Coronavirus: Premier Doug Ford urges city residents to stay out of cottage country on Easter weekend

Ontario Premier Doug Ford answers questions during his daily briefing at Queen's Park in Toronto on Monday April 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn.

Premier Doug Ford has made another plea to residents living in Ontario’s urban centres to stay away from cottage country during the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to reporters via teleconference at his daily briefing on Wednesday, Ford made it clear the smaller rural communities can’t handle a surge in residents in this emergency.

“Please, this long weekend, do not go to your cottage. We can’t stress that enough,” Ford said.

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Many of the communities that make up Ontario’s cottage country have declared a state of emergency, including the Municipality of Trent Lakes, which is just north of Peterborough.

Mayor Janet Clarkson tells Global News Peterborough a resident of Brampton bought $1,500 worth of groceries at the Buckhorn Foodland earlier this week.

“The amount of people coming in is problematic,” said Clarkson. “The best scenario right now is to stay home, but many won’t do that and if they don’t, they need to bring groceries with them. The grocery stores here won’t be able to keep up with that demand.”

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Summer tourism is the backbone of the economy of Trent Lakes, which includes the small village of Buckhorn, Ont., which is along the Trent Severn Waterway.

“Our businesses have July to October to make a year’s income. They don’t have any other time to make up that income,” said Clarkson.

“I think the government needs to be concerned about this. Keeping people safe is paramount, but the damage done to their economy — I don’t see anything helping with this year.”

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Peterborough County warden J. Murray Jones said it’s not that the county doesn’t want its seasonal residents here, it’s about safety, and this long-weekend is not the time to come.

“It’s not about not respecting the wonderful tax dollars they contribute, it’s about saving a life. That’s what it’s all about right now,” said Jones. “Right now, we just need to stay apart. That’s the reality right now.”

In the City of Kawartha Lakes, all municipally owned facilities, amenities, parks and boat launches are closed.

“With our campgrounds and trailer parks not opening, there’s really no reason for anybody to come up to their seasonal home at this point,” said Mayor Andy Letham.

In an email to Global News Peterborough, Keli Griffin, a permanent resident of the village of Coboconk, Ont., which is in the City of Kawartha Lakes, voiced concerns about seeing a high number of seasonal residents in the community this week, “despite Premier Ford’s repeated recommendations that no one should be visiting cottage country.”

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“Do not come to your cottage, do not come to your trailer. I am pained to tell you that no one is listening,” Griffin said. “They are here, in droves, by the hundreds. As long as this remains a  ‘recommendation’, they will keep coming. There are no repercussions. No consequences. There is nothing to stop them.”

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Ford said he would not be visiting his cottage to avoid putting a “burden” on cottage country and urged others to do the same.

“There’s no one that loves the cottage more than I do, but I’m not going to my cottage,” said Ford. “They don’t have as many acute care beds as we do in the city. We don’t want to put that burden on the people up in cottage country. So please, just stay at home.”

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