Nav Center in quarantine site negotiations with feds for ‘weeks’

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – Officials with Nav Center revealed Monday they had been talking with the federal government for weeks before Saturday’s announcement that the conference center would be a COVID-19 quarantine site.

The information was shared during a news conference at the conference center.

“There were discussions off and on over the last weeks (sic) but we were told this was not going to happen,” General Manager Kim Coe-Turner said. “There was initial discussions…but up until Saturday – there was a conference call at 5 p.m. – there was no discussion about it ever happening here,” she said.

It was by 7 p.m. Saturday night – after a lot of conference calls with the federal government – Coe-Turner said they expected further discussions the next day. “What we experienced was a media release. Shocked us as much as anybody else because at this time there wasn’t a clear direction on this.”

Senior Public Affairs Manager Rebecca Hickey said earlier in the news conference that there had been discussions in “the weeks leading up” to the decision.

The revelation didn’t sit well with the warden of the United Counties of SD&G.

“Everybody is getting informed by their neighbour or social media, which is totally wrong. I’m very disappointed with Nav Canada in respect they it has known for approximately two weeks now in regards that this opportunity may come to Nav Canada,” Frank Prevost said.

Prevost said it was also “totally wrong” that no information was relayed to local politicians about what was happening and that the federal government did not exercise due diligence.

The news conference was called at the behest of local politicians to have senior health officials allay public concerns and share information over setting up Nav Center as a quarantine site for Canadians coming back from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked in Japan.