Gilles Bisson MPP Timmins

Government of Ontario

Government's extended Northern COVID-19 lockdown was avoidable

Published on January 8, 2021

QUEEN’S PARK — The North’s Official Opposition MPPs France Gélinas (Nickel Belt), John Vanthof (Timiskaming—Cochrane), Jamie West (Sudbury), Judith Monteith-Farrell (Thunder Bay—Atikokan), Sol Mamakwa (Kiiwetinoong), Guy Bourgouin (Mushkegowuk—James Bay), Gilles Bisson (Timmins), and Mike Mantha (Algoma—Manitoulin) released the following statement in response to the announcement that the overall lockdown in Northern Ontario will be extended for 14 days:

“The government announced yesterday that the COVID lockdown would be extended for another two weeks in northern Ontario. This announcement was supported by the Medical Officers of Health across the North.

Our offices have since been bombarded by constituent concerns that question whether some aspects of the extended lockdown are driven by public health or by lack of earlier action by the government.
Small business people are losing their livelihoods. After taking every possible precaution, they remain closed to their customers while big box giants like Walmart and Costco, often in other communities, continue to sell nonessential items, encouraging people to congregate and travel. Are the restrictions on our small businesses medically justified or political interference? Are we losing our small businesses because of a bad political decision?

Parents, and education workers are confused and concerned. The reopening of schools has been delayed in southern Ontario because studies show that students can contract and transmit the virus while not showing any symptoms. Yet in the North, even though we are on extended lockdown, schools are going to restart. Do students in the North not pose the same risk of virus transmission? If the virus is not as prevalent in the North, why has our lockdown been extended? It does not seem to make sense.

Since the first wave, many health care providers and residents have expressed concern that people travelling from other areas of the province, and outside of the province, could increase our COVID load and overwhelm our limited health care resources. Ontario is now in the midst of a more severe second wave and this concern is amplified, especially as the lock down contains no provisions to restrict travel. Has the resistance to travel restrictions been based on public health recommendations or political expediency?

People in the north have gone above and beyond to do their part to limit the transmission of COVID 19. We are willing to do our part but too many people are losing confidence that the Ford government is making decisions that reflect our unique challenges and will keep us safe and protected. We need answers that make sense.”