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Highway signs asking Ontario drivers to telework during solar eclipse ‘not approved’

The Ford government has removed digital messaging along Ontario’s 400-series highways that encouraged drivers to consider working from home during next week’s solar eclipse.

On Monday night, signs on provincially-run highways had advised drivers to avoid traffic by staying at home on April 8, when a historic solar eclipse is set to be visible across Ontario — a message that was inconsistent with the government’s approach to the high-interest event.

“Skip traffic: telework,” the Ministry of Transportation signs read in classic yellow and light-blue colouring.

The message, the government said, was not approved by senior political figures and the signs have been taken down.

A sign on a Toronto-area highway encouraged people to work from home during the solar eclipse. Global News

Parts of the province will be plunged into darkness during a total eclipse on the afternoon of April 8, the first time since 1979. Other areas will see a rare partial eclipse when the moon obscures part of the sun.

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Despite the historic occasion, the provincial government has remained firm in its messaging that the celestial event should not disrupt day-to-day operations in Ontario.

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Education Minister Stephen Lecce previously made headlines when he said the event should not mean students miss out on class time.

While Lecce accepted some schools could move professional development days around to close for students, he said school boards shouldn’t be reducing class time as a result of the eclipse.

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“What I don’t support is closing schools without giving access to children to their educators,” Lecce said.

“I am not comfortable with school boards unilaterally closing schools without an alternative for parents who have to work.”

The message broadcast on provincial highways was inconsistent with that stance and didn’t receive senior Ministry of Transportation approval before it was broadcast.

“The signs posted were not approved and were put up independently by officials,” a spokesperson for the ministry told Global News. “The signs have since been taken down, and it is our expectation that all provincial staff and employees operate as usual on April 8.”

The solar eclipse is set to be a historic event, with towns and cities across the province bracing for huge crowds of tourists and potential traffic chaos, especially when complete or partial darkness descends.

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In order to catch the rare event, thousands of people are expected to travel to places where the total solar eclipse can best be viewed.

Some areas of Ontario — including Niagara Falls, Hamilton and Kingston — are on the path of totality, meaning the moon will entirely block the sun during the total eclipse. Other places like Toronto and Ottawa will only see the sun partially blocked.

Roads to and from those locations will likely see much higher traffic volumes as visitors arrive and leave.

Niagara Region, which is mooted to have one of the best views of the total eclipse, has preemptively declared a state of emergency over the strain the event will put on local resources.

Police have estimated as many as one million people could descend on Niagara Falls alone. The town is home to just 95,000 people.

Click to play video: 'Ways to Protect Your Eyes During the Solar Eclipse'

Ways to Protect Your Eyes During the Solar Eclipse

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