Hamilton

Doug Ford says Haldimand-Norfolk can't hold back tax-paying cottagers for long

Premier Doug Ford says he sees no reason why people who own cottages in Haldimand and Norfolk shouldn't be able to visit them, and plans a conference call with mayors about it ahead of Victoria Day.

'Under normal circumstances, we would welcome tourists and other visitors,' says the medical officer of health

A new public health order says owners of cottages and other secondary residences in Haldimand and Norfolk can't visit them during the pandemic. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Premier Doug Ford says he sees no reason why people who own cottages in Haldimand and Norfolk shouldn't be able to visit them, and plans a conference call with mayors about it ahead of Victoria Day.

Ford said in a Monday press conference that as the number of COVID-19 cases fall, he'll have "a heart-to-heart conversation" with mayors in cottage areas. 

"There's only so long that you can hold back taxpayers from going to their cottages," he said. 

Ford was answering a question about the two Lake Erie counties. Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, medical officer of health with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, wrote an April 23 order prohibiting people from out of town from visiting their secondary residences there.

The health unit mailed out the order on May 1 to everyone with a primary address outside of the two counties. A "secondary residence" includes a "rented cottage, vacation home, beach house, chalet and/or condominium."

Nesathurai told the board of health last week that 60 per cent of the province's cases are in the GTA, and he doesn't want people traveling back and forth. He wants them to stay home.

"Under normal circumstances, we would welcome tourists and other visitors," he told reporters Monday. Now, "we really want to discourage people from coming for non-essential reasons."

Premier Doug Ford talked about the possibility of people being able to head to their cottages at his daily news conference Monday. 0:56

That's a problem in Long Point, where people spend more than half the year in those secondary residences, says Robyn Hanson, co-owner of the Sandboy Marina. Some Long Point cottagers have sheltered there since the pandemic started.

"They social distance," she said. "They refrain from gathering. They're not walking on the beach."

This is the start of the flooding season, Hanson says, and cottagers need to pump out floodwater. If their cottages are destroyed by inattention, she says, is the county liable?

Cottagers are "absolutely essential" to the lakeside economy, she said. "We have a three-month window … to basically make all our money for the year."

Overall, 30 people have died from COVID-19 in Haldimand and Norfolk, while 50 have recovered. The number of cases has been at a two-day plateau of 196, which is one for every 561 people. That's one of the highest per-capita rates in Ontario, Nesathurai says, and represents the fatality rate of every other cause of death combined in the two counties.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca