• Hunter Cresswell

COVID fines won't go to MRC

Prefect: ‘That doesn’t seem fair’

Despite its officers doing all the heavy lifting in busting recent house parties for violating COVID-19 public health rules, the MRC des Collines isn’t going to see a penny from fines given out to those party-goers — or anyone else similarly fined for that matter.

“The MRC feels it’s a little unfair that we’re being charged for all the police services, but the money goes to the province,” MRC des Collines Prefect and Chelsea Mayor Caryl Green said in a Nov. 2 phone interview.

On Oct. 25 the MRC des Collines Police fined 83 university-age students, who came from as far away as Trois-Rivières and Sherbrooke, for a party at a Tulip Valley Airbnb about $1,000 each, or $1,500 with fees factored in.

Despite footing the bill for breaking up parties violating COVID-19 rules and issuing fines, the money from all those tickets doesn't go to the MRC des Collines or its police. Stuart Benson photo

MRC des Collines Police Sgt. Martin Fournel said this was the first time that fines for that much money had been given out in a single day.

That story made national headlines and went viral on social media. People on local community Facebook pages joked in comment sections when the story was shared about getting a break on their tax bills or what roads should be fixed with that fine revenue. Little did they know the MRC, the MRC police and Chelsea likely won’t get any of that $124,500.

Green said the MRC will be challenging the province on that.

“Our staff, our police officers are tied up for many hours and all the money goes to Quebec, and that doesn’t seem fair,” she added.

“It’s not like a speeding ticket or municipal bylaw [infraction], it’s not even coming back to us,” Fournel also stated during a Oct. 29 phone interview.

Over Halloween weekend, police fined 16 people at a private house party in Val-des-Monts about $1,500 each. Before Oct. 25, the MRC police had only issued six infractions for violations of COVID-19 regulations. Revenue from fines handed out at the Val-des-Monts house party, as well as those issued before Oct. 25 won’t be going into local coffers either.

Quebec Ministère de la Justice spokesperson Paul-Jean Charest said the money from fines for violating the Public Health Act go to the Quebec consolidated revenue fund, which is overseen by the Quebec Ministère des Finances.

Ban short-term rentals

At the Outaouais regional caucus last week, Green called for short-term rentals to be banned in red zones.

The MRC des Collines is designated as a red zone, the highest level in the province’s colour-coded COVID-19 alert system. All indoor and outdoor gatherings are prohibited in red zones.

“Both CISSSO and [Union des municipalités du Québec] are talking to the provincial Ministry of Health [about this]. We’re in the red zone, so short-term rentals shouldn’t be allowed like they weren’t during the first wave,” she explained.

Provincial legislators are still working on a law governing short-term rentals. The municipality of Chelsea is waiting for that law to be passed before passing local regulations. Presently in Chelsea, short-term rentals aren’t allowed in residential-zoned areas, Green pointed out.

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