Barely a week after announcing steep new fines to deter COVID-19 rule-breakers, and authorizing municipal bylaw officers to mete out enforcement, only three tickets have been issued and no municipality is pursuing violators.
During the week of Oct. 19 to 25, 441 tips were made to different authorities, culminating in five warnings and three tickets, a provincial government spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The RCMP and another, unidentified police agency each ticketed a person for violating provincial public health orders, she said. One business was ticketed by the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority. Neither the date nor the location of the offences was provided.
The province knows of no tickets issued by municipal bylaw officers. With built-in reporting mechanisms, the government can track enforcement by its provincial partners but not municipal bylaw officers, the spokeswoman said. "Not all municipalities will be participating in enforcement," she added.
Last week as COVID-19 cases surged, Premier Brian Pallister announced rule-breakers would face steeper fines, and as many as 130 municipal bylaw officers were authorized to help with enforcement.
On Oct. 20, the province jacked up fines for violators of public health orders: individuals are subject to a $1,296 ticket and businesses face a $5,000 fine. The goal is to deter people and establishments from flouting rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
On Oct. 22, the Municipal Relations and Justice departments announced changes to provincial regulations, giving authorization to bylaw officers to enforce emergency health hazard orders and public health emergency orders within their respective municipalities.
"Empowering bylaw officers with the ability to enforce public health orders will increase compliance and enable municipalities to address specific concerns in their communities," Municipal Affairs Minister Rochelle Squires said in a press release Friday.
Municipalities, including Winnipeg, said they knew nothing about the province's plan to get bylaw officers to enforce pandemic restrictions and needed more guidance. A provincial government spokesman said later that day that municipal bylaw enforcement officers are well-trained in the enforcement of municipal ordinance. "The expansion of scope to include enforcement of provincial public health orders will involve reference to orders and related guidance and is well within the scope of their existing abilities," he said.
Municipalities said Wednesday they are still waiting for guidance from the province.
"The (Association of Manitoba Municipalities) and our member municipalities are currently awaiting further details from the provincial government regarding the announcement," association communications director Nick Krawetz said Wednesday.
"The provincial government has not yet provided guidance on how the municipality can help enforce provincial public health orders," a spokesman for Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said.
The provincial government said late Wednesday it is working with the association and City of Winnipeg to create a document that will be released to municipal officials soon.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.