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COVID-19 and Saskatchewan housing co-ops

Published March 27, 2020

Updated May 20, 2020

Below is some province-specific information for Saskatchewan.  CHF Canada co-op staff are here to help you with your questions about co-op operations that are impacted by COVID-19. Please call (204) 947-5411 or 1-888-591.3301 or email bhamilton@chfcanada.coop if you have any questions or need help sorting through an issue.

Please also check out our main Housing Co-ops and COVID-19 page which contains more updates and a comprehensive set of FAQs.

State of Emergency

Saskatchewan declared a State of Emergency on March 18th.  A Public Health Order had since been issued prohibiting meetings of more than 10 people.

On May 13, the government extended the State of Emergency for an additional 2 weeks.

Saskatchewan has announced the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan. Phase 2 of the Plan sets May 19 for the re-opening of some retail businesses.  Housing co-op offices who wish to re-open to the public may wish to consider this as a target date.  The Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan also contains guidance on social distancing and disinfecting procedures for retail operations that may be useful for co-op offices.  Co-ops may also elect to defer opening their office until a later phase.

Evictions

Saskatchewan announced on March 26th that Residential Tenancies would not be processing non-urgent evictions (i.e. for non-payment of rent).  Recommended that co-operatives comply with the spirit of this pronouncement and put a freeze on member terminations and evictions related to non-payment of housing charges.  Evictions related to unlawful activity or health & safety may still proceed.

Employer Issues

Saskatchewan has amended the SK Employment Act to remove the requirement for a doctor’s note in order to access COVID-19 related leave.

Saskatchewan has also produced an FAQ on COVID-10 leaves.

Saskatchewan has also announced a Self Isolation Support Program ($450/week for up to 2 weeks) for individuals required to self-isolate but are not eligible for federal programs or do not have paid employer leave available.

Members meetings

For Saskatchewan co-ops, our advice is that you should not have members meetings at this time. Saskatchewan’s declaration of a state of emergency prohibits gatherings of more than 25 people. Even if your meeting will be fewer than 10 people, it will be difficult to maintain the proper social distancing between people.

The Co-operatives Act requires the co-op to have an Annual General Meeting (AGM) within 6 months of the end of fiscal year (see Co-op Act S.103). The same section of the Act allows the directors to write a letter to the Registrar requesting permission to hold the meeting at a later date.  If your co-op is use to have your AGM soon, we recommend writing such a letter, asking for permission to defer until September. Submit the letter through ISC by completing this form. Check the option for Member Meeting Extension in Part 2 of the form. If you need help drafting such a letter, contact CHF Canada staff.

The members can receive the audited financial statements and appoint the auditor at a later date when you are able to hold your AGM safely.  If you generally elect you directors at your AGM, your current board will remain in office until their successors are elected at the AGM when you are able to hold it.

The SCA has announced that the Saskatchewan government has just created the ability for co-ops to hold virtual annual general meetings. Unless prohibited by the co-operative’s bylaws or articles of incorporation, an annual general meeting can be now held by means of a telephonic, electronic or other communications facility that permits all participants to communicate adequately with each other during the meeting.  Detail on methods that meet this standard will be forthcoming.  Consult with CHF Canada staff for more advice on this issue.

What about budget meetings?

The same advice holds. Don’t hold the meeting at this time.  In Saskatchewan, the Co-operatives Act does not require the budget to be approved by the members (although the co-op’s by-laws may specific this).

If the co-op cannot hold a general members meeting to approve the budget, the co-op can still submit the budget or subsidy estimate with a memo to the regulator. The memo can state that the members have not approved the budget at the time of submission due to the COVID 19 pandemic measures. Of course the board of directors must approve the budget before it is submitted to the regulator. You may want to consider holding an electronic board meeting to approve the budget. (see Board meetings)

Board meetings

Even though board meetings will be smaller than members meetings, during the pandemic you should consider not holding in-person board meetings. For Saskatchewan housing co-ops, directors can hold electronic board meetings through such means as telephone conferencing or computer video chat. (section 77 of the Act).  This is the preferred way to conduct necessary board business during this time.

In scheduling an electronic meeting, CHF Canada recommends dealing with high priority agenda items and limiting meetings to no more than one hour in length. (Zoom videoconferencing platform is free for meetings of 40 minutes or less). During the pandemic, it would be a good idea for the board to schedule short weekly or bi-weekly electronic meetings to discuss urgent issues.

Crown Utilities

Saskatchewan has announced that Crown utilities will be offering bill deferral programs that allow households impacted by COVID-19 to defer bill payments for 6 months at 0% interest.   These include:  SK Government Insurance, SaskTel, SaskPower and SaskEnergy.


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