Watson, solicitor general spar over border checks

·2 min read
Ottawa police question motorists trying to cross into Ontario from Gatineau, Que., on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press - image credit)
Ottawa police question motorists trying to cross into Ontario from Gatineau, Que., on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press - image credit)

Ottawa's mayor and Ontario's solicitor general were at odds Tuesday over the province's decision to set up police check points at bridges along the Ottawa River.

Starting Monday, Ontario began limiting non-essential travel from Quebec and Manitoba under the province's recently enhanced stay-at-home order.

According to the province, essential travel includes going to work, seeking medical care, transporting goods and exercising Indigenous treaty rights.

On Monday morning, long lines of vehicles waiting to cross the Ottawa River from Gatineau stretched for kilometres as police questioned motorists. Only 31 were turned away between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m., according to Ottawa police.

Traffic in Gatineau, Que., waits to cross the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge to Ottawa on Monday.
Traffic in Gatineau, Que., waits to cross the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge to Ottawa on Monday.(Christian Milette/Radio-Canada)

The situation appeared to improve by Tuesday morning. Quebec has established similar checkpoints.

'Chaos at the bridges'

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Monday that he was never consulted about the checkpoints, and believes the province should cover the cost of the 50 to 100 police officers needed to staff them each day.

"These border checks don't make any sense," Watson said. "We're seeing now the chaos at the bridges. We're one economic union, for all intents and purposes."

Asked by NDP MPP Joel Harden during Tuesday's question period about the "useless" checkpoints, Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones quoted Watson, who has previously urged residents not to travel to western Quebec for recreation, such as visiting Gatineau Park.

Jones implied that given those previous statements, Watson should be in favour of the checkpoints. She didn't mention in her reply whether the province would pay any of the policing costs.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones answer questions at Toronto Pearson Airport on Feb, 3, 2021.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones answer questions at Toronto Pearson Airport on Feb, 3, 2021.(Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

On Twitter, Watson accused Jones of misrepresenting his stance on the topic.

"There is a world of difference between encouraging residents to stay at home unless it's for essential travel and the provinces' decision to put up checkpoints at 5 bridges and 2 ferry crossings! Yesterday was a nightmare and a complete waste of police resources," he wrote.

Ontario's stay-at-home order is in place until at least May 20.