Quebec fitness centres back off threat to reopen, but province still ready to crack down
Group of fitness centres opts for protests instead of defying red zone restrictions
Quebec customers going to places that were ordered closed by public health guidelines could face fines of up to $6,000, provincial Health Minister Christian Dubé announced Wednesday evening.
Earlier in the day, Quebec Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault said the province would go ahead with a new decree to allow fines for fitness centres that reopen their facilities, even though a group of owners has backed off its threat to defy red zone regulations.
With the province entering a new four-week partial lockdown, a coalition of fitness centre owners had threatened to reopen their businesses even if the government didn't allow them to, citing the need to preserve the physical and mental health of their members.
"We will be ready, if ever they were to change their minds," said Guilbault, after thanking the coalition for its decision this morning while speaking to reporters. "If we have to be severe with people who go to the gym when it is not allowed, we will be ready to do so."
Customers who go into the exercise facilities will also be subject to the fines between $1,000 and $6,000. Dubé added that the decree also covers restaurant dining rooms, bars and movie theatres — which have all been ordered closed in the province's red zones.
Public health restrictions in those regions have been extended by a month, the province announced this week.
Instead of reopening, the coalition of fitness centres encouraged members to gather in front of their respective fitness centres to protest the province's restrictions.
"This protest — peaceful and in accordance with public health guidelines — will be the first step for a movement we hope will grow to make the Legault government realize it can't govern just for COVID," the group said in a written statement.
Most Quebecers respect rules, Guilbault says
Guilbault also slammed provincial opposition parties — most notably the Liberal Party — for statements she deemed "irresponsible" in regard to Quebecers' willingness to continue following public health rules.
Opposition parties criticized the CAQ government on Tuesday, saying Quebecers will not blindly follow guidelines unless the province provides more details behind the reasoning for prolonging the red zone restrictions.
Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said "social peace" was at risk if the government failed to be more transparent.
Guilbault shot down Anglade's comments, referencing recent survey results from Quebec's public health research institute, obtained by Le Devoir, that show that more than 75 per cent of Quebecers respect public health guidelines.
"We often play political games, it's normal," said Guilbault. "But I think that in the context we're living in, a public health emergency, we all have to behave responsibly."