Gatineau could slow reopening to match Ottawa, mayor says
Quebec premier says pandemic restriction could begin to lift May 4
Gatineau, Que., could reopen for business at a slower pace than the rest of the province because of its close proximity to Ontario, Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin says.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault has talked about loosening some restrictions as early as May 4, beginning a gradual return to normalcy for residents and businesses in the province.
But Gatineau mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin told CBC's Ottawa Morning Friday that his city will likely take things at its own pace, and he gave no indication when police checkstops at interprovincial crossings might come down.
"Changes could be made within the Outaouais region but we could still have police stopping people on the bridges. We'd like not to do that, but I want to play it safe," Pedneaud-Jobin said.
"I want to play it as safe as possible. This thing is killing people."
There have been two COVID-19 related deaths in the Outaouais and 236 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness, about a quarter of the number across the river in Ottawa.
Pedneaud-Jobin said last weekend alone police in the Outaouais stopped thousands of drivers and turned away nine per cent because their trips into the province were deemed unnecessary.
Any decision to loosen restrictions would ultimately involve Quebec public health authorities. Mathieu Lacombe, the minister responsible for the Outaouais, was not available for an interview Friday.
Pierre Samson, president of the Gatineau Chamber of Commerce, said businesses have been suffering through the lockdown.
"The longer we wait, the worse the situation is going to be," Samson said.
He said some businesses including several restaurants are having to decide whether they'll reopen or remain closed for good.
Still, Samson said the chamber supports coordinating the reopening of businesses in Gatineau with those in Ottawa.
"There's no reason why we should be different in Gatineau," Samson said. "We should try to work together and reopen slowly on both sides to avoid people going back and forth and having the police force having to control the bridges."
Eric Gaudreault, owner of bar Le Troquet in Vieux-Hull and a member of Vision Centre-Ville Gatineau, said he accepts the principle of putting public health ahead of the economy, but he hopes customers from Ottawa will return eventually.
"We're going to be more and more happy to see them when all of this is over," Gaudreault said.
He said it's the reality of owning a business in a border city.
"We are used to having a different reality than the rest of Quebec. Same situation when I think about Windsor in Ontario —they always have to think about what's going down in the United States."
With files from Ismael Sy