The mayor of Amherst, a Nova Scotia bordertown, says opening the border to New Brunswickers does little to help residents on either side of the border, especially when the other side is still enforcing a 14-day COVID-19 self-isolation requirement upon arrival.
“When Premier (Iain) Rankin announced that he was going to allow New Brunswick residents to come into Nova Scotia without restriction, it sounded well and good but unless Premier (Blaine) Higgs offers the same thing to Nova Scotia it doesn’t really impact on our ability to cross the border,” said Amherst Mayor Dr. David Kogon.
The four Atlantic premiers met last week and agreed on re-introducing the Atlantic bubble by no later than April 19th.
On Friday, however, Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin abruptly announced the province would open the border to New Brunswickers on Saturday morning, creating a quasi-Maritime Bubble.
However, until both sides agree on lifting restrictions, the border isn’t really “open”, said Kogon.
As it stands, Nova Scotians crossing the border would still need to self-isolate in New Brunswick for 14 days, and the same for New Brunswickers returning home from a trip to Nova Scotia.
“If you’re based in New Brunswick and you come to Nova Scotia, when you go back to New Brunswick you have to isolate for 14 days,” said Kogon.
“For the border between two provinces to truly open, it has to be a collaboration between both provinces.”
Nova Scotia PC leader Tim Houston said Rankin’s unilateral decision to open the border to New Brunswick on Friday only created more confusion for Nova Scotians and put Higgs in a tough position, in having to react to the breaking news.
“It just looks like it’s a Friday afternoon announcement and he was trying to scoop something and maybe change the channel and distract from how poorly we are doing in the vaccination rollout and get some momentum in another place,” said Houston. “I would just ask the premier to be respectful of the other provinces and work closely with them.”
For border communities like Amherst and neighbouring Sackville, N.B., the restrictions have been a challenge throughout the pandemic, as the communities rely on access to both sides for social and economic purposes.
Political scientist Jamie Gillies said the border opening announcement made by Rankin could signal some coordination issues between the three Maritime provincial leaders.
“I’m not sure if that’s just pandemic baby steps and a badly timed press conference on Nova Scotia’s end on Friday or there’s a coordination issue at the political level or health level,” said Gillies. “But something went wrong in terms of trying to do this between two provinces and having similar rules and regulations on who can travel where.”
New Brunswick said they will continue to closely watch the COVID-19 case numbers and a decision to ease travel restrictions will be based on public health advice and will reopen the Atlantic bubble no later than April 19th.