The BC government announced today it is expanding provincial COVID-19 ticket enforcement and workplace safety measures, as part of its ongoing response to the pandemic.
“We need to continue our efforts in the months ahead to protect our province’s most vulnerable,” said BC Premier John Horgan. “Right now, we all need to mask up in indoor public spaces and not gather with anyone outside our household, and today’s expanded enforcement measures will help us change behaviours and bend the curve of infections back down.”
As part of its expanded enforcement, the province said BC’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has asked gaming investigators, conservation officers, community safety unit inspectors, and liquor and cannabis inspectors to actively support police and increase COVID-19 enforcement during their normal course of duties or when in public places.
In an effort to better hold offenders accountable for paying their provincial COVID-19 violation ticket fines, Farnworth is directing ICBC, which collects ticket fines on behalf of the government, to send offenders deemed as guilty immediately to collections.
Currently, payment reminders may be sent to guilty offenders for up to a year before the overdue account is sent to collections. ICBC will now eliminate this reminder period and instead send unpaid files directly to collections as soon as the initial 30-day payment or dispute period ends, or an offender is found guilty in court.
“Our police departments have been working hard to educate the public and issue violation tickets when necessary,” said Farnworth. “Provincial enforcement officers can already issue violation tickets, but we want to increase the use of the tools available to them.”
Today’s announcement, he furthered, “will put more boots on the ground to actively enforce Emergency Program Act orders and better ensure we can penalize those who insist on putting their own selfishness above public health.”
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The province has also asked WorkSafeBC to enhance its inspection presence in workplaces by reducing reliance on virtual checks and move to more in-person inspections, particularly in sectors where COVID-19 transmission is occurring.
Those looking to report non-emergency contraventions of the mask or gathering orders are asked to contact their local government’s bylaw office, who can help follow up on concerns and engage police departments and WorkSafeBC as necessary.
Those unable to reach a local bylaw office are asked to contact their local police department’s non-emergency line.
The province said that if violation tickets do not act as a deterrent, or in cases of particularly egregious contraventions or for repeat offenders, police can recommend charges in relation to the offence.
Under this process, courts can impose additional penalties including fines and jail time.
The news comes after Horgan said on Tuesday that BC would be “beefing up” its response to those who continue to defy provincial orders and flout COVID-19 regulations.