Ontario cottage owners can rest easy knowing that, as long as COVID-19 case numbers continue to decrease at this rate, they won’t penalized for celebrating the upcoming May 2-4 long weekend up north — not by the provincial government, anyway.
Premier Doug Ford confirmed during his daily pandemic press conference at Queen’s Park on Tuesday that, while cottage country mayors may not like the idea of big city folk coming up to their towns and bringing the virus with them, no official order has been or will be put in place to prevent this from happening.
“On May the 24th, three weeks down the road, hopefully the numbers will be down,” said Ford when asked about the situation, which he addressed on Monday by saying that they could only “hold back taxpayers” from accessing their secondary properties for so long.
“All the mayors up north, you’ve done an incredible job, but the people who own cottages have done an incredible job too,” said Ford on Tuesday.
“We’ve asked them to stay away and for the most part, people have stayed away just on asking… but there’s no order on the table right now and there won’t be.”
Ford stressed that people need to be given “a little bit of leniency” and had the following message for mayors of small communities popular with cottagers: “Be prepared, people are coming up on May the 24th.”
He did note, however, that this is contingent upon numbers going down and that he expects cottagers to act responsibly.
“I truly believe that the people are going to bring their own supplies, they’re going to bring their own food, they’re going to stay at the cottage. People won’t be going into town as much as a typical May 24 weekend, but let’s see what happens,” he continued.
“I could be wrong, but I just don’t see [that] there’s going to be a massive issue three weeks down the road.”
Ford was later asked for his thoughts on a memo sent to cottage owners by Haldimand Norfolk medical officer of health, Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, saying that secondary property owners will not be allowed to visit under the threat of a $5,000-per-day fine.
“How do you tell people who are paying taxes and paying the bills for the vast majority of people there to stay home? You know, people are cooperating — people have been very, very understanding,” said Ford.
“Secondly, do you have enough bylaw officers? Do you have enough police to enforce it? The answer is no, you don’t,” the premier continued.
“So I have an idea: Why don’t we work together same way we’ve been working together from day one, all of us in Ontario.”
Ford is scheduled to meet with cottage country mayors on Thursday to further discuss plans for Victoria Day weekend, but if his comments today hold any weight, the discussion will likely include him advocating for all people who own properties there (as long as the numbers suggest it’s safe for them to visit).