Toronto to ramp up enforcement of illegal gatherings as COVID-19 cases rise

TORONTO — The city will be stepping up enforcement efforts following the province’s decision to reduce the size of allowable social gatherings and increase the financial penalties for those caught breaking the rules.

Social gatherings were previously capped at 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors as part of Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan but the Ford government has now rolled back the limits to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, unless the gatherings takes place in a “staffed business” like a restaurant, bar or movie theatre.

It has also introduced stiff fines of up to $10,000 for anyone hosting an illegal party and $750 for attendees.

Speaking with CP24 on Monday morning, Mayor John Tory conceded that the reduced limits will be “more challenging” for police and bylaw enforcement officers to uphold given that they will mostly apply to gatherings in private residences.

Tory, however, said that the city staff have been working hard on a plan to ramp up the enforcement of the new rules since they were first announced last week and will be providing further details about next steps during a regularly scheduled briefing this afternoon.

The mayor also said that the city does have “some other things on our plate” when it comes to new COVID-19 related restrictions that could be instituted and that it is possible that those could also be announced this afternoon.

“None of us tell the enforcement people what to do but we can coordinate their efforts and coordinate the information coming back to the public so they will know that we are making a big effort to enforce this,” he said.

Ontario now has ‘biggest fines in country,’ Ford says 

Premier Doug Ford has boasted that Ontario now has “the biggest fines in the country” for illegal social gatherings and won’t hesitate to ‘throw the book’ at rule breakers but it will largely come down to local authorities to interpret and enforce the new rules.

Tory, who lobbied Ford for the lower limits along with a number of other GTA mayors, did not provide specific details about additional actions that will be taken during his interview with CP24 but he did hint that it will likely come down to being responsive to complaints.

He also expressed optimism that the vast majority of residents won’t need to be issued $10,000 fines to get the message.

“I think people got the message from the premier’s announcements. It is very limited sphere but if my personal conversations are any indications, people said that there were weddings that were cancelled, curtailed or cut down and there were people who were planning to attend parties for birthdays or whatever and they didn’t go. This is what we are trying to do,” he said.

“We are not trying to spoil fun, we are not trying to make people’s lives miserable and we are certainly not trying to spoil weddings but we are trying to say it cannot be business as usual.”

Today’s city briefing is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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