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Alberta COVID-19 restrictions ‘will drag out if people do not comply’: Lethbridge mayor

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge mayor in support of stricter enforcement of provincial health order' Lethbridge mayor in support of stricter enforcement of provincial health order
WATCH: When the Alberta government announced new restrictions on Tuesday it also reaffirmed a commitment to enforcing the public health order. As Danica Ferris reports, Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman says he hopes the province follows through on its promise. – May 5, 2021

The province says it’s time to crack down on enforcement as COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb, but the messaging to this point has caused some confusion.

Read more: Alberta government implements new strategy to enforce COVID-19 restrictions

“I heard that the Calgary police chief informed Calgary city council on Monday that they were told not to issue tickets and not to clog the courts,” said Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman.

But in a media conference on Wednesday, Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said that hasn’t been the message coming from him.

“I can assure that I have not directed any local law enforcement or police services to not enforce the public health order or to issue tickets.

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“I think it’s important to say that while it’s true that I am the justice minister and solicitor general, I do not — on a day-to-day-basis — direct how law enforcement is to do this work, neither do I direct the Crown prosecution service on how to prosecute,” Madu said.

Click to play video: 'Too much or too little? Premier Jason Kenney faces political pressure from all sides with new COVID-19 restrictions' Too much or too little? Premier Jason Kenney faces political pressure from all sides with new COVID-19 restrictions
Too much or too little? Premier Jason Kenney faces political pressure from all sides with new COVID-19 restrictions – May 5, 2021

Since the pandemic began, Lethbridge police have issued just five charges for failing to comply with the public health orders; as well an two related city bylaw charges.

According to the ministry of justice, 576 tickets were filed with the provincial court in the month of March, but just 12 per cent resulted in a conviction or payment.

Click to play video: 'Justice minister outlines enforcement measures during COVID-19 health restrictions' Justice minister outlines enforcement measures during COVID-19 health restrictions
Justice minister outlines enforcement measures during COVID-19 health restrictions – May 5, 2021

The province is upping the fine for breaking COVID-19 restrictions from $1,000 to $2,000 in response to spiking case numbers, and Spearman says he’s in support of stricter enforcement.

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Read more: Calgary city council to consider increasing mask bylaw fines as Nenshi calls for tougher enforcement of COVID-19 measures in courts

 

“Anybody who is not abiding by the health orders — and encouraging others to not abide by the health orders — is really undermining the message and potentially harming public health in our city.”

The mayor also had a strong message for anyone planning to deliberately skirt the rules.

“I’ve had complains about the demonstrations on Mayor Magrath Drive. I’m very troubled that I heard there were demonstrators harassing people going for their vaccines.

“I’m very concerned there was a demonstration last Saturday in front of Chinook Regional Hospital — where people inside are trying to save lives — I think that’s disrespectful,” he said.

Spearman says that the information the city has been given by Alberta Health shows that the vast majority of community transmission is happening via social interactions and those need to stop.

“People are bored, we understand that, they’re frustrated, they want to see their family, they want to see their friends. But inappropriate social gatherings are a problem,” he said.

“If you’re opposed to these lockdowns… They will end sooner if everybody complies. They will drag out if people do not comply.”

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Click to play video: 'Kenney pleads with Albertans to ‘come together for the next month’ amid COVID-19 restrictions' Kenney pleads with Albertans to ‘come together for the next month’ amid COVID-19 restrictions
Kenney pleads with Albertans to ‘come together for the next month’ amid COVID-19 restrictions – May 5, 2021

In a statement to Global News, the Lethbridge Police Service said it is continuing to review the details of the enhanced enforcement initiative announced by the province and how that might impact the efforts of officers.

“For those who do not respect the public health order or the well-being of others in the community, Lethbridge police will be taking enforcement actions ranging from warnings to issuing tickets, depending on the circumstances,” the statement read.

Read more: Kenney says new COVID-19 restrictions likely coming to Alberta on Tuesday as health crisis worsens

The new measures announced by the province include moving students online and closing patios; the new measures apply in municipalities or areas with more than 50 cases per 100,000 people and with 30 or more active cases.

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