• Stuart Benson

‘One in two plates were from Ontario’

Despite travel, no plans to enforce border restrictions

It’s only been a little more than a week since the province-wide curfew came into effect on Jan. 9 and Chelsea Mayor and Warden of the MRC des Collines Caryl Green said the question of whether interregional travel will be restricted has already been a common one.

One of the electronic signs erected by the province near the entrance of Gatineau Park in Old Chelsea, educates travellers of increased COVID-19 restrictions in Quebec and reminds them to help reduce the spread of the pandemic by sticking to family bubbles. Nikki Mantell photo

“There was quite a lot of interest from the French media,” Green explained, adding that one journalist had travelled from Montreal to Chelsea on Jan. 16 to count the number of Ontario license plates. “According to his observations, one in two plates were from Ontario.”

For the time being, Green said that the Ministry of Health has confirmed there will not be any road-checks on the border, with resources being focused on implementing the curfew.

According to the MRC des Collines Police, between Jan. 10 and Jan. 17, 428 curfew verifications were made, which resulted in 13 tickets. There were also six calls to the police about private gatherings, which resulted in one warning and one fine.

“The province also wants to increase education with more electronic signs on roadways and the entrance points from Ontario into Quebec,” Green added.

The National Capital Commision is also attempting to discourage interregional travel, including reducing the number of travellers from Ottawa to Chelsea visiting Gatineau Park by highlighting existing recreational infrastructure on the Ontario side of the park.

“Conversely, residents from the Outaouais probably shouldn’t be visiting the Rideau Canal,” Green added. “We’re asking people to use the infrastructure in their neighbourhood.”

Green is hoping that with enough effort and adherence to the current restrictions in the next few weeks, there could be a loosening of the restrictions, but it will come down to the decisions of every individual. However without any actual police enforcement at the borders, both Green and the NCC admit all they can do is rely on the public to make responsible choices.

“Let’s be clear, the NCC has neither the capacity nor the authority to restrict interprovincial travel or travel on the roads,” wrote Valerie Dufour, senior manager of strategic communications for the NCC in a statement to The Low Down. “We are relying on people’s civic-mindedness and sense of responsibility. Our objective is to keep our facilities open so that people can be active and engage in outdoor exercise near their homes.”

According to the NCC’s own data, as of Jan. 6, the park had sold 16,167 winter passes, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter cycling passes — an increase of 43 per cent from 11,305 passes during the 2019/20 season.

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