'Big-box blitz' leads to more than 2 dozen fines

·2 min read
'Big-box blitz' leads to more than 2 dozen fines

Provincial inspectors handed out more than two dozen fines to Ottawa businesses on the weekend as part of a "big-box blitz" aimed at sniffing out COVID-19 scofflaws.

Inspectors visited 114 businesses including retail stores, gas stations and restaurants offering takeout, to ensure they were following public health guidelines related to the pandemic. They issued 27 tickets and 18 health and safety orders. The latter don't carry an immediate financial penalty, but instruct the business to make changes before a follow-up inspection.

The most common infractions were failing to respect store capacity, failing to properly screen customers and lacking a safety plan, according to the Ministry of Labour.

Ottawa bylaw officers worked alongside the provincial inspectors, handing out 10 fines and two warnings. All 10 tickets were for failing to wear a mask or failing to post required signage at public entrances, the city said.

Similar inspections were carried out in Windsor, Niagara and Durham this weekend. Last weekend, inspectors concentrated on businesses in Toronto and Hamilton.

Tyson Koschik/CBC
Tyson Koschik/CBC

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Corporations face fines of $1,000 for failing to follow rules set out under the Reopening Ontario Act and the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Employees and customers who fail to follow the rules can be fined $750, according to a ministry statement.

The ticketing blitz comes after some in the small business community criticized the province's decision to allow big-box stores to remain open while other retailers have been forced to close.

Small business community 'frustrated' that some big box stores aren't following rules

"It is extremely infuriating on behalf of small brick-and-mortar businesses to see these these large corporations that were given carte blanche to sell all goods, while other retailers were closed to curbside pickup only. They're not even following the rules," said Mark Kaluski, chair of the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas.

Some small business owners maintain they can reopen safely.

"I think that just allowing one person or two or three into a small business, or a couple tables into a restaurant, I think you would have seen small business do absolutely everything they can as a whole to ensure that they can remain open safely," said Michael Wood, co-owner of event supply rental company Ottawa Special Events.