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Local leaders call for regional approach

Mayor Bill Mauro and MPPs Judith Monteith-Farrell and Michael Gravelle critical of provincial government decision to continue blanket stay-at-home order approach, despite low case numbers in Thunder Bay.

THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro says if Thunder Bay’s COVID-19 numbers were replicated in Toronto, the whole province would be open – regardless of what was happening in other parts of Ontario.

It’s why Mauro believes Premier Doug Ford dropped the ball on Thursday when he announced a blanket two-week extension to Ontario’s stay-at-home order, rather than returning to a regional approach.

Mauro wasn’t alone.

Liberal MPP Michael Gravelle (Thunder Bay-Superior North) and NDP MPP Judith Monteith-Farrell (Thunder Bay-Atikokan) also expressed disappointment at the decision not to return the district to the province’s colour-coded framework.

“To the best of my knowledge, we’re the only jurisdiction in North America that is not allowing outdoor activities like golf and tennis … and we’re not, obviously, the only jurisdiction North America that has the variants of concern present in their communities,” Mauro said.

“I’m very surprised by what I heard today.”

The decision leaves the city with little choice. Mauro said he’s worried about the effect the extension will have on residents and the local economy.

“It’s a concern. They’ve been asking people to do their part. For the better part of a year, we have. Businesses and people are obviously very concerned that given what we’ve accomplished here in Thunder Bay, there seems to be no indication of any consideration for a regional reopening,” Mauro said.

“There’s no numbers we have to achieve before it would be considered. If our numbers were in Toronto, the whole province would be open. How can you not reconsider a regional reopening?”

Gravelle, a long-time Liberal cabinet member, said he understands the need for a continued shutdown in Ontario hot spots, he’s disappointed Ford decided against a return to a regional approach. The province last month initially announced a four-week stay-at-home order scheduled to end on May 6, extended it 14 days to May 20 and then on Thursday added another two weeks.

Thunder Bay has been on lockdown since March 1, but currently has just 36 active cases and had a seven-day, per-100,000 of 18.67 on Thursday, the seventh straight reporting day the district was under the Yellow threshold.

The region has been below a seven-day, per-100,000 count of 40 since April 14, leaving it no worse than Orange for the past month.

“We’ve worked hard to get our numbers down,” Gravelle said. “If we were in the colour-coded format we’d be in the Orange or the Yellow code, which would make a difference in terms of businesses opening up, potentially schools opening up.

“Certainly I think the decision to not open up outdoor recreational facilities was a wrong one as well. Most medical professionals agree with that as well that the outdoor recreational facilities should be back open.”

Monteith-Farrell said her initial reaction is two more weeks is too much and that she’s disappointed the government won’t even consider moving to a regional approach.

Dr. David Williams, chief medical officer of health for Ontario, earlier this week said he’d like to see the daily case count drop below 1,000 before restrictions are lifted. There were 2,759 new cases announced on Thursday.

She understands the need to keep intensive care space available, but it would have been good to see some flexibility on the part of the Ford Conservatives.

“I think because we are so geographically remote, that consideration of what can open up here should have been factored in, but I don’t think that was considered at all,” Monteith-Farrell said.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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