Ontario deploying 200 officers to crack down on businesses breaking COVID-19 rules
As cases of COVID-19 continue to soar in Toronto and other Ontario hotspots, the province has announced the deployment of more than 200 enforcement officers to crack down on businesses not complying with the rules.
Officers will be deployed in Toronto, York Region, Ottawa, Eastern Ontario and other provincial hotspots to provide education to business owners and to ask that employers produce their workplace safety plans.
"The vast majority of Ontario businesses are following the rules and protecting their workers and customers ― and we thank them for doing their part," said Premier Doug Ford in a statement.
"We're deploying an army of inspectors to help support our businesses through education and feedback on their safety plans. For the bad actors who are intentionally breaking the rules, I'm providing a fair warning. We'll find you and slap you with a big fine. It's that simple."
To date, three education and enforcement campaigns have already taken place in Ontario, with more than 1,000 workplaces visited.
"The response from business owners and operators has been overwhelmingly positive," said the province in a news release. "No tickets have been issued and all contraventions were resolved with compliance assistance."
One such campaign took place in Peel Region on Nov. 6 and 7 and consisted of 50 provincial offences officers and six by-law officers visiting 330 retail establishments with a focus on supermarkets, big-box stores and shopping malls.
The province said more than 82 per cent of businesses were found to be compliant with public health requirements under the Reopening Ontario Act in that time.
The upcoming campaigns will range from a few days to several weeks, according to the province, depending on the circumstances in a specific region.
During each visit, officers will educate business owners on how to operate safely and comply with public health measures, and anyone found to be blatantly non-compliant could be ticketed with a fine of $750.
"Where prosecuted without issuing a ticket and on conviction, individuals could be fined up to $100,000, and directors and officers of a corporation could be fined up to $500,000," said the province.
"Any individual convicted of an offence under the Reopening Ontario Act could also receive a term of imprisonment of up to one year. The maximum fine for a corporation convicted of an offence under the Reopening Ontario Act is $10,000,000."
The province said the most common areas of non-compliance during the campaigns to date have been improper mask use, lack of screening, and improper sanitization.
The types of establishments that require a health and safety plan in certain regions and could be visited by provincial officers include food or drink establishments, sports and recreational facilities, meeting and event spaces, malls, personal care services, casinos and other gaming establishments, cinemas and performing arts facilities.
"We know that most businesses are doing all they can to operate safely and protect their workers and customers, but some still need support," said Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton in a statement.
"I am confident in saying our government is there to help. These community safety campaigns will ensure all workplaces in Ontario have the resources and information they need to help stop the spread of COVID-19."
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