Debate continues over opening Nova Scotia to the rest of Canada
HALIFAX -- COVID-19 cases in Atlantic Canada remain relatively low compared to the rest of Canada, prompting continuing discussions about whether the Atlantic travel bubble should open to the rest of the country.
The tourism industry has been touted as having the most to gain if the Atlantic bubble opens up to the rest of the country without the requirement of a 14-day quarantine.
But not all tourism operators believe it is the right move, right now.
“We’re still continuing to do more than what we need to do with the masks and social distancing. I think it’s wise that we keep the bubble closed,” says Derek Stewart, a shop owner in Eastern Passage.
Nobody expected a banner summer for tourism at the scenic Fisherman’s Cove in Eastern Passage, N.S. But Stewart says he’s been pleasantly surprised considering the circumstances.
“A lot of our tourism from Ontario, about 80%,” says Stewart. “It’s been a blessing that the locals have come to our support.”
“It’s started out fairly well, and it’s continuing to build on that each week, I’m finding,” adds shop owner Denise Ross.
A mid-August poll from Halifax-based Narrative Research showed a majority of Atlantic Canadians are also not keen to widening the bubble, with Nova Scotia having the highest percentage of ‘no’ voters.
“I don’t think we need that right now,” says Ross. “It’s nice to know that in Atlantic Canada we are quite literally the safest place in North America.”
“Not a good idea, I don’t think. It’s too risky,” says another resident.
Nova Scotia’s premier Stephen McNeil has been among the most enthusiastic of the Atlantic leaders to open the gates.
“To be perfectly frank, I wish I could’ve opened up before now,” McNeil said during a news conference on Thursday.
McNeil says the recovery of the province's economy requires an open border, and that he would consider breaking away from the Atlantic bubble and opening Nova Scotia to the rest of Canada.
“We kind of moved in tandem when it came to the Atlantic province keeping our own bubble, but that won’t necessarily be the path we take on an ongoing basis,” said McNeil.
McNeil has said discussions about opening up the province’s borders to travellers has been one of the more difficult topics that have come from the pandemic, and it will not be a matter of if the bubble will open, but when.
But many have concerns.
“I don’t think the perceived short term gains of opening are worth the long term ramifications that could happen with this,” says Janet MacDonald of the group Parents for Pandemic Education.
Parents for Pandemic Education was originally formed to get information about the upcoming school year, but have now pivoted their efforts to discouraging the bubble from opening.
“You know we could be seriously jeopardizing a safe return to school, and that’s our focus, and it should be everybody’s focus at this point,” says MacDonald.
The Premier says public health will guide the province’s decision about whether or not they will move unilaterally to open their borders.