B.C. industry leaders sound alarm about wide scope of public health accountability act

Click to play video: 'Industry leaders worry about proposed new B.C. legislation'
Industry leaders worry about proposed new B.C. legislation
A group of business and industry leaders is worried a new proposed B.C. bill could lead to store being sued for selling products like candy and red meat. Travis Prasad reports – Apr 4, 2024

A group of industry stakeholders and business owners have banded together to express concerns about Bill 12, the B.C. government’s Public Health Accountability and Cost Recovery Act.

An open letter, signed by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, the B.C. Hotel Association, Wines of British Columbia, the B.C. Chamber of Commerce and many others, states that the bill in its current form is too broad in scope.

“The parameters in Bill 12 must be clear and appropriately delineated so as not to inadvertently expose a wider spectrum of businesses to legal risk,” the letter states.

“The current draft does not achieve this and has been advanced without sufficient engagement.”

Bill 12 allows the province to recover costs of public health harms associated with “the promotion, marketing and distribution of products that are harmful to adults and children in British Columbia.”

Story continues below advertisement

This builds on the province’s previous legislation to enable litigation against tobacco and opioid manufacturers.

However, the group that signed the open letter said they are trying to understand the legal implications of the bill.

They want the government to ensure proper parameters are in place to avoid unintended consequences.

Click to play video: 'B.C. government steps up legal action against opioid drug makers'
B.C. government steps up legal action against opioid drug makers

Greg Wilson, the director of government relations for B.C. for the Retail Council of Canada, told Global News they support the government’s goal of protecting British Columbians.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

“But we have difficulty with the very broad nature of this bill and concerns that there has been no advance stakeholder consultation, no discussion with British Columbians in advance of introducing this legislation,” he added.

Wilson said it’s too easy to speculate what the legislation might apply to.

Story continues below advertisement

“The legislation says selling, promoting or marketing,” he said. “So not just people who manufacture goods, but also those who sell, distribute, market and promote.”

Wilson said they are concerned this could include a butcher that sells red meat, a small grocery store that sells cheese or a business that sells energy drinks.

Wilson said this bill caught them by surprise.

We share government’s aims to protect British Columbians, and we think that that’s a laudable goal here,” he said.

“But we think that there are better ways to accomplish this. We’d like government to withdraw the legislation and go back to the drawing boards and to work with businesses to create something that works for both British Columbians and for government.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. government expands legal action against opioid companies'
B.C. government expands legal action against opioid companies

B.C.’s attorney general, Niki Sharma, said businesses operating in B.C. that are abiding by the rules and regulations have nothing to worry about.

Story continues below advertisement

“This is about companies that are knowingly doing wrongful conduct in our province,” she said.

“And it builds on the leadership that we’ve shown as a province to take on companies, like in the opioid crisis, that were knowingly doing harm to British Columbians. And we spent a lot of money, and we still are — the people of British Columbia are doing that to pay for the cost of their damages.”

Sharma said she is happy to meet with everyone in the business community and explain Bill 12 in greater detail.

“This legislation is fully targeted at those companies that are knowingly committing wrong against somebody or people in this province that have caused population-level harm or we’ve had to step in to and there are other ways that we may use as a government to prevent that harm.”

Sponsored content