Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he’s looking forward to the Toronto Blue Jays playing at Rogers Centre this season after a member of his government said the Major League Baseball team has been given the green light to play games at home.
The federal government, however, hasn’t yet approved the plan.
Ontario’s Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries Lisa MacLeod told Ottawa’s TSN Radio 1200 on Thursday that the Blue Jays have clearance to play in Toronto and travel to the United States for road games during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said teams visiting Toronto will stay inside a quarantine bubble, which would include Rogers Centre and a hotel. MacLeod said the agreement will be rescinded if the protocols put in place are broken.
Because the plan would involve multiple crossings of the Canada-U.S. border both by the Blue Jays and by visiting teams, the final say on whether the plan can go ahead rests with the federal government. Canada currently requires individuals to quarantine for 14 days after crossing the international border.
While MacLeod said the Blue Jays “have been cleared by the federal government to play in both countries,” the federal government has yet to confirm that is the case.
Public Health Agency of Canada spokeswoman Natalie Mohamed said the immigration minister had issued a national interest exemption to the League’s players and staff members specific to pre-season training phases 1 and 2 earlier this month.
The Canadian government is still reviewing the Blue Jays’ and Major League Baseball’s plan for regular season games, she said in a statement.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said he urged the federal and provincial governments to approve MLB’s plan.
“This is one of the most extensive protocols I’ve ever seen to keep people safe in the city of Toronto,” Tory said. “They are going to actually sacrifice a lot by having themselves confined, largely when they are not out of town, to the hotel premises.”
The Blue Jays declined to comment when reached by The Canadian Press. The federal government did not immediately respond for comment.
Canada’s deputy public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo had expressed concerns about the plan Tuesday, saying Canada and the United States are in very different places with regards to COVID-19.
Njoo said while Canada typically records around 300 new COVID-19 cases daily, the United States records over 60,000 cases per day.
Ford was asked why the Ontario government approved the plan.
“We got approval from the (Toronto) chief medical officer, and we discussed it with Mayor (John) Tory as well. We discussed it with the chief medical officer of Canada along with the deputy prime minister. And on top of it we talked to (Ontario chief medical officer) Dr. (David) Williams and our medical team. And yes I look forward to seeing them play even if it’s in an empty stadium.
“Folks if you’d seen the protocol, I think Major League Baseball’s was 150 pages,” he added. “They’re probably even stricter than our chief medical officers.”
Tory doesn’t want the Blue Jays to be the only MLB team not to play in its home stadium.
“I have faith,” Tory said. “I’m very confident that this stereotype that we’re going to see all these people running around partying will not take place.”
The Blue Jays’ 60-game season starts July 24 at Tampa Bay, with the home opener set for July 29 against the Washington Nationals.
The Blue Jays currently are holding training camp at Rogers Centre after getting approval from the federal government.