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May. 18, 2022 | Wednesday
Local News
Editorial: We need science over politics: Round 2

If you went down to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s downtown core on Saturday morning, you might have thought people were finally listening to the province’s lockdown orders.

But if you went back at about 2 p.m., you would have noticed nothing seems to stop people from non-essential travel. Overall numbers were down (the weekend rain helped) but several thousand people still visited despite the province ordering everyone to stay home, despite Ontario’s hospitals being overwhelmed, despite pleas from public health experts to just stay home.

Groups of more than five people picnicking in the parks, people renting green bikes from Zoom for non-essential ice cream licking, window shopping and potentially virus spreading — that was the scene Saturday afternoon of the first weekend in lockdown.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero said what she’s been saying for weeks about the situation — rather than the town doing something to prevent non-essential tourism, she recommends people just don’t go onto their home streets while visitors are here.

But what about NOTLers?

She says the town’s hands are tied and nothing can be done to stop people from coming down and we need to protect ourselves. Well, yes, that’s the only option if the town won’t help us, you’re right.

And while it could be true the town’s hands are tied — or maybe not. St. Catharines closed its beaches to non-locals last summer — Niagara’s chief medical officer Dr. Mustafa Hirji has said for two weeks now that limits on intraprovincial travel should be considered by the government.

Still, it doesn’t appear the town or region has any real plans to ask the province for help.

The mayor said the town’s emergency control group would be “discussing the issues Monday.”

But based on the
COVID-19 update at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting, there isn’t much being done, aside from now offering visitors free masks during a tight budget year.

Again Tuesday, we asked Disero why she wouldn’t send a letter asking the province to help prevent people from coming to tourist hot spots.

Apparently, despite Hirji saying it would be helpful, there are no plans to request travel restrictions from the province.

NOTL’s member of provincial parliament Wayne Gates said he has asked the province to restrict travel, but Ford hasn’t listened.

Both Disero and Gates pointed out that closing the highways would restrict essential workers. But closing highways isn’t the only option — and  likely isn’t the best option.

But how about instead of “education” we start enforcing COVID laws for a change? 

We’ve been educating for a year and it hasn’t worked. Either bylaw officers are poor teachers or some people just can’t be educated. Perhaps it’s both.

Meanwhile, our hospitals are filling up and COVID numbers are still rising — with the help of variants.

Instead of education, we need provincial funding for bylaw officers to actually enforce COVID laws. Unless people know there is a consequence to their actions, they’ll just keep repeating the same behaviour.

Our town shouldn’t be catering to people who break the law with our tax dollars. We should be fining them.

At the very least, we should be taking good ideas from health experts to the province. Then we can truly pass the blame to the Ford government if nothing is done.

We understand the optics. Some people won’t agree and it’s never fun to be the responsible bad guy. But when it comes to matters of public health and safety, politics should be put aside.

And while we’re at it, ask the province to re-examine its policies around businesses like bicycle rentals. They should only be allowed for legitimately essential purposes. Our guess is NOTL is an oversight, but the majority of people renting bikes here are not doing so for essential reasons.


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