Sudbury mayor talks northern bubble with premier, but other northern cities unsure about the idea
Published Wednesday, February 3, 2021 7:38PM EST
SUDBURY -- Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger says he had an encouraging chat with Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Tuesday evening as he got to pitch the idea of creating a northern bubble.
Bigger has been calling for a bubble since on Jan. 20, echoing what some around the city council table have already said.
It's also earned him a lot of positive reaction over social media.
"You know, we both recognize the threat and the dangers of the new variants and their ability to travel," Bigger said of his conversation with Ford. "The one thing great about the premier is that he listens, so he called me last evening and we were able to speak about my request."
Bigger said there are plans at the provincial government level to enhance that communication effort, to stress that people need to be staying home.
"The key takeaway is that the premier said he would be in contact with Minister Sylvia Jones, Ontario's Solicitor General, to explore the options there may be when it comes to implementing things like road checks on Highway 69 toward Greater Sudbury," he said.
Bigger may find himself on his own, though, when it comes to his counterparts across the region.
North Bay's Al McDonald said on Facebook he was not in favour of a 'northern bubble.'
"To block off all highways into northern Ontario (both south and Quebec borders) would be unworkable, create a nightmare for the supply chain for essential goods and items we need day-to-day, hinder travel of essential workers, hurt our local businesses that need product, supplies and material, cause undue delay of traffic," McDonald wrote. "Prevent(ing) the virus coming further north from the south is not a bad idea per se, but we need to remember our citizens are travelling as well."
Danny Whalen is president of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities and a councillor in Temiskaming Shores.
Whalen had just finished emailing his executive to see what they thought of the idea. While he said it may have merit, it's likely too late to be implemented.
"If we had it in place and were able to get it up and running earlier in the process, it would have been far better," said Whalen. "There are issues we have to deal if we're creating a northern bubble and one of the biggest concerns we have is how each set of municipalities is dealing with their own health unit."
He said in Temiskaming Shores, they have been extremely lucky and residents for the most part are following the advice of their medical officer of health.
Likely too late
Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano said his focus right now is getting COVID vaccines. He said a bubble is likely too late at this point.
"From the get-go, from the outset of the pandemic, I think it would have been the right thing to do for the government to encourage people to stay in their regions - if you live in Algoma, stay in Algoma," said Provenzano.
He hasn't been approached by the Sudbury mayor, but said he's open to chatting with Bigger to hear him out.
"I operate from the perspective that the virus is in all of our communities and I just assume that the variant is in all of our communities and I think all of us should conduct ourselves as if that's the case," said Provenzano.
There is currently no indication from Queens' Park whether the premier will consider the move or look at further restrictions.
Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli did issue a statement to media on Tuesday that reads:
"In order to to control the spread, protect our health care system, and save lives, we declared a state of emergency and implemented a stay-at-home order, aimed at limiting people’s mobility and reducing the number of daily contacts with those outside an immediate household further limiting the spread of the virus," he writes.
"Applying public health measures across the province, including northern Ontario, will help interrupt transmission and protect healthcare capacity across the province. These measures will also work to prevent transmission from higher to lower transmission areas."