Just in time for the long weekend, the province has approved the use of hundreds of new enforcers to ensure public health orders to protect Manitobans from the spread of COVID-19 are respected.
"As we continue to safely restore our services, we have to look, sadly, at additional measures to help protect Manitobans," Premier Brian Pallister said during a teleconference Thursday.
New legislation enacted this week (the Additional Enforcement Personnel Regulation) will bring the number of provincial and municipal personnel authorized to enforce COVID-related public health orders — and issue tickets for non-compliance — to roughly 3,000.
The roster includes safety and health officers under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, Liquor Gaming and Cannabis Control Act inspectors, public-health officers, park patrol officers, and Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development public-health officers (food safety and animal health inspectors, and animal protection officers).
Those groups join police organizations (RCMP, municipal and First Nations forces) on the front lines with the authority to enforce public-health orders. However, not all groups wish to use it.
The Winnipeg Police Service has said enforcing public-health orders is a provincial government issue.
On Thursday, the police department issued a news release telling the public not to call it or 911 about the matter: "Any calls concerning possible breaches regarding COVID-19-related concerns are to continue to be directed to (city info service) 311."
Meanwhile, Winnipeg bylaw enforcement officers don't have the authority to issue COVID-19-related tickets outside of city-owned parks.
The newly designated group will have such authority throughout Manitoba as enforcement officers under the Provincial Offences Act.
"As much as we're increasing the ability to enforce, it's my hope that it won't be necessary," Pallister said in the wake of a crowd of 100 gathering at the legislature Saturday to protest social-distancing directives limiting crowd sizes to no more than 10 people. No tickets were handed out that day.
"I would hope that Manitobans will abide by the proper rules, and that they will respect themselves and each other."
Fine amounts are $486 for tickets issued to individuals, including sole proprietorships and partnerships, and $2,542 for tickets issued to corporations, a provincial government spokeswoman said.
The enforcement officials will operate in their regular roles and provide education and warnings to businesses in their sectors, issuing tickets "as a last resort," the province said in a news release.
Technically, however, they also have the authority to arrest those deemed in non-compliance.
The province is trying to enforce public-health orders under a framework it calls Operation Safe Apart. It includes the recruitment of volunteers to assist with public awareness and education; if formal enforcement is needed, it refers matters to the proper authorities.
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"Should arrest be the required intervention, police agencies of jurisdiction will be notified and engaged accordingly," the provincial spokeswoman said.
Pallister repeated cautions for Manitobans to continue physical-distance restrictions and to avoid gatherings that exceed 10 people.
He said residents have done well to follow public-health orders but reminded them, if that doesn't continue, a steep social and financial cost could be on the way.
"The enforcement we've added is going to be there. And those who might choose to think they can disregard those rules may find that they're lighter in the pocketbook as a direct consequence of ignoring these rules and the health and well-being of themselves and each other," the premier said.
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• Gatherings can be no more than 10 people at any indoor or outdoor premises.
• Anyone entering Manitoba, regardless of whether it was from another country or another province, must self-isolate for 14 days (except for Manitoba residents who regularly travel to areas that are close to the border to work, access health services or for other essential purposes, including access to their property or business and have no symptoms).
• Travel to northern Manitoba (north of the 53rd parallel) and to remote communities not connected to the provincial highway system by a year-round all-weather road is prohibited to almost everyone except for northern residents.