The City of Delta now has the power to impose fines to individuals and businesses not following provincial health orders and guidelines around the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a special virtual meeting of council Wednesday afternoon, civic politicians unanimously gave preliminary approval (with three bylaw readings) to the Delta Emergency Program Bylaw – emergency measures enforcement.
Fourth and final reading will take place at another special meeting of council on Friday afternoon.
The amendment to the current bylaw allows Delta police and Delta bylaw officers to issue bylaw offence notices and municipal tickets with fines of $500 to $1,000 for non-compliance.
Hugh Davies, manager of property use and compliance told council that in the past few days Delta has received more than 24 calls from members of the public with reports of people not practicing social distancing and following the strict health guidelines in place.
“There have also been people coming back from holidays and not self-isolating for 14 days as required,” he said. “We were in a position where we needed to take enforcement action, but we don’t have the simple matter of a ticket. This bylaw allows us to issue bylaw notices or municipal tickets.”
The offence sections include:
· Act contrary to an order – municipal ticket ($1,000), bylaw offence notice ($500)
· Failure to carry out and order
· Failure to comply with an order
· Interfere with or obstruct any authorized person.
“Officers have some discretion of course,” added Davies, “but when you have large numbers of people gathering, for example at the regional parks, today at Deas Island Park the gates were closed by regional staff and yet parked outside of the park were dozens and dozens of vehicles. The same could be said for Centennial Park where vehicles were parked all the way down Boundary Bay Road and the Centennial Beach area. At Fred Gingell Park the use of the stairs were closed because of large crowds using them. That was done on Saturday and today, the gate was unlocked – someone had broken the lock and they were back in fashion. So in these cases, if people were in large groups, we would be issuing a fine.”
Mayor George Harvie said the additional steps and bylaw amendments were necessary in order to ensure compliance.
“I see the continuing frustration as Mayor and all council members and staff…when we lock a gate we lock it for a good reason because of the over-crowding,” he said. “We are at a critical time here and people need to get this, they need to practice separation. They need to stay away from the popular areas. Walk around your neighbourhood. Don’t drive to a popular spot in Delta.
“As Mayor I’m not asking bylaws to go out and ticket everybody. I want to ensure that we have, for those people who absolutely refuse to cooperate, and to heed the signs and closures…to those people who are cutting our gates that are closed…this is what the fine is for.”