B.C.’s public safety minister says anyone caught reselling desperately needed medical supplies at inflated prices during the novel coronavirus pandemic will now face $2,000 fines.
Mike Farnworth said Sunday that police forces across the province will be granted powers to issue tickets with those fines.
Municipal bylaw officers, liquor and cannabis inspectors, park rangers and other provincial and local officials will help with enforcement, he added.
“There are always those who seek to take advantage of people’s fears, and those who prey on the collective anxieties of our communities,” Farnworth said.
“British Columbians have enough to deal with right now. … We need to work together to keep society running.”
The minister said Consumer Protection BC has received over 800 complaints to date of so-called “price gougers” stocking up on masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment for resell, which Farnworth called “shameful.”
Farnworth said elderly people and businesses have had trouble securing the supplies and protective equipment they need, with some being forced to pay prices up to 10 times the market rate.
Those complaints and the hundreds of others received since the outbreak began will be investigated fully, Farnworth added.
B.C. has already banned the hoarding and resale of food and medical supplies during the pandemic, with a restriction on the number of supplies consumers can purchase at a time.
B.C.’s Emergency Program Act allows for penalties of up to a year in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both.
Farnworth said Sunday that the $2,000 fines could also be issued to any hotel or lodging operator that doesn’t comply with provincial requests to serve as self-isolation facilities, or to support essential workers.
The province is currently under a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 crisis, which gives the government powers to both issue public health orders to promote physical distancing and self-isolation, and to enforce those orders with penalties.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has banned gatherings of more than 50 people and ordered the closure of bars, restaurants and personal service businesses if staff cannot implement social-distancing measures. Individuals are also directed to keep two meters apart out in public.
Farnworth announced late last month that municipal bylaw officers would help enforce the order by issuing warnings and communicating violations to public health officials.
People caught breaking the orders could face fines of up to $25,000 and jail terms of up to six months, under B.C.’s Public Health Act.
Vancouver city council has approved fines of up to $50,000 for people caught breaking public health orders. Other municipalities across the province have approved similar measures.
The province is also threatening fines and jail time for any returning travellers who don’t immediately self-isolate for 14 days.
—With files from Simon LittleView link »