ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador legislators approved a number of pandemic-related measures Tuesday, including one to facilitate the removal of non-residents from the province and another to allow authorities to enter premises without a warrant.
In a session that required an exception to a public health order banning gatherings of more than five people, legislators passed a bill giving peace officers' the power to transport people who fail to respect health directives to departure points from the province.
The amendment to the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act comes the day after a travel ban came into effect barring anyone but permanent residents and asymptomatic workers in key sectors from entering the province.
Liberal Premier Dwight Ball said the amendment was developed after police raised concerns about their ability to enforce the travel ban. "It was missing the level of enforcement that the peace officers thought would be appropriate," Ball said.
He added that returning people to exit points will be a "last resort," and the focus at points of entry will be on educating those who are allowed into the province and confirming their plans to isolate for 14 days.
Under the amendment, peace officers would by authorized by the justice minister to enforce orders during a public health emergency. Officers would be able to locate and detain people who are contravening a measure and take them to a point of entry.
It also would allow inspectors investigating compliance with public health regulations to enter any premises without a warrant and to stop vehicles.
Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie said his party has been fighting for tighter border controls for weeks, saying entry into the province has been "leaky as a sieve."
He said the travel ban order did not take into consideration people with valid reasons to enter the province, such as those moving for jobs or retiring to the province. He said his party agreed to support the legislation after being assured that the chief medical officer would expand the categories of people allowed to enter.
Crosbie also questioned the premier's assertion that provincial officers can put people back on planes and ferries that fall under federal jurisdiction.
"I'm not sure they've figured out yet what they're going to do with people who may have arrived here and don't have a right to be here," he said. "But they're the government, and they're going to have to figure that out."
Another bill was passed allowing restaurants and other licensed businesses to sell alcohol for takeout, curbside pickup and delivery. Brewers, wineries and distilleries are also allowed to deliver to customers' homes.
Finance Minister Tom Osborne said the bill is one way the provincial government is looking to help small businesses stay afloat through the "new normal" phase of living with the pandemic, which has forced restaurants and other establishments to close their doors.
"At least it's some additional revenue for these businesses that are crying out for help," Osborne said.
Representatives also voted to form a committee that will look at options for virtual sittings of the legislature in the future.
Ball said Monday he anticipates more sessions will occur during the COVID-19 crisis. He said there's no firm date for a provincial budget yet, given the uncertainty in the economy.
At a session in March, legislators voted to raise the province's borrowing capacity and extend an interim supply bill for three more months to fund government services until September.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2020.
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press