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Was a northern bubble ever considered?

'I heard those types of conversations before by the public, I absolutely have'
Highway 11 north
Highway 11 sign. Photo by Jeff Turl.

The mayor of North Bay believes it would have been a challenge to try and create a northern bubble to try and keep visitors from other districts coming to the north during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

McDonald says he has heard the discussion about the "northern bubble" in public but never came up as a serious discussion here as a way to limit southern Ontarians from traveling to the north. 

"Not that I recall, have I heard those types of conversations before by the public, I absolutely have," admitted McDonald.  

"If you think of the logistics, I don't think the city or the health unit have the authority to close down highways. Not that I know of. Maybe they do."

McDonald believes setting up check points would cause serious traffic issues.   

"Let's just use highway 11 for an example, if you have ever come into town at 7:30 a.m. it is packed," he said.

"Can you imagine if there was a check point to see if you are allowed to be here or not, the back up of traffic would be for miles.

"Secondly, could the province close its borders, yes. Does the province have the ability to close down a city, I am thinking they do but I do know the federal government has that ability."

BayToday did a poll on the issue back before Christmas and more than 70 per cent of the nearly 1500 readers who responded, supported some form of a bubble similar to the Atlantic Bubble that has been utilized in the Maritimes to restrict traffic.   

See poll: What do you think of a Northern Ontario Bubble

Logistically, the northeast would have three checkpoint locations.  That would be on Highway 11 North likely would need to be set up near Novar. Another point near Mattawa off Highway 17 and then a third on Highway 69 south of French River.  

Our region has already seen a similar concept just 60 kilometers northeast of North Bay in Temiscaming where Quebec provincial police were set up at the Ontario-Quebec border back in March. 

See related: Quebec police set up at Ontario-Quebec border in Temiscaming

Temiscaming Mayor Yves Ouellet told BayToday back then that the QPP would ask questions to people to inquire about their reason for their entrance on our territory. 

Ouellet explained that employees from Rayonier from Ontario would be allowed to work, along with people with medical appointments while local delivery and transportation services would be maintained.  

"However, if a group arrives with the intention to go ice fishing, they will be turned back along with cottagers coming from outside the area wanted to go to their cottage," Ouellet said back in March.  

BayToday ask Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli about the northern Ontario bubble idea.  

"From the very start of this pandemic, our government’s top priority has been the health and well-being of all Ontarians," said Fedeli in an emailed statement in response to the question. 

"Every option has been on the table to ensure the health of Ontarians. Given the continued spread of this deadly virus, increasing capacity pressures in Intensive Care Units (ICUs), and the troubling modelling data presented, Ontario has declared a provincial emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) in response to COVID-19.

"The Chief Medical Officer of Health will assess and apply lessons learned thus far to the COVID-19 Response Framework to ensure appropriate and effective measures are in place to protect the health of Ontarians and enable economic recovery after the Province wide Shutdown ends. This will include an assessment of how a revised approach for the safe reopening of retail may be operationalized, according to the latest available evidence."