The City of Winnipeg has back-pedalled its policy on keeping civic employee gyms open during the level red restrictions in the province.
Hours after Global News broke the story that city gyms had remained open, the city changed its policy, closing gyms for anyone who isn’t a first responder, firefighter or police officer.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said the city was provided “incomplete information” from the province and was shocked to learn the exemption was just because they were another level of government.
“We learned yesterday through the provincial press conference that it was on the basis of that broad exemption, the changes were made within hours by the public service, which I support,” Bowman said.
Bowman said this underscores the challenges of getting information from the province.
“We should be able to rely on the provincial officials,” he said.
Bowman added that the city will be reaching out to the province on other “incomplete information” that was provided to determine if there are other aspects of the public health orders officials weren’t following.
On Tuesday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin clarified why gyms were still allowed to be open in city workplaces when gyms were not supposed to be open for anyone other than professional hockey players, Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Roussin explained that the public health order doesn’t apply to government.
“Although public health orders cannot technically apply to the operations other levels of government, we expect them to follow the spirit and the intent of those orders. With respect to fitness facilities, a public health inspector provided information to the City of Winnipeg that was incomplete and lacked context,” Roussin said in a statement Wednesday.
Jason Shaw, the manager of the City of Winnipeg Emergency Operations Centre, says it will be looking at where it may be exempt from public health orders but should be following them.
“I’m going to check to make sure we are following everything. Even though there are exemptions… let’s make sure there aren’t any smaller issues that we can fix. I take this personally. I don’t want to be breaking any public health orders,” he said.
City officials didn’t have information on how many people accessed these gym facilities but said the number of employees working at the facility has been low.
The city shut down five fitness facilities Tuesday night that were available for employees who aren’t members of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service or Winnipeg Police Service.
The city said on Tuesday evening that it didn’t realize it was given the exception to the rule just because it was a government.
“Several months ago, we sought clarification from provincial public health officials on whether fitness facilities within civic workplaces accessible only to, and for City employees, could remain open,” a city spokesperson said. “The province advised us that these facilities could in fact continue to operate provided posted capacity limits and physical guidelines were maintained and adhered to.
“However, prior to today, we were not aware that this exemption was granted to us solely by virtue that we are a municipal government.”
Global News reached out to every City of Winnipeg councillor to see if they’ve used the gym under the level red restrictions.
All said they haven’t used the gym during the level red restrictions.
Global News has also reached out to the province to see if any of their gyms have remained open from employees.
Manitoba RCMP say gyms have been closed in detachments and at the headquarters.