Montreal

Quebec tourists will be allowed to drive to the Magdalen Islands

New Brunswick and P.E.I. will now allow Quebecers to drive through their provinces, with some restrictions: they may not stay overnight in the Maritimes and can only make stops for gas.

Quebecers can travel through New Brunswick and P.E.I. but can only stop for gas

Quebec tourists who want to catch the C.T.M.A. Vacancier ferry to travel to the Magdalen Islands will have to fill out a mandatory self-declaration form and present it to officers stationed at the provincial border in New Brunswick and on Prince Edward Island. (Radio-Canada/Lisa-Marie Bélanger)

UPDATE: Since this story was originally published, the Quebec government has announced Quebecers will not be allowed to stay overnight in New Brunswick, as was previously reported. Travellers are encouraged to stay overnight in Dégelis, Que., 40 kilometres northwest of Edmundston, N.B., instead. 

Quebec tourists will be allowed to drive through New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to get to the Magdalen Islands as of June 26. 

The three provinces involved had been in talks since last month, trying to find a balance between COVID-19 safety protocols and the potential economic effects of a bleak tourist season. 

As part of the new regulations, announced Saturday in a release, Quebec tourists will need to fill out a government form and have proof of passage on the ferry to and from Souris, P.E.I. They are also required to prove they have somewhere to stay. 

On their way there, tourists will have to drive straight through New Brunswick and will only be permitted to stop for gas. 

Once they arrive on P.E.I., they will have to go directly to the Souris ferry terminal, with the exception of stopping for gas. 

According to Quebec government authorities, the new forms will be available on the province's official website "shortly."

Up until now, Quebec residents wanting to cross through New Brunswick and P.E.I. required special permission and had to fall into specific categories, such as being an essential worker or travelling for medical reasons.

The two provinces had closed themselves off in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. Where Quebec has had 53,824 confirmed cases so far, New Brunswick and P.E.I. have only seen 154 and 27 cases, respectively. 

Magdalen Islands Mayor Jonathan Lapierre had been lobbying for Quebecers to be allowed to vacation in the area, as many families depend on the tourism industry for income. 

According to Lapierre, the tourism industry creates some 1,800 jobs for Magdalen Island residents. 

Joël Arseneau, the MNA for the Magdalen Islands, had also called on the governments to lift the restrictions.

"We have two economic pillars: one is fisheries and the second one is tourism. I would say close to a quarter of the working population is involved in tourism," Arseneau said Saturday.

MNA Joël Arseneau says he knows there won't be as many tourists visiting the region this year, but that something is better than nothing. (Philippe Grenier/Radio-Canada)

Even with this new announcement, he said the islands can expect to see some economic fallout. Where the region welcomed 70,000 tourists last summer, it expects to see no more than 20,000 this year. 

"The important factor, for me, was to have a base from which we can build," said Arseneau. "Whatever we can get this summer is better than nothing." 

Nancy Boisselle, who runs Excursions en Mer in Cap-aux-Meules, Que., agrees.

The company, which provides marine tours of the islands, will need to reduce its operations by 70 per cent this year. 

"It will be a big loss, but we will still offer tours to visitors," Boisselle said. 

"We hope next summer will be better." 

With files from Radio-Canada and Sarah Leavitt

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