Watson 'frustrated' as by-law hands out fines to residents gathering in parks
OTTAWA -- Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he's frustrated that City By-law had to hand out tickets to residents over the weekend who ignored the orders to keep away from park equipment and avoid gathering in groups of more than five.
Speaking to CTV Morning Live's Annette Goerner on Monday morning, Watson said the message clearly isn’t getting through to some people.
"It's frustrating because I think we've tried to get the message out loud and clear that hanging around parks, engaging in soccer games or basketball or whatever, is not appropriate, it's illegal, and it's putting people at risk," he said.
On the weekend, By-law Services said the warning phase was over, and fines would be handed out.
Watson said he'll be briefed later Monday on the amount of tickets that were issued and will give an update during his daily address with Ottawa Public Health in the afternoon.
"This is not the City trying to be punitive; it's the law of Ontario. Parks are off-limits," Watson said. "We know the dangers of spreading COVID-19. We have to be tough. We went through two weeks of warnings and it didn't seem to work that well."
Watson said the City tried to be reasonable by allowing people to walk through the parks, but he's still hearing of games being played or even of a parent tearing down caution tape on play equipment to allow their children to play.
"It's not being washed down, it's against the provincial rules, and we're just asking people to please be respectful," he said.
Watson stressed that the vast majority of people in Ottawa are following the rules.
"I back onto a City park and, all weekend, I saw no one in that park," he said. "So, I think it's getting through, but there are still some people who think they're immune to either the virus or the law and that's not fair to everyone else who's playing by the rules."
Pandemic a 'significant' financial hit to City
Watson also said the pandemic is seriously affecting the City's bottom line.
He didn't share numbers immediately, but promised an update later Monday.
"Obviously, with transit numbers down, recreation programs shut completely, it's been quite a significant financial hit to the City," Watson said.
OC Transpo reduced service levels after ridership numbers dropped up to 90 per cent on some routes as people either lost their jobs or began working from home. The mayor reiterated his position that the transit system must continue to run because it's a vital link for essential workers like grocery clerks and health care workers, who continue to venture out day after day.
Watson said OC Transpo is cleaning the transit system as thoroughly as possible.
"As you know, we did a very deep clean on the buses [the driver] was on, and we go into the stations on a regular basis to clean," he said. "You can't get everything. Once you've cleaned a surface and someone touches it, unless you have someone right there to clean it again, there's not a fool-proof system that's going to protect everyone 100 per cent. I believe the work they're doing to ensure cleaning and safety of the stations is very good."
The City told CTV News in a statement last week a "third-party vendor" was contracted to sanitize the five buses the driver who tested positive had used in the 48 hours before they began showing symptoms.
The City has also released a list of stations where the red vest ambassador worked in the 48 hours before they had called in sick and began self-isolating on March 31.
Watson said he hopes for a full recovery for the OC Transpo employees who have fallen ill.