WINGHAM, ONT. -- Chris Peabody says it’s time for mayors in Southwestern Ontario to ask the province to let them open up their communities, sooner than other parts of the province.

“We’ve seen a huge disparity in the numbers between the Greater Toronto Area and the rest of Ontario. The rest of Ontario is doing very well at flattening the curve, whereas in the GTA, the virus is still spreading at a rapid rate,” says Peabody, the mayor of Brockton, in Bruce County.

Over 60 per cent of Ontario’s new cases are coming from the GTA, where this weekend they neared their daily case count from the pandemic’s supposed peak in mid-April. By contrast, the rest of the province has largely planked the curve.

Peabody says by following the province’s own reopening phases, of 14 days with single digit or no growth in cases, a large part of Ontario should already be on to Phase 2.

“My regional approach would be Southwestern Ontario. It would include, London, Kitchener, Guelph, Walkerton, Owen Sound. If you look at that region, there were nine cases yesterday. Two million people,” says Peabody.

Despite conceding they’ve flattened the curve as flat as a hockey puck, with just two cases in the past three weeks, Ian Arra, the medical officer of health for Grey-Bruce, believes regional re-opening would be a huge mistake.

“If we open earlier because we have the epidemiology that says the risk of transmission is less than other areas, guaranteed the activities we’re going to open would be targeted by people from outside our area,” says Arra.

The premier agrees.

“As to having two tiers for re-opening. It just doesn’t sense. People in Toronto are going to go into the those rural areas that re-open,” says Doug Ford.

Still, Peabody believes businesses in Southwestern Ontario shouldn’t be penalized for a growing number of COVID cases, hundreds of kilometres away.

“If the business owners in this region see very low growth in the virus, they’re asking the question, why can’t I get back to work,” says Peabody.