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EDITORIAL: Case to be made for Atlantic region travel bubble

Family members Glenda Feehan, Rick Feehan, Nathan Fraser, Eleanor MacInnis, Duncan MacInnis, Mary MacInnis and Jane MacInnis enjoying the 30th annual Arisaig Lobster Dinner, held on Mother’s Day, May 12, at the Arisaig Community Hall.
Lobster dinners are a staple of the Atlantic Canadian tourism scene. - SaltWire Network file photo

Hey Nova Scotians — ever visited Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Prince Edward Islanders, when you’re not busy welcoming others, wouldn’t it be great to plan a turn through New Brunswick and relax at St. Andrews by the Sea, or go visit a place on the Bay de Chaleur that you’ve never seen before? New Brunswickers could take the bridge to P.E.I. for some rest, relaxation and lobster suppers, while Newfoundlanders and Labradorians could plan a trip to see the tides and the quiet life along the Fundy Shore in Nova Scotia.

Right now, that can’t happen. All four of the Atlantic provinces have travel restrictions of one form or another at their borders, and that isn’t changing in the near future.

But as the number of active COVID-19 cases fall across the region, there’s a clear case to be made for loosening some of the restrictions — at least for close neighbours with similarly low infection rates.

It’s not a new idea. P.E.I. and New Brunswick were talking about a travel bubble, at least until P.E.I. started planning to allow out-of-province cottage owners to come to the island, as long as they self-isolated. Newfoundland and Labrador’s government has said the idea has come up, but there hasn’t been much in-depth discussion.

All four of the Atlantic provinces have travel restrictions of one form or another at their borders, and that isn’t changing in the near future.

And, right now, everybody’s suggesting that, at least for this year, people should be looking to their own provinces for vacation opportunities — the so-called “staycation” instead of vacation. But while that may let residents of the Atlantic region see more of their home provinces, it might not be enough to guarantee the survival of tourism infrastructure in each of the region’s provinces.

St. John’s restaurateur Todd Perrin described the problem in a nutshell in a series of tweets: “A quickly mobilized plan of action to let free movement of other Canadians into N.L. is a necessary economic injection and an under-appreciated economic driver. … Staycations and N.L.ers moving about supporting each other is a fine talking point. But the reality is that without new money, that’s all it is — a talking point. …We cannot turn our backs to the fact — even to face COVID — that there just (aren’t) enough of us to float the economic boat we are all sitting in.”

It’s easy to understand why: a staycation in your own province may mean just day trips to see local sites, spending little in the process.

The Atlantic provinces share borders, interests and substantial history — it would be a real boost if we could share even more of that through Atlantic-centric vacations this year, even if the rest of Canada isn’t having the same success controlling the virus that we have had so far.

It’s only an idea.

And it’s only a start — but at least it’s a start.


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