City of Winnipeg closes play structures, eases parking restrictions

The city of Winnipeg is easing parking restrictions while shutting down play structures and public shelters as part of measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Capital city may move to local state of emergency after council vote next week

'We do expect things to get worse before they get better,' Mayor Brian Bowman said Friday about the effects of the pandemic in Winnipeg. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

Effective Saturday, the city of Winnipeg is shutting down play structures and picnic shelters in all its parks, but also easing parking restrictions on residential streets.

The measures announced Friday also grant an hour's free parking at all metered parking spaces across Winnipeg and postpone any permits for festivals or special occasions until the end of June.

The moves come after a provincial health order earlier in the day limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people.

At an afternoon press conference, Mayor Brian Bowman also announced he will ask Winnipeg's city council to meet next Friday to vote for the declaration of a local state of emergency in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

"We do expect things to get worse before they get better," Bowman told reporters.

Bowman says a local state of emergency would allow the city "crack down" on price gouging if it occurs and secure real estate if it needs to protect the city's most vulnerable.

"The declaration is not being made today. Council needs to have that dialogue. The public service needs to the tools they need in real time," Bowman said.

Bowman says he is not aware of specific cases of price gouging but wants the city to have the authority to set prices for staple goods if it is needed.

The decision to ask for a state of emergency is a turnaround from just three days ago.

Council is also expected to see a report from the city's public service on how the city can postpone property and business taxes for a few months.

Parking restrictions eased

The city will temporarily lift parking restrictions on residential streets where they apply to make it easier for people who are in self-isolation or are working from home.

The city is also allowing an hour of free parking at all of its metered spaces across the city and creating 15-minute temporary "curbside pick-up locations" in certain spots in the downtown and the Exchange District, to facilitate the pickup of food and other goods.

Parks will remain open but all playgrounds and picnic structures close Saturday. (Ahmar Khan/CBC News)

The parking measures do not include the forgiveness of tickets issued during the first weeks of the pandemic emergency, although Jason Shaw, the assistant chief of emergency management said "we are assessing it."

Parking restrictions on major streets will continue as normal.

"If you can't park somewhere, you can't park somewhere," Shaw said.

Bowman says the city was also looking at potentially opening four Sunday/holiday bicycle routes earlier than normal.

The four streets — Wellington Crescent, Wolseley Avenue, Lyndale Drive and Scotia Street — are normally vehicle-free from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays and statutory holidays from the Victoria Day weekend until Thanksgiving. 

Winnipeg Transit remains on full service

Shaw told reporters the city would keep a full schedule of Transit buses on the roads, although it was "continually assessing what we need to do there."

Transit, Shaw says, is "incredibly important" to move staff to hospitals and other essential service positions in the city.

Shaw says drivers have been provided with hand sanitizer and are working with managers on further protection efforts.

Last week the city discontinued the use of any buses that did not have a safety shield installed around the driver's seat.