Watson pushing Ford on regional reopening: 'We're doing well'

Mayor Jim Watson speaking to reporters Wed. June 3, 2020.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he spoke to Ontario Premier Doug Ford Tuesday on the topic of allowing Ottawa and eastern Ontario to reopen more businesses and amenities sooner as part of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conversation of regional reopenings has been going on for a few weeks, since evidence shows a majority of new cases in Ontario have been in the Greater Toronto Area. Ford had been opposed to the idea for some time, but recently changed his mind.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Watson said he is pushing the premier on giving Ottawa more freedom.

"I had a conversation last night with the Premier, and one of the things we’re pushing is this concept of a regionalized approach, that one size doesn’t fit all," Watson said. "We’re actually doing quite well in eastern Ontario."

Watson said Ottawa's unique position on the border with Quebec is a significant point.

"I think he has an open mind to it because he recognizes – a good example is barber shops for instance, they are open across the river but not open here – and a regional approach for instance would allow barber shops to reopen if we go to phase 2," Watson said.

Exactly what businesses will be included in phase 2 of Ontario's reopening plan has yet to be anounced. The government so far says "more workplaces." More details are expected next week.

The mayor said Ford did not make any commitments, but he said the province is close to the next phase of reopening.

"We’re very close, he tells, us, to going into Phase 2, if we had a regional approach," Watson said. "These things all have to be vetted by the medical professionals, but it does loosen up some of the restrictions and allows for great participation."

As of Wednesday's update from Ottawa Public Health, Ottawa has had 1,977 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 247 deaths. Ottawa's number of confirmed active cases has been declining. By contrast, Toronto has seen more than 11,000 cases and 835 deaths and their number of active cases is on the rise.