Restrictions not lifting yet in Ontario, Kenora mayor warns as Manitobans flock to cottage country

The mayor of Kenora, Ont., is again reminding Manitobans to avoid Lake of the Woods for now because even though Manitoba’s retail stores and non-essential businesses can begin to open, the same businesses in his community can’t yet.

Mayor Dan Reynard says many vehicles with Manitoba plates in lakeside city, despite being told to stay home

Main Street in downtown Kenora, Ont. Mayor Dan Reynard says Manitobans should think twice before heading to cottage country this spring. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The mayor of Kenora, Ont., is again reminding Manitobans to avoid Lake of the Woods for now because even though Manitoba's retail stores and non-essential businesses can begin to open, the same businesses in his community can't yet.

Dan Reynard said he's still seeing many vehicles with Manitoba licence plates in his community, located about 200 kilometres east of Winnipeg.

"I find it frustrating," he said Sunday. "I understand the draw, especially the fact that it's been, you know, almost eight weeks now" of being told to stay home, he said.

"It's a huge draw for people to get out." 

On Monday, a variety of non-essential health care and retail businesses are allowed to reopen in Manitoba under strict guidelines — including restaurant patios, salons, museums and seasonal day camps.

Some outdoor recreation facilities — such as playgrounds, golf courses and campgrounds — can also open.

But in Ontario, many of those amenities will remain closed Monday, including golf courses.  Marinas can begin preparations for the summer boating season, but can't open to the public. 

Ontario premier Doug Ford also advised people to continue staying home as much as possible. 

"The rules are changing rapidly," Reynard said, adding that strict physical distancing measures are in places at business, like grocery and hardware stores, that are still open in the community. 

"People are confused," he said. "It's hard to keep up with information … it's just it's challenging times for everybody."

Manitoba health officials said while parks, campgrounds, yurts and vacation cabins may open on Monday if people practise physical distancing, people are still asked to stay home as much as possible.

The province also said if people must go to their cottages, go directly to and from your destination without stopping, bring all necessary supplies — such as food and medication — with you, do not visit others and avoid attending local health facilities, if at all possible. 

Travel outside the province is also still discouraged. 

"It does get complicated at this point," said Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, on Friday. "What we have is, we're still in a pandemic, we're still early in this pandemic so we still need to deal with this virus." 

Roussin admitted the messaging could be complicated, but said Manitobans need to stay cautious. 

Reyand said he recognizes Kenora is a tourist town and relies on the dollars summer cottagers and campers bring to keep businesses afloat, but urged people to stay home for a little while longer. 

Dan Reynard, the Mayor of Kenora, Ont., says many services still aren't operational in his community, which thrives off of cottager and tourism dollars in the summer. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

"Our livelihood depends on the influx of not only our summer residence people out of camps and cottages in the area, but also summer tourists coming in. They're the lifeblood of a lot of our businesses. But right now is not the time for them to travel," he said. 

He said the message is especially important with May long weekend right around the corner — knowing many may want to come and get a head start opening up and completing any repairs on their summer homes and getting their boats ready for the water. 

"We value you, you're important to us. We recognize that," Reynard said. "But right now we'd really like people to follow the direction of the medical officers of health in the province of Ontario. Please don't travel into our tourist communities right now." 


Riley Laychuk is CBC's reporter based in Brandon, covering rural Manitoba. Share your story ideas, tips and feedback:


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