Almost two dozens warnings, tickets on first day of big-box store blitz John Marchesan

Almost two dozen warnings and tickets were issued by provincial inspectors during the first day of a weekend enforcement blitz of retailers in the GTHA.

According to provincial officials, roughly 50 inspectors assigned to ensure stores are following physical distancing protocols and public health rules found 31 violations at the 110 retailers they visited on Saturday.

The Ministry of Labour says inspectors issued 11 formal warnings and 11 tickets.

The blitz comes on the first weekend of the province’s new stay-at-home order which took effect late last week.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said inspectors would be visiting stores in Toronto, Hamilton, Peel Region, York Region and Durham Region, making sure employees and customers are wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and following safety guidelines.

Anyone caught breaking the rules faces fines of between $750 and $1,000. If convicted, fines can escalate up to $100,000 for an individual and a possible year in jail, while corporations can be subject to a $10 million fine.

McNaughton says the inspectors will also have the authority to temporarily close a premise and disperse groups of more than five people.

Premier Doug Ford has faced criticism for allowing big-box stores to remain open for on-site shopping while smaller businesses are restricted to curbside pickup or online sales. He vowed last week to crack down on big lineups and other infractions at large retailers “like an 800-pound gorilla.”

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

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