Manitoba is showing it means business with public heath order scofflaws, issuing close to 100 tickets last week alone, totalling $126,082, the province says.
There were 79 warnings and 95 tickets issued from Nov. 16 to 22, a significant increase from the week prior, when 54 warnings and 30 tickets were issued for a total of $49,992.
Included in the 95 fines are nine $5,000 tickets to business and 55 tickets for $1,296 each to individuals. Three band bylaw tickets were issued by the Manitoba First Nations Police Service.
So far, 16 tickets have been sworn and more are expected to be handed out to people who took part in a large protest against COVID-19 measures on Nov. 14 in Steinbach.
Officials are also investigating a service two days ago at the Church of God south of Steinbach — a city with a COVID-19 test-positivity rate of 40 per cent, a rate among the highest in North America.
More than 100 people attended the service, RCMP said. The minister has been fined $1,296 for holding the service and other fines are expected as the investigation continues, the province said.
The minister was also fined $1,296 for participating in the Steinbach protest.
While stating he has tremendous respect for people of faith, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister on Tuesday said their religion and worship does not take precedence over a public health order or the safety of the public.
“You need to accept that and remember that you’re doing this to protect the very people in that congregation and their family and friends,” he said.
“Please, demonstrate respect.”
‘Don’t be the weakest link’
The province went into code red under the provincial pandemic response system on Nov. 12 to slow the surging spread of the virus, but more than 4,700 new cases have emerged since then, and Manitoba has struggled to alleviate the pressure facing hospitals.
“Despite these orders … some Manitobans, unfortunately, and some retailers are going against the spirit of those rules,” Pallister said, adding that’s why the province put even more restrictions into effect last Friday, with gatherings no longer allowed inside homes, and no more sales of non-essential items allowed in stores.
He also said one of the 95 tickets issued last week went to the Corona Hotel in Glenella, Man., where the beverage room was open and people were playing pool.
“Guys, don’t do things like that. It’s disheartening,” Pallister said.
The rules to protect people are only strong if everyone adheres to them, he said.
“We must protect each other. Don’t be the weakest link.”
Asked about his decision to name the hotel, Pallister said he’s ready to spotlight any businesses, small or large, that break the rules.
“I have mixed emotions naming the business. I’m not trying to give them advertising here,” he said.
“But I do think all businesses need to understand that we’re serious about this being the wrong behaviour and we’re serious about getting the message out to Manitobans. And if that [naming them] helps, then I’m going to continue to do it.
“If you break the public health rules there’s a good chance you might get your name mentioned on TV.”
Last week, a new fine of $298 also was put in place for not wearing a mask in indoor public places. Since then, 28 of those tickets have been issued.
Since enforcement efforts began in April, 388 warnings and 307 tickets have been issued, resulting in more than $390,000 in fines to businesses and individuals.
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