Local bylaw officers can now ticket Manitoban scofflaws violating COVID-19 health orders

Don't be surprised if you soon see local bylaw officers walking around Winnipeg and other communities, handing out tickets for breaking provincial COVID-19 rules.

Municipal officers enlisted to help fine individuals $1,296, businesses $5K if found violating health orders

The Manitoba government is enabling municipal bylaw enforcement officers to ticket people and businesses found violating the current public health orders that were imposed in some regions to help stem the spread of COVID-19, including at bars and businesses. (EmmepiPhoto/Shutterstock)

Don't be surprised if you soon see local bylaw officers walking around Winnipeg and other communities, handing out tickets for breaking provincial COVID-19 rules.

Manitoba's justice minister said Friday bylaw officers in municipalities will be helping to crack down on those shunning the current coronavirus public health restrictions.

"Despite extensive public health education campaigns, compliance with public health orders continues to be an issue," Cliff Cullen said in a statement.

"Empowering additional enforcement personnel will help address the ongoing concerns about non-compliance as we reduce the spread of COVID-19."

The move follows a promise from Premier Brian Pallister this week to more than double fines and beef up enforcement against those failing to heed heightened public health restrictions. Fines are now set at $1,296 for individuals and $5,000 for businesses.

Cullen said the province made regulatory amendments in order to ensure municipal bylaw officers could be enlisted in the enforcement effort.

The amendments enable bylaw officers to ticket people and businesses found to be violating emergency hazard and public health orders. 

Those officers will be able to hand out tickets to people who have tested positive and fail to isolate, or close contacts of a known positive case who ignore orders to isolate.

Municipal officers will also be able to ticket people who arrive from out of province and don't follow isolation orders. The same goes for those heading to northern Manitoba for non-essential purposes.

Winnipeg needs more direction on enforcement: mayor

However, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said the city needs direction from the province on what public health orders it wants help enforcing, and how.

City officials don't have information available to them on what orders aren't being followed, Bowman said.

"We're trying to get that information from them. But no one should expect enforcement to be happening by municipal bylaw officers until the province has provided clarity on what aspects of the provincial public health orders they have concerns with," he said at a news conference Friday.

"These are provincial public health orders and provincial charges. So it's up to the province to let us know, 'OK , here's the enforcement concerns we have. Here's where you can help,' and that's what we're trying to get from them."

The city only has about 18 bylaw enforcement officers, who are tasked with enforcing municipal bylaws, Bowman said. 

The province announced on Thursday that the Northern Health region will move to the orange, or restricted, level on the province's pandemic response system. It joins the Winnipeg metropolitan area, which was moved to the orange level on Sept. 28. (CBC Graphics)

Bylaw officers also now have the power to ticket people and businesses violating the current gathering size limit of five for the Winnipeg metropolitan and Northern Health regions, which have been placed in the orange, or "restricted," level of the province's pandemic response system.

Fines can also be given for not adhering to distancing and capacity limits at bars and restaurants, or for not remaining seated in those businesses aside from when you arrive or are going to use the washroom. 

Bars and some other businesses have been temporarily closed in the Winnipeg and northern regions as Manitoba struggles to bring down record-high test positivity rates and a rise in community transmission of COVID-19.

Winnipeg (6.5 per cent) and Manitoba (5.6 per cent) broke records Thursday for test positivity rates. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

With files from Bryce Hoye


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