Leaders say Maritime Bubble could reopen as early as spring
HALIFAX -- The leaders of the Maritime provinces say they have had discussions about re-inflating the Atlantic Bubble, which could happen just in time for spring.
"We continue to target mid-April for the reopening of the Maritime or Atlantic Bubble," said Dennis King, the premier of Prince Edward Island.
In a COVID-19 news conference on Tuesday, Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin says he has had discussions with both New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island officials about the reopening of a bubble. He says more information could be coming soon.
"Next week I will be having a discussion with my fellow Maritime premiers to discuss next steps regarding our borders, as we consider re-establishing the Maritime bubble in the weeks ahead," said Rankin. "We understand that there's benefits with our three provinces and the movement of people and goods throughout that region."
King says further discussion is necessary before a decision is made.
"I did speak yesterday to Premier Rankin on a number of things, one of them being the bubble and what the spring looks like," said King. "We both agreed that we needed to have a conversation with Premier Higgs as well, to just discuss what that can look like. We'll obviously take our advice from the chief public health officers in each province."
All three premiers agree that many factors have to be taken into consideration before the borders will open once again.
"When we're discussing the Atlantic bubble, and I know that's on everyone's mind as we go into the spring, we will be looking at the epidemiology and terms of the cases," said Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer. "Not only the number of cases, but whether they are linked to travel or whether they can be linked and managed within our respective provinces, and that would include the variant."
As far as Newfoundland and Labrador, Rankin said he has not yet contemplated if Newfoundland will be part of the bubble.
VACCINATION ROLLOUT CONTINUES ACROSS ATLANTIC CANADA
As more residents of Atlantic Canada continue to be vaccinated for COVID-19, it is likely that public health restrictions will continue to loosen in all four provinces.
"If we can get our vaccinations done by the end of June and consider opening the Ontario and Quebec borders as soon as July, that is extremely encouraging, but only time will tell," said Carol Alderdice, the president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick.
Trevor Morgan works at the Crowne Plaza Fredericton-Lord Beaverbrook in Fredericton. He says travel within the Atlantic provinces was a lifeline for the hospitality and tourism businesses – a lifeline that is even more crucial as summer approaches.
"We're barely hanging on in terms of the significantly reduced business that we've had to work through, so everything helps us," said Morgan.
Some business owners say while they are more than happy to welcome customers back, they understand they may never make up for lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"To really make a difference, we need to get to the point where our borders are open with the rest of Canada and then eventually, with the U.S.," said John Wishart, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton.
As COVID cases and vaccine numbers continue to show signs of improvement in the Maritimes, many hope to see more travel this summer compared to last.