No changes to Atlantic bubble planned during the election, Higgs says
Nova Scotia says it could open up its borders even if the other Atlantic provinces don't
A provincial election means the Atlantic bubble will remain as is — at least on the New Brunswick side.
After dropping off his daughter and grandchildren at the Fredericton Airport on Friday, Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs said he has no plans to change the bubble parameters.
"I think certainly starting up with schools, universities, international students coming, it's important to maintain our restrictions until we see that that's looked after," he said. "I don't see any changes."
Higgs's family members were visiting from Guelph, Ont., and were in New Brunswick for five weeks. They self-isolated for two of those weeks, Higgs said. And while they're not planning to come back during the campaign, if they do want to, they'll have to self-isolate again.
Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island appear to be on the same page, but there's a prospect of bubble defection on the Nova Scotia side.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says if other Atlantic provinces' health authorities don't give him the green light, he may still open up his borders to the rest of Canada.
"If public health in other provinces aren't ready and ours is, then we'll move forward on it," he said at a news conference Thursday.
"Obviously, it would be ideal if we can all go together, but if that's no possible we'll look at our own epidemiology and potentially go at it alone."
Higgs said he had a call with the four Atlantic premiers a few weeks ago. that call, he During said, the three provinces were concerned about what would happen if Nova Scotia were to open up completely.
"There was apprehension both from us and P.E.I. and Newfoundland in relation to how would we manage if Nova Scotia did their own thing," he said.
"If we have different rules. … People could come into the [Halifax] airport and then rent a car and come right through to anywhere in New Brunswick."
Stricter airport measures?
Higgs said if McNeil wanted to have a different protocol, he would want to see more strict regulation for people coming into the Halifax airport.
This means giving educational pamphlets to people flying into Halifax explaining the different rules in the other Atlantic provinces, he said, and taking more personal information.
"So we know where people are going and understand where they are and how we get in touch with them and we can track them," he said.
When asked if there's a possibility of excluding Nova Scotia from the bubble if it opens up its borders, Higgs said he's "hopeful we can stay synched up."
Under the Atlantic bubble, which went into effect July 3, residents of the four provinces have been able to travel within the region for non-essential reasons without having to self-isolate for 14 days.
However, Nova Scotia's borders have been more porous than any of the other Atlantic provinces since the beginning if the pandemic in early March. Anyone from any province or territory has been able to enter Nova Scotia for any reason as long as they self-isolated for 14 days.
In New Brunswick, the only people outside Atlantic Canada who can visit are people who own property or have family in the province. Those people would still have to self-isolate for 14 days. There are compassionate and work exemptions, including people attending funerals and people who can prove they have to be in the province on business.
Before he called the Sept. 14 election for New Brunswick, Higgs said talks about expanding the bubble were continuing He also announced New Brunswick was expanding its travel bubble to include two Quebec border regions on July 30. On Friday, Higgs was adamant that he believes the Atlantic bubble will stay in place for the forseeable future.
"We don't have a timeline to make changes," he said.
With files from Bobbie-Jean MacKinnon and Radio-Canada's Patrick Butler