The director of Hamilton’s emergency operation centre (EOC) told the mayor and city councillors on Wednesday that only about 48 per cent of small businesses were compliant with the province’s COVID-19 lockdown regulations in a recent inspection blitz.
EOC boss Paul Johnson says that number is lower than the previous examination at larger establishments in mid-January.
“We did see over the weekend from the provincial blitz, that came in to look at some smaller businesses this time, that adherence to all of the public health guidance rules and the orders is not at the level we would hope for,” Johnson said.
Ken Leendertse, director of licensing and bylaw services, suggested the lower compliance rate with smaller stores, like variety and smoke shops, was likely due to the province’s recent focus on the service industry and the fact that major retailers have stepped up virus prevention protocols.
“I think what is happening (is) the provincial teams are becoming a little more focused on all service providers that are allowed to be open,” Leendertse said.
“So that’s probably why we saw a lower compliance rate because the big box stores are getting it right.”
Leendertse said the previous blitz in January reported a compliance rate of about 75 per cent.
In a release on Friday, the province alerted businesses in Toronto, Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo that inspectors would be out on the weekend inspecting some 400 stores for compliance with COVID-19 protocols.
“Our government is confident that the majority of workplaces are taking all necessary steps to protect their customers and workers from the spread of COVID-19. However, if we find businesses putting people at risk, we will take immediate action,” labour minister Monte McNaughton said in a statement before the blitz.
Leendertse said the province has been deploying about 30 provincial officers every week to probe for labour and high-risk issues.
The 30 officers and an additional seven from the city made up 16 teams that visited 163 stores in Hamilton during the blitz on Saturday and Sunday.
Nineteen charges and 18 orders were issued for a number of offences ranging from inadequate screening, lack of safety plans, and not following masking requirements.
Last month, the ministry of labour says it visited close to 1,200 big box stores and a number of essential retailers across Ontario to monitor the province’s COVID-19 rules.
About 112 tickets were issued to businesses and individuals during three inspection campaigns.
Niagara Region businesses received 27 tickets after 140 businesses were visited between Jan. 23 and 24, according to the ministry.
A blitz through Halton Region is underway this week and continues until Feb. 5.
Fines under the Emergency Measures and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) and the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA) range from $200 to $1,000.
To date, The city of Hamilton has issued over 500 charges connected with both provincial laws.
The province says data collected from 36,000 inspections in Ontario shows that the majority are following the COVID-19 safety requirements.
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