New Brunswick

Nova Scotia and other Atlantic provinces had warning of N.B. reopening, Higgs says

Premier Blaine Higgs said says he was open with the other Atlantic Canadian premiers about New Brunswick’s plans to reopen borders to the rest of Canada.

Nova Scotia premier says he only found out about move when it was announced

Premier Blaine Higgs said he told Atlantic Canadian premiers last week about the province's plans to reopen if it met certain vaccination targets. (Government of New Brunswick)

Premier Blaine Higgs says he was open with the other Atlantic Canadian premiers about New Brunswick's plans to reopen borders to the rest of Canada.

"We had a committed target and I outlined that," Higgs said Friday after the Nova Scotia premier suggested he was blindsided by the move.

On Thursday, New Brunswick started allowing Canadians outside the Atlantic region with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to enter the province without self-isolating or receiving prior approval. Travellers would have to register, however. The province had already opened to people from P.E.I., Newfoundland and Labrador and parts of Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin told reporters on Thursday that he only found out about the New Brunswick policy when Higgs announced it publicly the day before. Rankin suggested the plan had been to have an Atlantic bubble for a while before opening up the region to the rest of the country.

New Brunswick had only just reached phase one of its path to green when it announced it was moving to the second phase because vaccination targets had been met. 

Higgs said he laid out these target-dependent plans to his Atlantic Canadian counterparts last week. 

"I said people in New Brunswick have worked very hard," Higgs said when political party leaders in the New Brunswick COVID cabinet were interviewed on Information Morning Fredericton.

"They've done their part … I cannot delay this because our Public Health are saying we're good to go."

The rest of Atlantic Canada is planning on a regional reopening on June 23, and Nova Scotia is looking to welcome the rest of Canada on July 14.

Other New Brunswick party leaders were concerned about what seemed a lack of collaboration among the Atlantic provinces, and one worried the province had opened up too soon.

Atlantic Canadian co-operation

Green Party Leader David Coon said he thinks New Brunswick should have stayed at stage one for a time.

"Our second phase is pretty dramatic," said Coon. 

"I think a lot of people like me are saying, 'thousands of people just got us to 75 per cent of the first dose, and let's give some time for that first dose to work.'"

Green Party Leader David Coon said the province should have waited before introducing the second stage of its path to green. (Joe McDonald/CBC)

Interim Liberal Leader Roger Melanson said he would have preferred to see more collaboration among the Atlantic provinces on reopening, but he supported the move to go to the second stage.

"When Public Health in New Brunswick makes recommendations, it's based on science, it's based on the epidemiology, it's based on facts and based on the fact that it makes New Brunswick safe," Melanson said. 

"I respect that recommendation."

People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin said risk mitigation will have to be a priority moving forward but thinks New Brunswickers are more than ready to move on.

New Brunswick drives for green, and one of its neighbours says they would have preferred a more coordinated reopening. The Covid cabinet committee joined us to talk about that, and vaccine passports. Premier Blaine Higgs, Interim leader of the Official Opposition Roger Melanson, Green Party leader David Coon, and Kris Austin, leader of the People's Alliance. 23:09

He said COVID will be a fact of life for a long time, and continued restrictions aren't realistic.

"People say that they're worried about the opening of New Brunswick and I tell them, 'Get your vaccine,'" Austin said. 

"It's simple as that. Once you get your vaccine, you know that you have high protection … and we can get our lives back to normal here sooner rather than later. "

Future openings

Higgs said he wants to see the border to the United States open soon as well.

In a call with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other premiers on Thursday night, Higgs said, he pushed for an opening of the border in July.

Higgs said he would like to see the U.S. border reopen in July. (CBC)

He said he assumes this would include the need for some kind of vaccine passport, preferably one that can be offered digitally.

Both Melanson and Coon said they support the introduction of vaccine passports.

Austin said he wouldn't support an interprovincial vaccine passport but views an international vaccine passport as an "inevitability."

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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