Those May 24 dreams may not be totally out of the question. On Monday, May 4, Premier Doug Ford hinted that while he absolutely cannot guarantee anything, he could have some good news for Ontario cottage owners and visitors. If numbers continue to fall and people continue to do their part, we could get that spring cottage weekend soon after all.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Ford hinted at upcoming good news for those desperate for a cottage retreat right about now.

"I had a conversation with one of the mayors in Muskoka, I've asked again on a conference call with all the mayors in cottage country, and we did the right thing," Ford said in his press briefing.

"We're continuing to do to the right thing and make sure that we social distance and self-isolate when we can... By May 24, hopefully, the numbers are going to continue coming down.

"We're going to have a heart-to-heart conversation this week with the mayors. There's only so long you can hold back taxpayers from going to their cottages.

"I'll give you an example. In Muskoka, the vast majority of taxes are paid through cottagers. People rely on cottagers from the beginning of May, probably April, all the way through to September. That's their livelihood. So if people are responsible and numbers continue to go down, we'll have that conversation."

However, Ford stressed that for this to have a chance of actually happening soon, people need to approach it in the right way and plan ahead.

"If people go up to their cottage, bring their own food, don't go to the stores, and stay at their cottage, there's only so long I can hold the big gates back from these people. They're going to want to go to their vacation property. Let's just see what happens."

A month or so ago, Ontario lakefront and cottage towns were actually begging residents not to arrive from the GTA and other areas of Southern Ontario as is usual in April.

That was due to worries about rural amenities being overrun, hence Ford's mention of bringing your own food on any subsequent trips.

A week or so after that, some areas of the province moved to ban people from using First Nations sites as routes to their cottage towns.

It is not immediately clear how any confirmed welcoming of cottage visits would align with these concerns.

This year, Victoria Day is actually on Monday, May 18, despite its traditional "May 24" moniker.

Ford did not explicitly confirm whether he was talking about that specific date, which is just two weeks away, as a potential timeframe.

The premier's comments about cottage trips came a day after he suggested the province's quasi-lockdown could end "a lot sooner than we thought."

Ontario has revealed an initial list of businesses allowed to resume operations as of this week, under strict safety guidelines. The list includes garden centres, auto dealerships and car washes. 

These businesses must be able to offer curbside or delivery options or operate by appointment only.

Also on this list are landscaping and ongoing construction projects that are deemed essential. Marinas and golf courses in Ontario have been given the go-ahead to prepare for the upcoming season.

Ford has said that the re-opening of businesses must be done "gradually and safely" with much pre-planning. A similar approach will likely be taken to ensure that Ontario's cottage towns are protected this summer.

 

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