June 23, 2021

-Global News




Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin says he won’t change the province’s border measures after a group of people set up a blockade at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border to protest modified self-isolation requirements.

Cars and trucks spent much of Wednesday lined up along the Trans-Canada Highway on both sides of the border, unable to get through. The RCMP from both provinces are advising people to stay away.

The Atlantic Bubble was supposed to kick off on Wednesday, but Rankin announced Tuesday afternoon that people coming from New Brunswick will have isolation requirements based on their vaccination status and testing.

Rankin said it was because of New Brunswick’s decision to open their province to the rest of Canada for those who have had one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, without the need to self-isolate.

During a media availability Wednesday, Rankin told reporters the province needs more time to get more people fully vaccinated.

“We’re asking for a week. I would ask that the protesters think of all Nova Scotians’ best interest in keeping people safe. We need a lot more second doses,” he said. “I think it’s a reasonable plan to just wait for that week.”

He said he expects New Brunswick to be “back in the bubble” on June 30. Rankin said he’s expected to meet this afternoon with the other Atlantic premiers to discuss the border situation.

Second protest

Anger erupted after Rankin’s announcement on Tuesday, especially in the northern Nova Scotian communities that sit on the border. Tuesday afternoon and evening, demonstrators blocked off part of Highway 104 near Exit 7 in protest of the new rules.

While that blockade was shut down that evening, demonstrators have now established themselves at the border itself, in the Amherst area.

Some protesters expressed anti-vaccination stances, with a group attempting to block a truck which they believed to be carrying COVID-19 vaccines. The driver said it was carrying blood.

“No vax trucks past this point!” one woman could be heard yelling in a video.

Nova Scotia Health announced Wednesday that Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre (CRHCC) in Amherst will be providing the public with essential services only due to the protest, which is preventing some health care workers who reside in New Brunswick to report to work at CRHCC.

N.S. Health said patients with appointments for ambulatory services (blood collection, diagnostic imaging and clinics) are advised to call the hospital (902-667-3361) to confirm if the appointment will go ahead.

The health authority also said the Amherst Community Vaccine Clinic remains open Wednesday and is fully staffed.

‘It’s the premier’s responsibility’: PC MLA

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, the Progressive Conservative MLA from Cumberland North who helped drum up support for Tuesday evening’s protest, showed up to Rankin’s office Wednesday morning to try to arrange a meeting.

She said many people in her community are very integrated with New Brunswick, and some people in the border community haven’t seen their friends and family for months, despite living minutes away.

“I want the premier to listen to the concerns of the people that are protesting right now … He changed his decision on the restrictions to enter Nova Scotia at the eleventh hour yesterday, angering and disappointing so many people,” said Smith-McCrossin in an interview outside his office.

“I’m here on their behalf and I’m hoping he’ll meet with me today because we have a big problem in that part of Nova Scotia.”

Asked if she felt any responsibility for the impact the protest is having on health-care workers being able to enter the province, Smith-McCrossin deflected to Rankin.

“It’s the premier’s responsibility,” she said. “He’s impacting people’s lives unnecessarily, and people’s voices want to be heard, and they are being heard.”

MLA was ‘reckless,’ premier says

A statement issued by Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston in the afternoon suggested he wasn’t fully on board with Smith-McCrossin’s plan.

“I heard about it after the fact,” the statement said. “Closing the highway isn’t the answer. But it speaks to the level of exhaustion and exasperation felt by an entire community.”

He said Rankin’s last-minute decision left people “angry and feeling double-crossed” by the premier, describing the border measures as a “casual flip flop.”

“Premier Rankin knew New Brunswick was opening to Canada weeks ago and still decided to move forward with the agreed date of the bubble. Then, less than 24 hours before the bubble opens, he bursts it without explanation. This is the result of weak leadership,” said Houston.

In Tweet, Rankin described Smith-McCrossin’s actions as “reckless” and asked that she tell the protesters to stand down.

“I think that they need to recognize the irony in blocking a border that they want open,” he said in a video posted to his Twitter account.

“I would ask all politicians to support public health and support the safety of Nova Scotians for one week. Then we’re in a much different place, we’ll have thousands more people with their second dose (of the COVID-19 vaccine.)”

Later Wednesday afternoon, he expressed doubts about Houston’s statement, pointing out that it was one of his caucus members who helped organize the initial protest on Tuesday.

“He’s either not being honest about not knowing, or he doesn’t know what his caucus members are up to,” he said.

“If he’s going to continue to protest against the restrictions, he needs to start owning what his position is.”

Rankin said the health minister has reached out to Smith-McCrossin.