Quebec businesses celebrate the reopening of the Ottawa-Gatineau border
OTTAWA – Ontario has lifted non-essential travel restrictions at the borders with Quebec and Manitoba, allowing residents to travel between provinces.
In the National Capital Region, reopening the Ottawa-Gatineau crossings is likely to be a boon to business, but only to those who are allowed to be opened.
In the village of Chelsea, courtyards fill with shoppers on both sides of the border.
Tonique restaurant owner Bridgette Vanhoutte says the majority of her income comes from out of town visitors and that she is happy to welcome everyone back.
Vanhoutte says that for nearly two months, with police checkpoints in place at the border, many restaurateurs in the area were turning away customers from other provinces to avoid the risk of a hefty fine. That done, she is happy to welcome everyone again.
“A lot of people are going to come back here at Chelsea,” Vanhoutte said. “I want them to feel special, I want to stay true to my values and no, I don’t want to close anymore.”
Salons can also welcome Ontarians again, but at Zeut Coiffure, just minutes from Ottawa, owner Pierre Enright has never turned down a client.
“I’m not here to lay down the law. I don’t care if they are from Ottawa, Ontario or the United States,” Enright says, adding that it’s not the income that makes him enthusiastic about the idea that the border is open is a stress-free visit for customers.
“Our clients come here to relax and even though they crossed the bridge with the lockdown, they were still stressed to come and go… but in their heads Ottawa and Gatineau are the same city.”
But it’s not. They are two provinces with different rules. While lounges, indoor restaurants and shopping malls may open in Gatineau, less than a kilometer away in Ottawa, these establishments remain closed.
For store owners like Tanya Hill, who runs the tapas parlor and beauty bar at Carlingwood Mall, this is a point of contention.
Hill says the province needs to take a more regional approach to COVID-19 restrictions, especially now that it has signaled travel is safe by opening borders.
With Quebec so close to the capital, it’s another financial blow, as it has to wait for Ontario to move on to stage two, which will likely be in July.
“We are 32,000 hairdressers who are not working, so it’s time to open up. We are trained, we know what to do, all the protocols are in place,” says Hill. “When you look in Quebec, they’ve been open for six weeks now and their numbers keep going down and I don’t think there’s a direct correlation with the lounges.”