His company may be named Rebellion Brewing, but Mark Heise has no interest in defying Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 restrictions.
The problem is that not every business owner feels the same way.
“I think that it makes sense at this point to look at taking further measures against businesses that are not complying with the rules,” said Heise, the president and CEO of the Regina brewery.
Heise said he feels fines, closures and publicly naming rule-breaking businesses would help deter violations.
His comments come a day after Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe told reporters “enough is enough” when it comes to businesses and patrons flagrantly violating public health orders. He floated the idea of stepping up enforcement beyond the current fine regime, including closing some violating businesses “indefinitely.”
“We are not going to punish everyone for the actions of a few,” said Moe, who has allowed restaurant, bar and retail activities to continue with reduced capacities, among other restrictions.
He pointed to a video circulating on social media recently of patrons, some of them unmasked, dancing at a Regina bar.
Currently, Saskatchewan businesses found in violation of public health orders face fines of up to $10,000. The figure will go up to $100,000 when new legislation passes, likely this spring, but Moe wants new measures soon.
The head of Hospitality Saskatchewan told Global News punishments should be left up to elected officials, but in general, “enforcement has to happen.”
“If businesses are out there operating outside of the guidelines, then absolutely,” said Jim Bence, the president and CEO of the organization formerly known as the Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association.
He urged patrons to leave establishments if they see people acting outside the rules. If people are choosing to break the rules at a business, then Bence said they need to recognize the dangers of their actions.
“If the employer demonstrates that they did everything they possibly could to mitigate the risk, then they should not be held responsible,” Bence said.
John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, said just because the government has the authority to close businesses, it doesn’t mean they should.
“The onus is on the government to justify that when they’re shutting down a business, they have to base it on science and evidence that’s actually going to bring about some good,” Carpay said.
Saskatchewan’s current set of COVID-19 restrictions remain in effect at least Jan. 29. As of Thursday, Saskatchewan had the highest rate of active COVID-19 cases. There were 354 active cases per 100,000, which was 100 more than the second-highest province, Alberta.