FREDERICTON, N.B. — Atlantic Canada continues its response to the COVID-19 Pandemic that has taken over the world since mid-March. Some Atlantic provinces are doing better than others, and as provinces open internally, questions of reopening borders are being raised.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 by Atlantic Provinces as of May 25, 2020
Nova Scotia: 1,050 confirmed cases, 58 deaths
New Brunswick: 121 cases, 0 deaths
Newfoundland: 260 confirmed cases, 3 deaths
Prince Edward Island: 27 cases, 0 deaths
Nova Scotia has been hit the hardest, the majority of the deaths in the province taking place in an assisted living facility, Northwood Manor. On May 21st a CTV article reported on calls for an inquiry on the facility’s management of COVID-19. According to the article, “Premier Stephen McNeil isn’t committing to a public inquiry at this time, but he said the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to a conversation about the size of long-term care homes across the country.”
As the country worries about the economic impact of COVID-19, the Atlantic region is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 job losses. In 2019, Tourism NS reported, “The preliminary estimate of tourism revenues for 2019 is $2.64 billion”. Similarly, according to the Tourism Industry of Prince Edward Island, tourism “accounts for approximately $447 million in economic activity each year.”
According to Global News, “People crossing the border into Nova Scotia are stopped, questioned and advised about the public health rules in the province, but conservation officers don’t have the authority to turn travellers away. In New Brunswick, about 39 vehicles are turned away from the land border each day.”
As borders remain shuttered for COVID-19, the full economic impact is yet to be felt as the tourism season, primarily summer and fall, loom ahead.
There are also concerns about the New Brunswick—Quebec border as Quebec has seen the largest number of cases in all of Canada with 47,984 confirmed cases and 4,069 deaths.
As Premier Higgs works with Prince Edward Island, its sister province with no COVID-19 deaths, residents are worried about Quebec residents, especially those with summer homes in New Brunswick.
Some citizens have questioned border closures as a whole, believing that it is unconstitutional. In a CBC article on May 9th, 2020, Joanna Baron, the executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, raised the issue.
“Just invoking the Emergencies Act does not preempt that… It’s certainly something that the federal government could do, but it’s not something New Brunswick can do without violating the Constitution Act of 1867.”
According to another CBC article, some in Quebec are protesting the border restrictions. The article states, “some Quebecers protested at a bridge linking to New Brunswick, arguing against the Maritime province’s travel restrictions barring entry for reasons other than to go to work. They’re advocating for travel for essential goods such as groceries, as well as family reunification.”
Mechelle Dunne, PCA in long-term care in New Brunswick, believes the border between Quebec and New Brunswick should remain closed.
“We have survived by being smart and other places are congratulating us on doing an amazing job of being covid19 free. We are not going to remain that way if we start being stupid and thinking that we are untouchable. We are not and a second wave will come through. Let’s be smart and minimize and decrease the chance by keeping the borders closed.”
As the COVID-19 crisis continues, it’s clear that Atlantic Canadians have tough decisions to make as the economy and virus clash over the tourism season. Safety- of course, remains a priority and the top of the minds of citizens.