Yorkton mayor says city can’t stop Manitobans from crossing border to shop

Newly-elected Yorkton, Sask., Mayor Mitch Hipplsey says Manitobans are still welcome in his city and there isn’t much he could do to stop them if he wanted to.

Both provinces are reporting high numbers of COVID-19 cases and health officials are asking people to avoid non-essential interprovincial travel.

Yorkton is about 80 kilometres away from the Manitoba border, so Hipplsey said it’s been very common to see Manitoba licence plates in that city since long before the pandemic started.

Hipplsey said Manitobans are not only essential to the local economy, but between 12 and 15 per cent of patients at Yorkton’s hospital are from that province. Not to mention the municipal government doesn’t have any legal authority to stop Manitobans from coming there, Hippsley said.

“Interprovincial travel is not our rules [or] our protocol,” he said, noting he has been in close contact with Premier Scott Moe.

“We hope that our provincial leaders will look after that for us, but it’s not our legislation to control that.”

Hipplsey said he has heard concerns from some residents.

He said he sympathizes with those concerns, but there isn’t much the city can do aside from ensuring everyone is abiding by COVID-19 protocols like wearing a mask in indoor public places, physical distancing, regular hand washing and staying home when sick.

“We cannot stop people from doing what they’re going to do. We can only ask that they be responsible.”

No interprovincial travel unless ‘absolutely necessary’

Moe said on Monday people should not travel interprovincially unless it’s “absolutely necessary.”

“I know businesses and maybe [chambers of commerce] are hungry for business, but I would ask them as an organization and the individuals, whether they be in Manitoba or Saskatchewan, to follow the public health advice … that does not mean going for groceries in a neighbouring province,” Moe told reporters.

“Let’s make a little bit of an effort so that we can bend these numbers down and preserve all of the opportunities that we have in our province.”

The Yorkton Chamber of Commerce declined an interview request.

Editorial in Man. newspaper

The Brandon Sun recently published an editorial criticizing Hipplsey’s welcoming stance on Manitobans coming to Yorkton.

It was in response to a CTV Regina story that featured the mayor saying Manitoba shoppers are always welcomed and encouraged.

The editorial says inviting people from Manitoba to shop in Yorkton given the current pandemic circumstances puts people in Saskatchewan at a greater risk since there are considerably more active cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba.

“Communities in Manitoba have come here on a daily basis to get their essential needs, COVID or non-COVID,” Hippsley told CBC News in response.

He also reiterated that many Manitobans come to Yorkton for reasons other than shopping, like going to the hospital.

“Until the provincial governments get involved and stop people at the border, we’ve got no control over that.”