:

tighter accountability controls -- for example, a society must have three directors (as opposed to one director for private companies under the BCA) and must make its financial statements available to the public. There is no ability to waive financial statements (as there is for private companies under the BCA);

provisions allowing the registrar to order a particular society (or class of society) to become a "reporting society", which then triggers greater accountability requirements -- for example, a reporting society must provide audited financial statements to its members;

special rules regulating societies that exist for educational, religious, poverty-relief, community or other "charitable purposes" -- a society with such purposes cannot abandon those purposes or convert to a company, and may not, on dissolution, distribute its assets to its members; and

ministerial investigations of societies that do not act in the public interest.

You may provide any comments by April 1, 2010, by email to or to the following address:

Financial and Corporate Sector Policy Branch
Ministry of Finance
PO Box 9418 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC V8W 9V1
(Phone 250-387-1269)

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