CORNWALL, Ontario – On Monday, March 16, Cornwall City Council met for a Special Meeting to discuss the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
During the meeting Councillor Glenn Grant floated the idea of asking the federal government to close the border with the United States.
“There is a bomb about to go off in the U.S.,” said Councillor Glenn Grant. “I’m ready to put forward a motion to encourage the federal government to close the border to American traffic.”
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced restrictions on all foreign nationals travelling into Canada with the exception of the United States.
“My only comment in response to that is that there is a significant amount of commerce that moves across our borders,” said CAO Maureen Adams. “If you want to make that motion, that’s okay, but perhaps we can get better information for Council to make that decision.”
Councillor Grant explained that he was not opposed to commercial traffic, but was more concerned with tourists.
Mayor Bernadette Clement said that she wanted the possible impacts on Cornwall’s neighbours in Akwesasne before such a decision was made by Council.
“I’ve been in touch with Grand Chief Abram Benedict,” Mayor Clement said. “I would hesitate for us to make a decision like that. I would not to send any message to our neighbour in Akwesasne who are dealing with complicated cross border issues.”
“I’m worried about this community. That’s my first priority,” said Councillor Grant. “I don’t think this can wait a week.”
Councillor Elaine MacDonald pointed out that the current situation with the global COVID-19 pandemic was fluid and changing rapidly.
“Probably within hours, it will probably be a more firmer “don’t come here,”” said Councillor MacDonald, who added that she believed that there likely would not be a flood of tourists coming from the U.S. due to the current crisis in any case.
CAO Maureen Adams also explained to Council that the City had closed their childcare facility Richelieu Daycare, and that most employees were being sent home, with only a skeleton crew on-hand in case of emergencies.
“We have many employees who can work remotely and we will be taking advantage of that,” said Adams.
Social Services will remain open for emergencies only. The also plan on creating a support phone line.
Cornwall Transit will continue to operate, but the rows behind bus drivers will be blocked off. Additionally, passengers may be asked to board at the back of the bus, with some more seats in the bus blocked in order to encourage social distancing.
Additionally, Council will be holding daily briefings amongst themselves. Council also cancelled next week’s regular council meeting.
“The world is changing hourly. It would be my recommendation to postpone the meeting for next Monday,” said CAO Maureen Adams.
Council also passed a motion to reconsider allowing councillors to attend and vote in meetings remotely in emergency situations.