New Brunswick

Canadians driving through N.B. to summer homes in P.E.I. to face heavy screening

Canadians who were hoping to pass through New Brunswick starting as early as next week to access summer properties they own on Prince Edward Island will be facing tougher entrance requirements and screening rules than it first appeared when the plan was unveiled a week ago.

Non-resident Canadians can apply to access their P.E.I. cottages Monday

Canadians driving to P.E.I. from Quebec or Ontario have a 540-kilometre drive through New Brunswick before they get to Confederation Bridge. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

Canadians who were hoping to pass through New Brunswick starting as early as next week to access summer properties they own on Prince Edward Island will be facing tougher entrance requirements and screening rules than it first appeared when the plan was unveiled a week ago.

That is likely to appeal to New Brunswick government officials who claimed to be caught off guard by the Prince Edward Island announcement last Wednesday and had expressed interest in knowing how strict the Island planned to be with owners of cottages and camps wanting to travel there for the summer through New Brunswick 

"I understand P.E.I. is going to have a very strong, solid application process so that residents are well understood and I would assume that they would share that with us so that we can share that with our officials at the border and we can get continued compliance at the border," Premier Blaine Higgs said last week after hearing about P.E.I.'s plan.

On Tuesday, Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief medical health officer, gave more details about the policy and for the first time indicated Canadians from communities with high infection rates will face a high hurdle to entry while others will undergo a methodical approval procedure.

Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief medical health officer, on Monday laid out a strict screening procedure non-resident property owners will have to get through before being allowed entry to P.E.I. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

"There will be a risk assessment process that will consider not only where people may be coming from in this country, but our capacity to do that operation — self-isolation. How their self-isolation plan, how good it is and firm it is, and even whether testing may be an option or a requirement for them as well," said Morrison. 

"So these are the things that we are going to work through and be very careful [about] and this could take a longer period of time."

Other rules are under consideration, she said, and will be announced by the end of the week. Canadians own about 2,300 seasonal properties on P.E.I. and applications for them to enter the province open Monday.

That policy has been controversial both on and off on the Island.

King, Higgs not seeing eye to eye

New Brunswick has also been pondering how and when to admit its own population of non-resident property owners, and Higgs said he was not told by P.E.I. Premier Dennis King about the June 1 starting date in conversations the two had about the issue as late as last week.   

It was a claim King flatly denied.

"I talked to Premier Higgs on Tuesday before we did the [Wednesday] announcement," he said.  "We need individuals, if they are coming here by car, to drive through New Brunswick to get to their seasonal residence so I certainly made the [phone] call."

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King announced last week non-resident Canadians who own island property can apply for entry beginning Monday. The rule change caught New Brunswick off guard and sparked controversy on the Island. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

But most of the heat King has felt has come from island residents.

An online petition against the policy gathered 6,000 names in the first week, and King said since the announcement he had "been called things that would make a sailor blush" by some voters. 

There are worries non-residents from jurisdictions with ongoing COVID-19 problems, like Quebec and Ontario, could reintroduce the virus to P.E.I., which has not had a single new case in four weeks.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he was surprised with P.E.I.'s decision to start accepting non-resident Canadian property owners after June 1. He said he hopes New Brunswick can do the same later 'this summer.' (Government of New Brunswick/Submitted)

New Brunswick government officials were not immediately saying Tuesday if the province had any input into P.E.I.'s screening procedures and who will be cleared to drive through New Brunswick. It is about 540 kilometres mostly on the Trans-Canada Highway from the Quebec border north of Edmundston to the Confederation Bridge.

There has also been no hint of whether the strong reaction on P.E.I. to non-residents being cleared for entry will affect New Brunswick's own looming decision on the issue.

Earlier this month, Higgs said he hoped to be able to grant Canadians with properties in New Brunswick entry "this summer."

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