Nearly two and a half years after public health orders were enforced regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Manitoba government has issued fines worth $8.6 million, but only collected a tiny fraction.
According to Manitoba Justice statistics$779,775 in fines were paid out of a grand total of $8,587,481.
This equals nine percent.
“The province will never receive a penny from me for these fines”, Patrick Allard, one of five main violators of restriction rules convicted of violations this summersaid Thursday.
Allard, who says he faces a $35,000 fine, repeated the government’s accusations of abuse. He said he was disappointed that people had decided to pay even nine percent of the fines.
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont has suggested the provincial government back down after fronting under former premier Brian Pallister.
“He always said how tough they were going to be,” he said.
“We now have a situation where hundreds of thousands of Manitobans followed the rules and paid the price – they sacrificed themselves – while the people who broke the rules walk away unscathed.”
During the pandemic so far, the province has issued 3,566 tickets – 2,867 for violations of provincial laws and another 699 for violations of the Federal Quarantine Act.
Of these, 857 of the former and 76 of the latter were paid, for a total of 933.
On March 20, 2020, a provincial state of emergency was declared under the Emergencies Act by Premier Brian Pallister.
Ten days later, a series of stricter measures under the Public Health Act came into force, reducing public gatherings and requiring social distancing in businesses.
The orders became enforceable through fines on April 9starting at $298 for people not wearing a mask in a public place and up to $486 for individuals or $2,542 for businesses that ignored various other orders.
In October, the latter fines were increased to $1,296 and $5,000, respectively, in an effort to stamp out the lingering apathy of many who ignored the rules.
A year after the fines were put in place, the Justice Department revealed that $1.7 million in tickets had been issued, but less than 10% had been collected.
Then-Prime Minister Pallister announced measures he said would persuade fraudsters to pay – garnishing wages and barring people from getting or renewing a driver’s license or vehicle registration until the amount is paid.
“I tell these people, you will pay your fine. And if you don’t, you won’t be driving your car. We will not issue you a driver’s license. You can put your car on blocks and you can leave it there until you pay your fine,” he said at the time.
“You will pay.”
Pallister also announced a doubling of default payment fees for those who do not pay fines on time and a doubling of fine amounts for repeat offenders.
On Thursday, a defiant Allard seemed unfazed that something like this would happen to him if he didn’t pay. He said he and four others convicted in August have since filed an appeal with the Court of King’s Bench.
“My faith tells me I’m right, my heart tells me I’m right, common sense tells me I’m right,” he said. “No government in the world should ever have the power to tell you who you can partner with and when.”
The public health orders were lifted in March when the restrictions ended.
A number of fines are being challenged in court.
Lamont accused the PCs of creating the conditions for the court system to be “cluttered with appeals” by not focusing more on paying fines.
“I don’t think there’s any political will in this government because half of their base is against it and that’s why we’re seeing this mess,” he said.
CBC-Radio Canada has requested a response from Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen’s office.
“Are you asking for the reaction of the Minister of Justice to the ongoing process of the administration of justice? Isn’t that a bit redundant? the minister’s spokesman Jon Lovlin responded in an email.