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Coronavirus: Hamilton city council to implement $500 fines for failing to keep physical distance

City bylaw officers continue to ticket people for using Hamilton's closed trails, parks and golf courses.
City bylaw officers continue to ticket people for using Hamilton's closed trails, parks and golf courses. Lisa Polewski

Hamilton’s mayor is appealing to everyone to “get with the program” in relation to social-distancing rules in effect around the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Fred Eisenberger says the “vast majority” of people are doing the right thing to help control the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus but adds that there will be tickets and fines for those who don’t comply with the rules now in place.

READ MORE: 3 fined under COVID-19 emergency orders for golfing on closed Chedoke Golf Course

His latest comments follow a weekend of warnings and the handing out of 19 tickets with fines on Saturday, with another 13 on Sunday tied to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA).

Four people received tickets at Albion Falls on Sunday, while another nine were fined at Gage, Victoria Bayfront and Jackson parks.

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On Monday, the city’s bylaw office revealed that municipal golf courses — Chedoke, Willow Valley, Chippewa and Mystic — reported visitors despite being closed.

Meanwhile, some people went as far as removing barricades at some of the five city escarpment stairs.

Coronavirus outbreak: Tam says recent studies on virus prompted changes to mask guidelines
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“We are seeing people removing some of our barricades and fencing in these areas,” director of licensing and bylaw enforcement Ken Leendertse said in a release.

“Getting caught on the stairs could hold a fine of $750. Removing or defacing city barricades could be a criminal charge of mischief.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Hamilton’s emergency director ‘disheartened’ to see kids in parks during pandemic

Eisenberger told Global News he was disappointed when he heard about the fines but not completely surprised admitting on Friday the city was facing a “daunting quest” in the fight against the virus.

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On Monday, the mayor said he expects “more teeth” to be put into bylaw enforcement following a virtual council meeting on Wednesday.

The plan is to implement $500 fines for anyone failing to physically distance oneself in public.

“Hopefully, that will remind people that this is the right thing to do. And if they don’t do it, it’s going to hit them in the pocketbook,” said Eisenberger.

READ MORE: City of Hamilton expected to approve tax deferral, mayor asks landlords to ‘exercise judgment’

The mayor stresses that he understands it is “unusual” and “frustrating” but adds that city officials need the public “to be patient.”

Councillors are also expected to formally approve a property tax relief option at Wednesday’s meeting by waiving penalties and interest on any unpaid tax instalments for 60 days.