P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says the disruption at the border between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick is "troubling and very unfortunate" and he's hoping for a quick resolution.
Traffic has been blocked and backed up on the Trans-Canada Highway Wednesday as people protest border restrictions requiring travellers from New Brunswick to self-isolate upon arrival in Nova Scotia.
King and the other Atlantic premiers discussed the blockade at a meeting late Wednesday afternoon.
"It was a very interesting call to say the least, one of the more interesting ones we've had as an Atlantic region," he said in an interview with CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin.
"A lot really to talk about in terms of the blockade at the highways and whether or not there's a possible resolution to get to an Atlantic bubble as a region."
King said it has been difficult for the Atlantic provinces to align their reopening dates and self-isolation requirements. Because New Brunswick has reopened its borders to the rest of Canada, the province was excluded when Nova Scotia reopened to the other Atlantic provinces on Wednesday.
P.E.I. began admitting partially- or fully-vaccinated people from within Atlantic Canada with pre-travel approval on Wednesday.
It is scheduled to reopen to the other Atlantic provinces on Sunday. Nova Scotia plans to open to the rest of Canada on June 30. P.E.I. is opening to fully vaccinated visitors from outside Atlantic Canada July 28, subject to COVID-19 testing.
"There isn't a total alignment on the timing around this by jurisdiction in the region and that has made it challenging to say the least," King said. "If we could get to a regional approach to make it easier for all Atlantic Canadians, that's the ideal sweet spot for us. I haven't given up on that yet but it has been much more challenging this year than it has been last year."
Anytime you see a disruption like that to one of our major markets, you measure the impact in millions and that's essentially what has happened here today. — P.E.I. Premier Dennis King
But the more pressing issue is resolving the dispute at the N.S.-N.B. border, he said.
"Anytime you see a disruption like that to one of our major markets, you measure the impact in millions and that's essentially what has happened here today.… This is a big deal for us and we need it to come to a peaceful resolution as quickly as possible."
Nova Scotia emergency management officials are advising anyone planning to travel to New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island on Wednesday to stay home.
They also said there is no more room in Amherst to park transport trucks or other vehicles.
People wanting to travel between P.E.I. and Nova Scotia are advised to take the Wood Islands ferry.
Tourism industry hoping for standard policy
Corryn Clemence, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I., said operators are trying to figure out how Nova's Scotia's continued travel restrictions for visitors from New Brunswick will impact tourism on the Island.
She said it's possible P.E.I. could benefit if more people from New Brunswick opt to come to the Island. But she hopes there will eventually be one standard policy for the Atlantic region.
"At the end of the day, we're really hoping for that consistency between all of our provinces. I think we'll get there. This adds another layer of confusion for Atlantic Canadians looking to travel. At the same time, you know, I think these premiers are making the decisions based on their health capacities and their individual provinces. So it's difficult to get that alignment. But we're hoping that we can get there soon."
King said he is hoping there will not be similar disruptions at the P.E.I. border when it opens to Atlantic Canadian travellers on Sunday.
"I think we've been very very consistent from the very beginning and continue to be so I feel we're in a good place here, but really in this day and age you have to be prepared for everything."
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