There is a lot to be said about being respectful, encouraging, co-operative and positive these days. With the COVID-19 pandemic still in its early stages here, there has never been, at least in my lifetime, a period where the now well-used phrase “We are all in this together” has been more appropriate.
However, that does not mean we have to be “yes” people when events occur with which we disagree, although it does mean we should control the nastiness. Just as it is important to encourage and support those who are on the frontlines and to get them the resources they need, it is also important to remain vigilant and call out those who take advantage of a difficult situation. To that end, a few matters have come to my attention this week.
Starting at the federal level, I have been impressed with the manner in which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stepped up to the plate, showing real leadership in relation to the COVID-19 crisis in Canada. He was building trust with Canadians, even Canadians like me, who are not known for supporting him. Trust in our leaders right now is tremendously important.
But then his Government blew that trust in a clumsy attempt to sneak extraordinary powers for themselves into emergency legislation that was intended to get aid out quickly to people who badly need it as a result of the pandemic. I was surprised and saddened to see this.
The Trudeau Government was seeking the right to tax and spend without parliamentary approval for more than a year and a half, effectively muting Parliament for that period of time. As stated in a recent editorial in the Toronto Star, this was an “enormous and unjustified overreach”. It will also, sadly, cause Canadians to look twice at everything the Trudeau Government proposes during this time.
The good news is that we have an effective opposition in Ottawa. Parliament has an important role of oversight, one that is vital in a democracy, and they effectively stopped the Government from eroding that, while still co-operating to get badly needed aid to Canadians through the legislative process.
There are some federal Conservatives who need a gentle rap on the knuckles as well. This applies especially to leadership wannabe, Peter MacKay. He is the only person I know who thinks becoming the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada is more important than the pandemic we are currently experiencing. His media antics in opposing the decision to postpone the Tory leadership race are clearly self-serving, embarrassing and, to an extent, harmful. There really are more important things going on right now.
Peter MacKay’s recent tweets and interviews also have had the effect of undermining the current leader of the opposition by insinuating that that he cannot do an effective job because he will be stepping down in due course. I disagree. Andrew Scheer has an important role to play for Canadians and, in my view, he is playing it with skill and real effectiveness. He is holding the Government to account when it needs to be, and at the same time he is proposing measures to make government legislation more responsive to the needs of individuals during this pandemic. For example, it was Scheer who said that the Government’s original proposal for a 10 per cent payroll subsidy to small- and medium-sized businesses needed to be substantially increased. To its credit, the Government listened. Canadians are better off for that.
Lisa Raitt, and her committee running the Conservative leadership race, were right to postpone it. Andrew Scheer should stay where he is, and current leadership candidates should let him do his job and stop the infighting and the negative campaigning. Hopefully, Tory officials will have the courage to not back down under pressure from the folks in the back rooms of some leadership candidates.
I also believe that Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Government have played a very effective leadership role in managing the COVID-19 crisis. Ford has shown compassion and co-operation I have not previously seen and firmness on issues such as gouging and social distancing which is badly needed. However, I think it was a mistake for him to get into the discussion of whether seasonal residents should go to their cottages or summer homes. In my view this should be strictly a municipal matter.
Municipalities such as Huntsville, and others like it in Muskoka and Parry Sound, depend heavily on seasonal residents. They pay property taxes year-round and contribute substantively to our local economy. Not only would our lifestyle be much different without the contribution of seasonal residents, but we would most likely not even have the hospital facilities to the extent that we do have in Muskoka without them.
If I were a seasonal resident, especially if my primary home was in an urban area, I think I would want to stay in my primary home during this pandemic to be closer to more extensive healthcare facilities. But I think I would be unhappy to hear that I am not welcome at my cottage, where I contribute fully to the community, just because I am not there all the time.
Of course, resources, especially ‘off season’, are limited in cottage country, so there are two sides to this story. But I think I am most closely aligned to the position of Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding who says that if seasonal residents believe this is the best place for them to be during this time, they have a right to be here and they are welcome. But please do not come here if you are unwell and also recognize that our healthcare facilities and food supplies are limited. So, please bring food to the extent that you can, and be prepared to self-isolate for a period of time when you come here from larger urban settings. That is all we should ask.
After all, we really are all in this together.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!