London, Ont., mayor strongly against ‘regional reopening’ idea

While the mayor of Brockton is suggesting a “regional reopening” model for areas of the province less hard hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the mayor of London says it just won’t work.

Brockton Mayor Chris Peabody argues that some regions should be able to move on to the next stage in the province’s reopening plan.

“I looked at the numbers from the whole region from Lake Erie all the way up to Georgian Bay. Yesterday we had, in that region, 12 new cases. Population of two million,” he told Devon Peacock on The Morning Show on Global News Radio 980 CFPL on Thursday.

“So when you’ve got that large geographic area, large population base with such low numbers, I do believe it merits a regional reopening to help our businesses that are not included in the Phase 1.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus — What you can and cannot do in Ontario amid Phase 1 of reopening

Currently, the province is in Stage 1 of a three-stage approach to reopening, which allowed for the reopening of businesses that can “immediately meet or modify operations to meet public health guidance and occupational health and safety requirements.”

Stage 2 would include “opening more workplaces, based on risk assessments, which may include some service industries, and additional office and retail workplaces.”

“What I’m hearing from the main street, the local mom and pops, entrepreneurs, the stores, personal service businesses — they are suffering on Main Street Ontario,” said Peabody.

“Family-owned businesses are right on the brink of going out of business.”

But London Mayor Ed Holder strongly disagrees with a regional approach to reopening, noting that allowing for different rules in different regions would drive people to travel.

“Opening up as a regional attraction doesn’t work.”

Holder says he understands that “people are getting tired of this” but notes that restrictions have begun to gradually loosen and that “we can’t afford to go through this again.”

“Here’s the thing, if you open up regionally — which there’s certainly indications even through the province that there’s going to be some flexibility of individual choice, that’s not really well-defined as yet — here’s the problem: areas where they are not so hard hit open up and then those that have been pretty hard hit and restrictions are still there will see just down the road, ‘Oh, there’s a nice spot, maybe we can go to their facilities, maybe we can go to their bars, maybe we can go to their amenities.’ And then people bring their challenges with them.”

READ MORE: Too fast, too soon? How we’ll know whether Ontario reopened at the right time

Holder noted that, as of now, people are able to drive wherever they like but “the question is the flexibility of what you can do once you’re there.”

“Just imagine that for all the work and effort that people have made, through some bad decisions we’re back in it again,” he said.

“It may well be that if the province in a few days or in a week finds itself to have the numbers consistently well under, I’ll say, 300 diagnoses a day, that they may open up. But you saw some of the behaviour in Toronto last week and that’s the kind of challenge that you’re very afraid of for the sake of the city.

“No one wants to go through this again and we’re already talking about concerns — ‘What happens if there is a second wave?’ Those are the kinds of things in a pandemic you can’t ignore. So: not ready yet. Understand why people want to have it. But we’re asking people to be patient a little bit longer.”

Peabody, however, says he doesn’t think “people would be coming from Toronto to access getting a haircut or going to an outdoor patio” but he conceded that opening beaches, in particular, would be a concern.

“In Brockton, where I’m mayor, we don’t have any beaches. I haven’t had to deal with that, but the mayors on the coast from Huron all the way up to Tobermory have had to deal with that. I would encourage a gradual reopening along the phases that the province has proposed. And to mitigate people from the city coming to this region, probably consider keeping the beaches closed.”

2:07Regional relaunch leads to Calgarians traveling for a haircut

Regional relaunch leads to Calgarians traveling for a haircut

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