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Ottawa police won't block bridges if Quebec reopens before Ontario: Mayor Watson

OTTAWA -- Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he's not interested in having Ottawa police officers stand guard on the bridges from Gatineau to monitor essential travelers, should the economy in Quebec reopen ahead of Ontario's.

Quebec police have been stopping cars periodically on the interprovincial bridges between Gatineau and Ottawa since April 1 to keep non-essential travelers out of the province. Thousands of drivers have been stopped but only a fraction was told to turn back into Ontario.

On Monday, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec made separate announcements about steps being taken to lift COVID-19 restrictions. Ontario's plan did not include a specific timeline, while Quebec's announcement was about the reopening of elementary schools and day cares. More information from Quebec is expected Tuesday.

Speaking on CTV Morning Live, Watson said, if Quebec starts to see more signs of activity before Ontario does, he doesn’t believe there need to be checkpoints on the Ontario side.

"I have a difference of opinion on this issue because I don't think, quite frankly, it's working," Watson said. "The bridges are not monitored 24 hours a day. I'm not sure what they're actually accomplishing, to be perfectly honest, and we would not waste police resources having police stand at the borders of five bridges to let people in or not let them into the city of Ottawa."

Crossing the Ontario-Quebec border is still allowed for "legitimate" reasons, subject to police discretion, but Watson notes Ottawa and Gatineau's respective transit systems still have buses that cross daily and are not subject to police checkpoints.

Watson said having police guard the border as if it's an international border puts officers and the public at risk.

"I don't think it would accomplish anything except cost us a lot of money in overtime and put our police officers at risk. We have to make sure these men and women of the police service are available for real emergencies and not acting as crossing guards at the Quebec border."

In a statment, Ontario Premier Doug Ford's office said the province has no plan to enact an emergency order related to interprovincial crossings at this time.

"We continue to monitor the situation and have been clear that all options are on the table when it comes to stopping the spread of COVID-19," the statement said.