Unclear Days: Computing Time in Statutes and Regulations

What does it mean when a statute or regulation says that there must be “x days between” two actions? What about “at least x days between” two actions? In keeping with the relative, wibbly-wobbly nature of time itself, the answer sometimes depends on where you are.

Federally, ss. 26-30 of the Interpretation Act set out rules for computing time in Federal legislation, such as how a time limit that expires on a holiday is automatically extended to the following day (s. 26); or how one month after March 30th is April 30th, while one month after March 31st is… also April 30th (s. 28).

When timelines are described in Provincial statutes or regulations, it is the equivalent Provincial interpretation legislation that governs. In Ontario, for example, these rules are set out in the Legislation Act, while British Columbia and Alberta include these provisions in their respective Interpretation Acts.

Confusingly, these rules are not always equivalent across jurisdictions. For example, the meaning of “at least x days” between two events is not the same in every province. Generally, when a legislative instrument refers to “x days” between two events, it is calculated by excluding the first day and including the last day. So, counting from a Monday, “four days between” means the period ends on the Friday (excluding the Monday but including the Friday). But in many jurisdictions, a reference that specifies “at least x days”, or “x clear days” between two events means that both the first and last days are excluded. So, counting from the same Monday, “at least four days between” means the period ends on the Saturday, not the Friday. This is the case Federally, as well as in British Columbia and Alberta, as examples (see ss. 27, 25.2, and 22(3) of their respective Interpretation Acts).

Ontario, however, doesn’t follow this distinction. Section 89(3) of the Ontario Legislation Act explicitly states that a reference to a period of time between two events includes the last day, “even if the reference is to ‘at least’ or ‘not less than’ a number of days”. So, counting from the Monday, “at least four days between” means the period ends on the Saturday for Federal legislation, but on the Friday for Ontario provincial legislation.

When computing a timeline prescribed by statute or regulation, and diarizing your own corresponding deadlines, it’s a good idea to make reference to the applicable interpretation legislation, and keep in mind that time, when it comes to legislative provisions, is very much relative.

Shawn Erker (@ShawnErker) is Legal Writer & Content Manager at LAWPRO.

Start the discussion!

Leave a Reply

(Your email address will not be published or distributed)