'Please stay home': Town locals across Canada urge tourists not to visit this long weekend

In the lakeside community of Port Dover, Ont., locals have a message for anyone thinking of travelling there this holiday weekend: don’t.

Resident Shelley Barron told CTV News that she is “begging them to please stay home.”

“Just this while longer, let us get over it,” she said.

Barron’s 76-year-old husband, Don, has health problems, and she’s worried that as the temperature warms up, more tourists could descend on her community -- tourists who may carry COVID-19 with them.

“They just don't get it, they think, ‘It's not me,’ or, ‘I'm not going to catch it,’” Barron said.

Port Dover is in Norfolk County, where a new bylaw bans cottage owners from using or renting their seasonal properties during the pandemic. The fine for those who are caught can go up to $5,000 per day.

“The premier speaks of wanting to gradually reopen the province,” Kristal Chopp, Norfolk County Mayor, said. “There is no ‘gradual’ in this case.”

She said that when it comes to tourists “it’s zero to 1,000 literally overnight here.”

The trouble is, Norfolk only has six bylaw officers who patrol 1,700 square kilometres. The OPP has refused to help ticket cottagers.

With resources so scarce, no one has actually been fined yet, despite the fact that tourists have already been flocking into Port Dover.

Chopp called it “a slap in the face” to the locals and to those who can’t go on vacation during this crisis.

“We have workers that are putting themselves at risk,” she said. “Essential employees [working] every day.”

Across the country, communities are trying to navigate the complications of an influx of people retreating to cottages and cabins -- or being unable to.

In Quebec, police are conducting random stops of cars with Ontario licence plates and turning some cars back. In New Brunswick, locals are anticipating a drop in revenue because American cottagers cannot cross the border into Canada.

And in Haida Gwaii, B.C., non-residents who arrive by ferry are being turned away -- a move that came only after tourists continuously ignored the Haida Nation’s ban on visitors.

Locals in Canmore, Alta., are bracing for seasonal cottagers to arrive this weekend because the province refuses to allow the town to ban visitors.

“I’ve asked fairly pointedly, ‘Can we restrict travel?’ and the answer has been no,” said Canmore Mayor John Borrowman. 

Canmore is situated under the shadow of some impressive mountains, and is located only a short drive away from the famous Banff National Park. Although the park may still be closed, locals say tourists are still flocking to the area to ignore their stresses among the scenery.

The influx of tourists is likely to only increase in June. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that some National Parks will begin re-opening then, admitting there’s no way to prevent Canadians from going outside.

He has urged everyone to remain vigilant as the weather improves.

But for those who live in cottage country full-time, remaining vigilant has not kept out the tourists yet. In Port Dover, Barron wipes down her groceries, crosses her fingers, and waits for the visitors to pack up and leave. 

SIGN UP NOW

Stay up-to-date and in-the-know by subscribing to one of our newsletters