Thursday, May 7th 2020, 5:03 pm - With the Victoria Day long weekend around the corner, Ontarians have been desperate to get to their cottages to open up for the summer season. Earlier the Premier of Ontario gave the green light to those wanting to head up north. Now, following a conversation with various mayors, he has a more conservative approach.
Recent statements made by Premier Doug Ford have left cottage-goers a tad bit confused.
Earlier this week, the premier said there was only so long he could keep people from heading to their summer homes for the season.
“There's only so long you can hold back taxpayers from going to their cottages,” he said on Monday. “Muskoka, the vast majority of taxes are paid through cottagers and the economy up there. I was just speaking to the mayor. People rely, the retail stores and the cottage country rely on cottagers from the beginning of May, probably April, all the way through to September. That's their livelihood. So if people are responsible, the numbers continue to go down, we'll have that conversation.”
On Wednesday, the premier did have that conversation with various mayors, which will hopefully help bring some clarity to cottage-goers.
“With the Victoria Day long weekend and cottage season just around the corner, we need to stay vigilant," he said in a press release. "We are still battling a terrible virus, so we are asking seasonal residents travelling to their cottages to practice the same public health measures as usual, including no public gatherings, avoiding nonessential travel as much as possible, and continue to practice social distancing.”
He said cottage country residents would normally be welcoming tourists with open arms right now, but not this year.
“This year, however, they are asking visitors to help them fight the spread of COVID-19 and hold-off travelling to these regions until it is safe to do so,” the release stated.
The topic has caused quite the controversy over social media. The Weather Network posted a poll question asking about heading to the cottage for May 24. With more than 5000 votes, views were divided.
As certain lockdown restrictions are relaxed across Canada, do you think cottagers should be allowed to visit their properties for the Victoria Day long weekend? #TWNPollThe Weather Network on Twitter
On Thursday during his regularly scheduled press conferences, Ford was asked about what people with seasonal properties should do as there was still confusion around the topic.
“This isn't going to be the typical May 24th weekend. I'm asking you please don't bring a whole whack of people up. It's not the party weekend it's been in the past,” said Ford.
“My message to people, if you have to go to the cottage to check on things, bring your supplies and just follow the rules. That's what it comes down to. Follow the same rules as we have everywhere else in the province. Make sure we respect the rules no matter what jurisdiction you're going into. That's the most important. There's going to be many more weekends that we can go up there have a great time. Right now please respect the rules,” Ford concluded.
Property owners in some parts of Ontario have been banned from heading to their cottages this month under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act. Anyone who violated the ban could face a fine of up to $5,000 a day.
“Cottage country is so massive it goes all the way to Kenora all the way out to the outskirts of Ottawa and everywhere else and I understand the mayor from Norfolk. She was one of the mayors on the phone asking the questions. I may disagree but she has the right to make her own rules in her own town. This is about working together. We've come so far as a team. Team Ontario,” Ford said.