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BC To Introduce 'Social Enterprise' Company Form

Changes to British Columbian legislation will allow for the introduction of a new hybrid type of company, the community contribution company.

Bill 23, Finance Statutes Amendment Act, 2012, recently introduced to the provincial parliament, will reform the Business Corporations Act. The legislation will create a new type of hybrid corporation which will respond to an emerging demand for socially focused investment options and can help foster social enterprise investments. The new company would be structured to combine benefits to the community while limiting investor returns within the context of a traditional for-profit company.

According to the Finance Ministry, community contribution companies would be incorporated with the flexibility and certainty of regular companies, but under legislation that ensures they primarily benefit the community. The legislation allows an alternative business model not currently available through regular businesses, where the primary focus is making money for shareholders, or through a non-profit society.

The legislation also stipulates that these new companies will be subject to a higher degree of accountability than an ordinary company and required to publish an annual report detailing their social spending. In addition, restrictions on corporate reorganizations are designed to ensure that payout restrictions cannot be circumvented. On dissolution, the company would be subject to an asset lock. This will involve capping dividends on the company shares to make sure that profits are either retained by the company or directed to the community benefit.

The Ministry has confirmed that, subject to the passage of the legislation, the government will continue to develop the regulations necessary to implement the legislation.

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The Finance Statutes Amendment Act also provides for changes to several other pieces of legislation. The Ministry has said that amendments to the Cooperative Association Act will strengthen the procedural safeguards that protect co-op members on termination. Housing cooperatives will benefit from new, streamlined procedures for terminating membership if the member fails to pay rent or other occupancy charges.

The Financial Institutions Act and Pensions Benefits Standards Act will also be altered under the new legislation. As the Ministry has explained, at present the statutory responsibilities of the public servant who runs the Financial Institutions Commission are assigned by multiple processes. Amendments to these acts would streamline the processes, enhance accountability and ensure consistency with other commissions.

The Finance Statutes Amendment Act also revises the enabling statutes of a number of government organizations to expressly recognize and clarify the authority of the Auditor General as laid out in the Auditor General Act and remove any conflicting language.

Lastly, the Business Corporations Act, the Cooperative Association Act and the Partnership Act are all amended to ensure the continued effectiveness of each statute and support the expansion of online filing for partnerships. This, the Ministry says, will increase consistency across the statutes, remove impediments to business and increase administrative efficencies for Corporate Registry filings.

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Posted in Law Post Date 02/28/2015


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