Ottawa

Quebec shutdown prompts calls for co-ordination ahead of Boxing Day

With Quebec mandating the closure of non-essential businesses for two weeks starting Christmas Day, some are left wondering what to do if people from Gatineau cross the provincial border to do their Boxing Day shopping in Ottawa. 

City councillor raises concerns about shoppers crossing the provincial border for deals in Ottawa

Crowds walk the halls of Ottawa's Rideau Centre on Boxing Day in 2017 to take advantage of sales. (Patrick Louiseize/CBC)

With Quebec mandating the closure of non-essential businesses for two weeks starting Christmas Day, some are left wondering what to do if people from Gatineau cross the provincial border to do their Boxing Day shopping in Ottawa. 

"The latest announcements from the Government of Quebec do pose some risks here in Ottawa by the proximity," Coun. Mathieu Fleury told Radio-Canada on Wednesday. 

At the same time, the Rideau-Vanier councillor says Gatineau and Ottawa should be viewed as one large region when it comes to restrictions, as both have comparable COVID-19 case numbers.

"The latest information recreates an imbalance, which is of concern for us," the councillor said. "We're a region that shares two provinces."

Coun. Mathieu Fleury says Gatineau and Ottawa should be managed as one large region when it comes to restrictions on businesses during the pandemic. (Radio-Canada)

Fleury said actions by businesses in Ottawa should help protect the city from any potential surge caused by Quebec shoppers crossing the Ottawa River for deals.

Stores are following proper health protocols, he said, like ensuring people clean their hands, wear masks and are limiting the number of people allowed inside. 

Desire to see cities viewed as one 

The city councillor isn't alone in wanting to see coordinated decision making for the Ottawa-Gatineau region 

Lise Sarazin is the general director for Regroupement des gens d'affaires de la capitale nationale, which represents businesses on either side of the Ottawa River. 

She believes the shutdown will drive shoppers to Ottawa, leaving Gatineau stores with stocked shelves and locked doors. 

She'd also like the two cities viewed as a one, special region. 

"[And] allow those businesses to open on a certain level, maybe with more restrictions," she told Radio-Canada. "But at least leave them open so they can sell their merchandise."

No checkpoints at border

Meanwhile, officials on both sides of the river said they don't plan to implement border checkpoints, as happened during the spring lockdown. 

"The City of Ottawa has no authority to close a border between two provinces and, in any event, the Mayor doesn't feel this is a good use of police resources," the office of Mayor Jim Watson said in an emailed statement.

"He encourages residents to stay in their respective communities as we continue to fight the spread of COVID-19 over the holidays."

With files from Radio-Canada's Jeremie Bergeron

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