Cottage owners, rejoice: Ontario-Manitoba border restrictions to lift Wednesday

Ontario is reopening its borders with Manitoba this Wednesday, delighting both Manitoba cottagers and the Kenora-area business community.

Non-essential travel ban to Ontario has been in effect since April

A drone shot of the Manitoba-Ontario border after new COVID-19 restrictions came into effect in Ontario in April, banning non-essential travel into the province. The Ontario government says it will lift those restrictions starting Wednesday. (CBC)

Ontario is reopening its borders with Manitoba this Wednesday, delighting both Manitoba cottagers and the Kenora, Ont.-area business community.

The order restricting non-essential travel into Ontario will be lifted as of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Ontario government confirmed. 

Ontario closed its borders to Manitobans for non-essential travel on April 19, in an effort to get a handle on its COVID-19 numbers. 

That meant Manitobans who have cottages in northwestern Ontario were unable to visit them unless they needed to make emergency repairs. 

One of those Manitobans is Christine Skene, who was elated by the reopening news. 

"With all the downbeat notes with COVID and all the restrictions in Manitoba, not being able to go to our cottage was just sort of the final straw," she said. 

The cottage has been in her husband's family for more than 100 years, and this was the first year her husband hasn't been able to spend time there, though they did visit it for repairs during the non-essential travel ban. 

She said the border closure didn't make much sense to her and left her worried about what might happen to her family's summer home without them there. 

The end of the border closure for non-essential travellers is welcome news for Kenora-area business owners, said Tim Warkentin, a board member on the Kenora & District Chamber of Commerce.

"We're definitely encouraging them to come. I mean, again, follow your local regulations. But we miss them, they're a big part of our economy and we want them here," he said. 

He said the local economy has taken a hit during the pandemic, and having Manitoba cottagers back will help. 

"We need people walking in the stores and we need people opening up their wallets and we just need this economy to get back opened up. But again we still want to do what's right."

No self-isolation for property owners: top doctor 

During a news conference Monday, Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said Manitobans who own property in Ontario won't have to self-isolate after returning to the province. 

He said the province doesn't plan on lifting the self-isolation requirement for travel to northwestern Ontario, like it did last year when COVID-19 case numbers were low. But, he said, with more people becoming fully vaccinated, that won't be as much of an issue. 

"As more and more weeks go by, we think it should be less and less of an issue because we want more and more people with a double vaccine that gives them an exemption no matter what anyway," he said. 

However, Roussin wouldn't say whether Manitoba plans to enforce the self-isolation rule for Manitobans coming back into the province from Ontario who aren't cottage owners.

Last week, Premier Brian Pallister announced that Manitobans will be able to travel within Canada without having to self-isolate for two weeks after they return, if they've been fully vaccinated.

An immunization card will be provided to individuals two weeks after they've received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, the premier said last Tuesday.