Ottawa resident Chris Ault has started a petition urging the Quebec government to ease restrictions preventing Ottawans visiting their cottages in the Outaouais region of Quebec.
The petition has garnered over 6,000 signatures—a week after it was initially launched on change.org.
In an interview with Cottage Life, Ault, who owns a cottage near Alcove, Que., said he supports the restriction of movement to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but feels cottagers who own residences in the Outaouais region are close enough to Ontario they would be able to make the proper accommodations to limit contact with Quebec residents while in the province. He said cottagers could buy groceries and gas in Ottawa before crossing the border and if they became sick while at their seasonal residence, they could return to Ottawa to seek treatment.
“On top of the fact that we pay property taxes, we want to be able to go and monitor the safety and security of our cottages. The main point is that we would be non-stop traveling and we would have no impact on local residents or healthcare facilities,” Ault argues.
He also noted that if the property has been damaged, owners would be unable to tend to the issues until restrictions are lifted.
“If there was an issue, like a tree crashing through the roof, there’s nothing we can do about it and that’s incredibly frustrating,” he said.
Some cottage country mayors in the region, including Pontiac Mayor Joanne Labadie, recommended asking a trusted local resident to check on cottager’s properties if crime is a concern. While Ault said this could be a possible solution in some cases, (citing the Alcove area as a reference) he counters that some areas have a high number of seasonal residents and claims this would cause an undue burden on local residents.
Guillaume Lamoureux, mayor of La Pêche—the region of Quebec that includes Alcove—released an open letter to Ontario cottagers unable to visit their cottagers on Wednesday.
“Like you, I recognize that it is theoretically possible for Ontario homeowners to safely access their property in Quebec. Like you, I recognize that you are full members of our community and that your social and economic contribution is fundamental to La Pêche,” Lamoureux wrote. “I recognize, moreover, that there is an obvious difference between the risks linked to tourist activities and those linked to property owners accessing their secondary home or cottage.”
He also acknowledged that he has been asking the Quebec government to speak with insurance companies to ensure absent property owners are not penalized and is waiting for a response. Responding to concerns about crime and property damage, he says he’s lobbying to increase police presence in cottage areas to reduce risk. View the full statement below.
While the Quebec government began easing travel restrictions last week, no date has yet been set for lifting travel restrictions between Ottawa and Gatineau.
In an email to Cottage Life, Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services said the situation is still under investigation but that public health believes reducing these restrictions should also be done gradually. “This is why we are first lifting the measures inside Quebec, before opening to Ontario,” it said.
The email also stated, “while Quebec has begun lifting travel restrictions, the government has reiterated that normal life does not yet resume its course. Although restrictions are lifted, non-essential movements between regions are still not recommended.”
During a press conference on May 6, Quebec deputy premier Geneviève Guilbault said the provincial government will be analyzing the situation at the border before announcing a plan to ease restrictions, noting concerns regarding the volume of people crossing the five interprovincial bridges between the two cities.
On April 1, checkpoints were set up on each of the bridges after the Quebec government banned non-essential travel into the province in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. Police remain at road checkpoints at each of the five interprovincial bridges between Ottawa and Gatineau, asking drivers the purpose of their trip to determine whether it is an acceptable reason, such as essential work or a medical appointment.