The mayors of Sackville, N.B., and Amherst, N.S., have requested a meeting with New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs to discuss concerns about delays and confusion at the border.
When the Atlantic bubble was implemented on July 3, people within the region could travel to the four provinces without the requirement to self-isolate. That was something Sackville Mayor John Higham and Amherst Mayor David Kogon had lobbied for, allowing people to visit, work and shop in the border communities.
But delays and inconsistencies at the Aulac entry of New Brunswick, via the Trans-Canada Highway, have caused people to stay home, the mayors say.
“The bubble as it seems to be perceived, on the New Brunswick side at least, is just not giving us what we need,” says Kogon. “People are saying it’s just too long, just too difficult.”
He says an hour-long wait time seems to be regular, based on what he’s told. But there are inconsistencies about what is required and what isn’t when you arrive at the border.
In a statement sent to Global News late Friday, a New Brunswick government spokesperson says a conference call is being arranged with the mayors “to discuss working toward solutions.”
Shawn Berry, a Department of Public Safety spokesperson, says adjustments have been made to improve traffic flow — and that will continue.
“A designated lane for truck drivers and local commuters went into effect last Friday morning in order to improve traffic flow at the border from Nova Scotia,” Berry says. “We’ve also increased staff to process increased traffic volumes.”
New Brunswick has a lane for truckers at the Aulac entry, but signage indicates that lane is combined with motorists heading to P.E.I.
And the mayors say traffic can get congested and bottlenecked before the separate lanes, meaning truckers and essential workers are stuck in those lines.
Higham notes while there isn’t always a delay, peak hours are especially a concern.“This causes individuals who are working to really wonder about how long their day is going to be when they have to go through that,” he tells Global News. “It could be a minute, or it could be an hour in a wait. So they’re having frustration with that. And mixed in with that is all the rest of us who aren’t essential travellers, but really want to take advantage of the bubble.”
One concern raised by the mayors was the New Brunswick government’s requirement to fill out paperwork to enter New Brunswick. They agree there should be no need for paperwork if people are travelling within the bubble.
That’s a sentiment shared by the Amherst & Area Chamber of Commerce and the Cumberland Business Connector, who are two signatories on a different letter addressed to both the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick government.“With Atlantic Canada having a very low infection threshold with COVID-19, we don’t think we should look at our provincial borders within Atlantic Canada,” says Jonathan McClelland, the CEO of the Cumberland Business Connector. “Look at the external borders, airports, and the land borders with Quebec and Maine — that’s the main concern right now.”
People entering Nova Scotia are only required to show proof of residence of an Atlantic province, while a self-declaration travel form and government ID are both needed to enter P.E.I., and if you’re entering Newfoundland and Labrador, you’ll need two pieces of ID.
The local chamber of commerce says people working on opposite sides of the border are an important part of that traffic, and suggest a better solution is needed for those employees.
“One of the major issues is that there’s about 1,700 people coming from New Brunswick into Nova Scotia to work,” says Ronald Furlong, the chamber’s executive director. “There’s about 700 going from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick to work.”
In Nova Scotia, the opposition Tories in are calling on Premier Stephen McNeil to do more tracking of visitors, but they also raise concerns about essential workers getting held up due to border congestion.