BC Reacts to Manson’s Law

August 26th, 2019

As recently as December, the Government of British Columbia was selling access to the BC Building Code.  They didn’t assume access to law; they sold it. 

The Building Code is the legislation that governs construction in BC.  Every builder in BC needs to know the contents of the Building Code.  In this, the BC Government was making a mint on access sales, just like CSA’s sales of access to electrical law.  But Manson’s Law was released in December 2018, and less than three months later all these BC sales were suddenly stopped.  The BC Building Code is now freely accessible.

You see, Manson’s Law created quite a problem for provincial governments.  By changing the ownership of law from public to private, and by granting all the powers of private ownership to the newfound owners of legislation, Manson’s Law also created massive liabilities for the provincial courts.

In the past, if a builder in BC violated the Building Code and some massive damage resulted, the Court would assess guilt based on the Building Code.  There was no problem with this, because before Manson’s Law, laws were publicly owned and therefore universally accessible.  Ignorance of the law was no excuse for violating it. 

With Manson’s Law in force however, a BC builder, hypothetically guilty as all get-out, can now claim ignorance of the requirements of law because the Building Code was not freely accessible.  Ignorance of the law has become an excuse.

It would be awfully awkward for the BC Government, should any such case make trial, because the impediment standing between the guilty builder and the Building Code was the wild pricing put in place by the Province itself.  That is, the BC Government was making laws unenforceable by financially restricting access to them.  Unenforceable laws are massive liabilities.

All these liabilities hit with the release of Manson’s Law in December, 2018.  To limit the damage, the Province moved to eliminate the access fees within weeks of the Ruling.  That cost them, big.

Prior to Manson’s Law, the Province was charging $35 per day to read the Building Code.  If you wanted to read plumbing regulations too, the fee was upped to $43 per day.  On a daily basis, that’s pricey, so they offered discounts.

You could purchase the right to read these laws on a 5-year subscription for only $1,145.  Of course, that’s the price for each “user” of legislation.  If your company employed, say, ten people, then you qualified for the discounted rate of $9,180.  Yup, nine-grand, to read the law.  What a deeeal!

And indeed, it was quite a deal for the Province.  As every builder needs to access the law, and as BC has a lot of builders, there was a massive mound of money to be made / taken in demanding payments in trade for the right to read the law.

Now that’s gone.  All of these Codes are now accessible on the BC Government website for free.  And they’re adding more regulations regularly.  And the only ones they’ll not post are those they don’t directly own; such as those owned by CSA.

In future then, in court cases involving breaches of law, the Province will argue that all of their laws are posted for free, so a guilty builder can go hang.  But the electrical laws of BC are owned by CSA and therefore have restricted availability, so a guilty electrician can go free.  The Province is covering their proverbial backside and readying to blame the Federal Court for unenforceability of electrical law.  You know, the; “It’s not our fault” defence.

As far as they’re concerned however, all this tumult is the fault of PS Knight Co.  Never-mind that CSA attacked us, not vice versa.  No.  We should’ve known our place, not risked their inconvenience or their wealth.  But for all the posturing, the hand-wringing, they do know on some level that it was CSA who opened this Pandora’s box and holds responsibility for all the resulting turbulence. 

A couple of other interesting things are underway on this file, it’s just that we can’t report them until the fall.  Rest assured however, that the whole question of private law is not closed, and the whole landscape of litigation may shortly, and dramatically, change.  And we’ll report it here as soon as we can.