Border towns growing impatient as ‘Atlantic bubble’ draws closer

Click to play video: 'Premiers still in talks about forming an ‘Atlantic bubble’' Premiers still in talks about forming an ‘Atlantic bubble’
WATCH: The four premiers are debating easing travel restrictions within Atlantic provinces. N.B. Premiere Higgs says the bubble is on track for July. Silas Brown reports. – Jun 19, 2020

The much-discussed ‘Atlantic bubble’ arrangement is still on track, according to New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs.

An ‘Atlantic bubble’ would allow travel between provinces.

“I’m still working with my colleagues and we would be in a position to announce that together in a very short period of time,” Higgs said.

A date has yet to be announced, but Higgs said things appear to be on track for early July, with an announcement coming a week or so prior.

That leaves the premiers little time to work out how to harmonize the public health rules of four different provinces.

READ MORE: Bursting the bubble: Gatherings of up to 50 now allowed in Nova Scotia

“To allow people, once we’re open, to say, ‘oh I’m in Nova Scotia, the rules are different.’ We don’t want to be there. We want to be in a position where we all have the same rules,” Higgs said.

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But for some on the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border, the wait has become agonizing.

“Everyone was very patient in the beginning, people are not patient anymore,” said Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin.

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Smith-McCrossin’s riding includes the town of Amherst, the only town in Nova Scotia to sit on a land border. The community has deep roots with the Sackville area, just a few minutes down the Trans-Canada Highway.

“We’re very interconnected, whether its through businesses, families,” she said. “In many cases there’s shared custody arrangements where one parent lives in Sackville and one in Amherst.”

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, it was not uncommon to see people cross the border every day.

READ MORE: New Brunswick reports no new coronavirus cases Thursday, Zone 5 remains ‘orange’

“Our economy, our businesses, as they start to recover, they need that other portion of the population that would typically come across the marsh to do some of that,” said Sackville Mayor John Higham.

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Earlier this week Higham met his Amherst counterpart David Kogon at the border to discuss how to better advocate together for a bubble arrangement.

READ MORE: N.B. takes next step in recovery as it reports no new coronavirus cases, Zone 5 remains ‘orange’

“We feel that it would be more than safe to allow trans-border travel and shopping in our respective communities and it would be important to get that happening relatively soon,” Kogon said.

But the biggest concern for all involved is safety.

“I think it’s important that it happens in the near future, yes. I wouldn’t call it an emergency because what we still need to have is the proper health conditions around that,” Higham said.

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