Newfoundland and Labrador passes law to allow variation of limitation periods and statutory timelines during COVID-19 pandemic
On March 26, 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Act received Royal Assent.
Among other things, that statute brought into force the Temporary Variation of Statutory Deadlines Act (the “Act”).1 The Act addresses concerns in Newfoundland and Labrador regarding expiry of limitation periods and other statutory deadlines during the COVID-19 pandemic response. In particular, the logistical and human challenges in complying with statutory deadlines when courts are closed to all but urgent matters, and clients may not be in a position to address legal matters due to closure, lay-off, or other business interruption.
The Act also applies to deadlines/limitation periods in subordinate legislation, such as Regulations.
In general, the Act empowers:
- A minister, on the advice of the Attorney-General, to vary a deadline or time period in a statute administered by that minister for up to 6 months;
- The premier, on the advice of the Attorney-General, to vary a deadline or time period in certain statutes set out in the Executive Council Notice, 20192 for up to 6 months;
- The Speaker of the House to vary a deadline or time period in enumerated statutes for up to 6 months;
- The Lieutenant-Governor in Council may, on the advice of the Attorney-General, by order vary a deadline or time period in a statute administered by a minister or the premier for up to 6 months, retroactive to March 14, 2020 if desired.
To determine what statutes are administered by what entity (minister, premier, Speaker), please refer to the Regulations under the Executive Council Act.3 Those Regulations set out the powers of each department and its minister, and include a list of the statutes administered by each minister.
Notice of any variance by a minister, the premier, or the Lieutenant-Governor in Council must be posted:
- On a government website;
- In the Newfoundland and Labrador Gazette.
At the date of this update, there have been some variances to deadlines in government-centered legislation, including legislative member financial reporting and public reporting of public sector compensation.
The Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador has made the following recommendations to government for review and action:
- Under the authority of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, to extend all limitation periods in the Limitations Act for a period of 6 months retroactive to March 14, 2020;
- Under the authority of the Minister of Justice and Public Safety, to extend statutory deadlines set out in the:
- Judicature Act and the Rules of the Supreme Court, 1986;
- Court of Appeal Rules;
- Small Claims Act and Small Claims Rules; and
- Law Society Act, 1999.
The Act, and the permitted variances under it, expires at the end of the next sitting of the House of Assembly. As a result, we anticipate swift action to be taken under the Act.
A further update will follow any developments.
1 SNL 2020, c T-4.02.
2 NLR 93/19.
3 SNL 1995, c E-16.1.
This update is intended for general information only. If you have questions about the above, please contact a member of our Litigation & Alternative Dispute Resolution Group.
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