Ottawa

Kingston asks province for 'local flexibility' on lifting COVID-19 restrictions

Kingston's city council wants the province to consider regional differences when it re-examines its list of essential businesses and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

City says community gardens should be an essential service

Kingston city council passed a motion this week asking the province to allow more regional flexibility for lifting restrictions, such as a ban on community gardens, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city currently has fewer than five active cases and no deaths. (Cory Coleman/CBC)

The city council in Kingston, Ont., wants the province to consider regional differences when it re-examines its list of essential businesses and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under its Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act a number of non-essential businesses and services have been ordered to close, including all outdoor "recreational amenities" like baseball diamonds, swing sets and community gardens.

In Kingston, nearly all the 59 people who've tested positive for the coronavirus have recovered. There have been no deaths, and no one is currently in intensive care.

"We're in a really good spot," said Coun. Robert Kiley, who moved a motion Tuesday asking for "local flexibility" in provincial COVID-19 orders.

"All the motion was asking for was for the provincial minister of health and premier to acknowledge that there is regional difference in the spread of this disease, and that local medical officers of health have the best understanding of that," he told CBC Radio's All In A Day Thursday.

Kingston wants to loosen up some of its restrictions for outdoor spaces like trails and community gardens. We're talking to the councillor who introduced that motion to the city council. 9:49

Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Public Health agrees that community gardens, for instance, should be considered an essential service in Kingston, said Kiley.

They are important for local food security, Kiley said.

"This motion looked for some local flexibility," he said.

CBC contacted Ivana Yelich, a spokesperson for Premier Doug Ford's office, and asked whether the province would grant more flexibility to regions with low cases of COVID-19.

Yelich said Ontario must remain "vigilant" to avoid any surges of COVID-19 cases, adding that residents have done a good job of that so far and that the province is now examining how to eventually lift restrictions.

"Our focus is on ensuring Ontarians follow the public health measures in place," Yelich said in a statement.

"Our health experts are looking at how measures can be scaled back and reduced post-peak. That is part of our forward planning."

Nature trails reopening

This weekend, Kingston plans to reopen its nature trails within the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority.

Kiley said signs will be posted at parks letting people know they must stay two metres away from others and only meet up with members of their own household.

"Each person has to do their part and we're trusting that they will," Kiley said.

Kingston's medical officer of health, he added, supports opening the trails as well.

About the Author

Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa. Previously, she worked as a reporter in Winnipeg and as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca.

with files from CBC's All in a Day

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