For many years businesses across rural Ontario have spent considerable financial resources and related efforts to attract the residents of urban Ontario to their communities.
The exploding populations of major centres within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) are a two to three hour drive away from Huron County, Prince Edward County, Grey County and Muskoka, presenting the ideal distance for a one day or weekend getaway from regular traffic and congestion in the urban environment.
Businesses in rural Ontario are struggling with customers from urban areas containing higher COVID-19 infection rates. A Global News report from late November indicated that an accommodation operator in Eastern Ontario was requesting postal code information from potential guests with restrictions on visitors from grey (lock down) and red zones. The owner of the establishment stated the measure was simply necessary to protect their home community.
The Ontario government has not formally restricted travel in the province, however health units are now advising residents to stay home and leave only for local essentials such as school, medical appointments and groceries.
The recent November developments have arisen after record summer visitors to many regions of Ontario such as the Bruce Peninsula. Municipal councils were scrambling to implement paid parking as a response to the concerns of local residents about visitors in appropriate spaces. Traffic movement around many communities was more challenging than a regular weekday in Toronto, while the term “over-tourism” became as popular as social distancing.
The request for visitors to avoid rural centres is not a new issue within the second wave. In the early stages of the pandemic, many officials in smaller communities advised urban residents to not quarantine at summer homes due to escalating concerns over the limited availability of rural health care resources.
In the municipality of Huron-Kinloss, a notice was issued in late March that no water would be provided to seasonal residents. That initial decision was reversed when some property owners informed the Township that no water translated into no property tax payments.
This is another fascinating issue that will be worthy of heavy analysis and examination over the next few months.
Written by Art Sinclair