The mayor of Wasaga Beach, Ont., has written a letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, calling for the province to increase certain penalties and fines following a weekend car rally that drew large crowds, despite the current COVID-19 restrictions.
On Saturday, Ontario Provincial Police closed the Ontario beach town to non-residents as hundreds gathered in the community.
Police said officers issued almost 200 tickets in relation to the event, 11 of which were under the Reopening Ontario Act, which governs gathering limits in the province amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other tickets were issued for offences like speeding, dangerous driving and not wearing a seatbelt.
“Every municipality should be reviewing their by-laws to ensure that measures are in place to allow the OPP to act on their behalf when events such as these unauthorized car rallies take over a community or parking lot,” Wasaga Beach Mayor Nina Bifolchi wrote in a letter to Ford Thursday.
“Wasaga Beach authorized the OPP to enforce no trespassing laws this past weekend to ensure safety of our town’s property and the community. This allows the OPP to consider damage to the town’s property as mischief and is considered a criminal offence.”
Bifolchi said some infractions should have “significantly” higher fines, including those who don’t adhere to having both front and back licence plates on their vehicle and those who have loud or improper exhausts.
“Prohibited nitrous oxide fuel systems are putting the driver, passenger, others on the road and emergency responders in accident situations in added danger and needs to result in a significant financial fine,” Bifolchi wrote. “Permanent confiscation of the vehicle, followed by destruction of the vehicle, would make the message clear and be a deterrent.”
Currently, a vehicle can be impounded for one week. Bifolchi is asking the province to increase a vehicle’s impoundment time to one to two months, with all costs being born on the car owner.
The Wasaga Beach mayor has also requested for there to be automatic licence suspensions for a “significant” time period for those who endanger the public by street-racing, performing stunts or other harmful actions.
In addition to those recommendations, Bifolchi is asking for tougher convictions for people associated with promoting events like car rallies, including administrators of social media sites and industries found to be associated with such events.
“I feel that serious consideration needs to be given to deterring these types of events province-wide,” Bifolchi said in her letter.
“We don’t want to just push them out of our community so they can land in another community causing the same disruption, disrespect and cost to the taxpayer. It is only through penalties that cause severe financial hardship that we can deter these unsanctioned and dangerous events from happening.”
Earlier this week, Ford condemned Wasaga Beach car rally attendees, saying they should consider the implications of their actions.
“I really wish I could get a hold of their grandparents or their parents or a family member,” Ford said Monday. “They should go home and tell them how proud they are that they broke the regulations and the guidelines.”
Public health officials have said anyone who attended the Wasaga Beach car rally should self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.
— With files from Global News’ Ryan Rocca and the Canadian Press