Council joins provincial program enabling bylaw officers to ticket public health order violators

Thompson city council approved a resolution at their Nov. 16 meeting to participate in the provincial government’s municipal enforcement support program, which empowers bylaw officers to enforce public health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the program, municipalities receive 100 per cent of the revenue from tickets issued to those who violate public health orders restricting gathering sizes, limiting the number of customers allowed in stores and requiring the wearing of non-medical masks in public places, among others, provided those tickets are upheld by the courts.

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Seven councillors voted in favour of participating in the program.

“The more people that we can add that enforce it the better off we are,” said deputy mayor Les Ellsworth, adding that he has personally seen people not wearing masks while he has been out shopping for essentials.

Coun. Jeff Fountain, who voted against the resolution along with Coun. Duncan Wong, said he didn’t like handing over additional powers to government, referencing images from early in the novel coronavirus pandemic when the Chinese government detained people against their will inside their homes or in other facilities.

“I feel like this is a line that once you step over is opening the door for much more,” Fountain said.

Bylaw officers in participating municipalities join other agencies that can enforce public health orders including the RCMP and other police departments as well as provincial employees of Conservation and Climate, Workplace Safety and Health and the Liquor, Gaming & Cannabis Authority.

As of Nov. 8, 168 tickets and 228 warnings had been issued for disobeying public health orders in the province, which has received more than 13,500 tips about such infractions.

The RCMP said Nov. 17 that they have issued 119 warnings and 50 fines using these powers since April 9, including 42 warnings and eight fines between Nov. 2 and Nov. 13.

To report public health order violations, call 1-866-626-4862 or fill out the online reporting form at https://forms.gov.mb.ca/covid-tip-line/.

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