Manitoba is showing it means business with public heath order scofflaws, issuing close to 100 tickets last week alone, totalling $126,082.
And Premier Brian Pallister is showing he’s willing to shame those who breach the rules, throwing shade on Tuesday at a small-town bar that was the subject of one of those tickets.
The Corona Hotel, in the community of Glenella, was hit with a fine for having its beverage room open, where people were gathered and playing pool.
“Guys, don’t do things like that. This is disheartening,” Pallister said.
“I have mixed emotions naming the business. I’m not trying to give them advertising here. 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,” he said at a Tuesday morning news conference.
“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.”
In all, 79 warnings and 95 tickets were 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 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.
There have been 28 tickets issued for not wearing a mask in indoor public places. That fine is $298.
Bob Fuglsang has owned the Corona Hotel in Glenella — about 100 kilometres northeast of Brandon — for 30 years. He told CBC News he intends to fight his fine in court, insisting the bar was locked to the public, and has been since the lockdown orders came on Nov. 12.
The only part open since then has been the vendor, which is where the inspector stood and misinterpreted what was happening, Fuglsang said.
“He just came in and said he could hear people in the bar and playing pool.”
But the only people inside were Fuglsang and his wife, the couple’s daughter and son-in-law and their son, and Fuglsang’s brother and sister-in-law, he said.
“Nobody was drinking nothing. And my five-year-old grandson was throwing the balls around on the pool table,” Fuglsang said.
The family farms together and they were having discussion about that, he said.
“We sure weren’t partying, that’s for sure.”
Fuglsang said the fine was made out to him, not the business, so he’s irked that Pallister named the hotel during the news conference.
“I really don’t appreciate it, especially when it’s false. I don’t like my name spread all over like that when we never got caught for nothing. It’s just the liquor inspector’s word, that’s all he’s going by,” he said.
“They’re closing us down and still handing out tickets. They [say they’re] trying to save small businesses but they’re wrecking them.”
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, 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. We are doing our absolute best with a rotten situation. Have some faith that we can do this together.”
Restricting in-person church gatherings doesn’t mean the members of a church community cannot worship together, he said, advising them to use online streaming services as many others already do.
“With the technologies that we have now, you have the ability to reach out and do the good work that your church does,” Pallister said.
“I encourage you to do that. I pray that you do that.”
‘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.
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.”
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.