'Sense of optimism': Businesses look forward to Atlantic Bubble opening

The much-anticipated Atlantic Bubble is expected to open in just two weeks.

It's welcome news for many businesses, especially the restaurant sector, which has been struggling for the last year.

"There is a sense of optimism. I think the opening of the Atlantic Bubble just reinforces that, that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we're optimistic, we're resilient, we're innovative and we're encouraged," said Luc Erjavec, with Restaurants Canada.

The Atlantic Bubble first opened last July, allowing people from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador to travel between the four provinces without having to isolate for 14 days.

The bubble burst in November as the second wave of the pandemic emerged. It is now scheduled to open on April 19 and Megan Mitton, the MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar, says people are impatiently waiting to be able to cross the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border when it does.

"I grew up here near that border and I would say that it was as if there was no border there basically until the pandemic hit," said Mitton.

With just two weeks until the bubble is scheduled to open there is an increase in COVID-19 activity and Edmundston continues to deal with an outbreak of the virus.

"Although we'd love to have the bubble open on April 19 as scheduled with the increase in cases, I think we'd rather see it perhaps postponed a week or two to see those cases do down rather than open and have to close again a week or two later," said Halifax Chamber of Commerce CEO Patrick Sullivan.

Mitton says it would make sense to open the Atlantic bubble, but keep travel in the Edmundston area restricted for now.

"It's quite possible we will continue to have outbreaks pop up but what would be ideal is if the Maritime, the Atlantic provinces could work together to have a plan for how to address that so that the bubble doesn't have to shut down every time that happens," she said.

Destination Cape Breton says the Atlantic market is important for the tourism industry, but they're also looking forward to the day when they can open up to the rest of Canada.

"It's not safe obviously right now with a third wave underway, but hopefully by the time the summer comes, you know, we've seen the return of air routes and we're still being optimistic that we will be able to open up to the rest of the country safely at some point," said CEO Terry Smith.