Rural Maritime communities hurt by lack of traffic due to COVID-19
HALIFAX -- Isolation is a double-edged sword these days for some of the Maritimes more rural communities. While people are staying home for safety, the lack of traffic is threatening the very survival of some essential services, in places where the next nearest option might be hours away.
It’s one of the most popular summer vacation spots in the Maritimes, but in the midst of COVID-19, Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail is much quieter than it normally would be this time of year.
The owner of one Ingonish, N.S. gas station says some days, sales are down as much as 90%.
“We had to lay off two staff members,” says Michael Doucette. “Sometimes I work for free myself.”
With many gas stations in the area struggling, the impact on other essential services in this remote area is far reaching.
“Our fire departments, our ambulances, our plows, all our essential services are highly relying on these stations,” says Victoria County Councillor Larry Dauphinee.
With gas prices so low, Dauphinee says some stations are currently selling fuel at a loss.
Victoria County Council is already appealing for help from both the Federal and Provincial governments.
“We put a letter forward to the province, and also to the Cape Breton partnership,” says Dauphinee. “They’ve been pushing our needs forward to the government, and we’re hoping they’ll be able to come forward and give a little more assistance to help keep these businesses operational.”
In an area so dependent on tourism, nearly all of it vehicle traffic, Dauphinee says there could be a major blow this summer even if the pandemic has passed.
“Are we going to have tourism this year? Things are really crucial right now and we’re pretty worried about,” says Dauphinee.
He says if the gas stations aren’t able to stay open through to peak tourist season, many simply won’t come, making for a ripple effect on restaurants and accommodations.
“Upcoming bills are coming due, so it’s a concern how long we can be sustainable,” says Doucette.
Another sign of the times we’re currently living in, when even the bare necessities in some rural Maritime communities are hanging in the balance.