Here we are, well into the Victoria Day long weekend and the sky hasn’t fallen in Muskoka, at least not in the Huntsville area. There were no traffic jams on Friday or Saturday with cottagers rushing to their seasonal residences. A quick, socially distanced tour yesterday evidenced very few line-ups at grocery stores and, most particularly, the LCBO! It was actually quieter in town than it had been mid-week.
The good news is that Chicken Little was wrong. We have not been inundated with tourists and seasonal residents, and common sense and courtesy have prevailed. The bad news is that our local economy, especially small businesses—for whom this particular weekend has always been financially important—took yet another serious hit. It begs the question as to how much longer this can go on.
Here are a few thoughts.
First, COVID-19 is probably the most serious and dangerous pandemic, with world-wide consequences, that the vast majority of us have seen or will see in our lifetimes. The lockdown we have endured over the last two months or so has been life changing and it has been necessary.
But that lockdown has done nothing to cure or eliminate COVID-19. Nor was it intended to. It was the first step in managing the virus; an attempt to control its spread in a manner that allows our health care system to cope with increasing demand and intricate pandemic protocols. Especially in Ontario, that has been largely successful. It means that as the virus continues its course, hospitals and other related facilities and the people who work in them may not be overwhelmed.
Second, decision-makers at all political levels are beginning to recognize that both humanity and the economy cannot endure an almost total lockdown much longer. Plans are well underway to incrementally open things up, not because COVID-19 has been contained but, rather, because we are in a better position to manage it and, as importantly, people are beginning to demand it.
A carefully planned, gradual return to some form of normalcy, keeping necessary protocols such as physical distancing in place for now, is indeed risky, but its time has come. As I have read recently, government cannot control society much longer. Civil disobedience and ignoring the reality of COVID-19 is right on its tail. We are currently witnessing this conundrum in some parts of the United States. We do not want it here.
Enabling people to have more freedom during this pandemic will require a balancing act probably never seen before. It will put leadership skills to the test. As the song goes, this is no time to ‘send in the clowns’.
The reality is that as our society slowly opens up, and it must open up, there will be an increase in the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine is found and implemented. Balancing that reality with the equal necessity of meeting human needs and safeguarding our economy will require the very best from all political leaders of all political stripes at all levels of government. We can only hope they have it in them.
Third, I have a real concern about the economy. Recently, John Ivison, a journalist with the National Post, said this: “(The) COVID-19 debt binge runs very real risk of ruining the next generation.” I agree with him.
Now I am well aware that crises, such as the pandemic we are currently experiencing and which could well be followed by a serious recession, require government spending. Even Conservatives know that, as evidenced by the deficit the Harper Government built up during the last recession in Canada. What concerns me is both the total lack of preparedness to financially handle a crisis and spending money during this time, purely for political purposes.
The current federal government does not care about debt. Well before the pandemic, they built deficits they had promised not to. Consequently, when they needed it, there was no money in the till.
But still, they are spending, and because much of it is now necessary, the debt is piling higher and higher. I have no problem with necessary spending under current circumstances. The economy needs to be stimulated. People and businesses need support. Resources for health care and infrastructure need to be maintained. I get all of that.
What I don’t get is money being thrown out, under the guise of the pandemic, for what can only be political purposes with an eye on the next election. A case in point is the recent announcement by the federal government of a one-time gift of $300 to every single Canadian over 65 years of age. This may not sound like a lot of money, but cumulatively it comes close to three billion dollars added to a debt our children will have to pay.
It is my view that government money, especially during times like these, should go only to those that need it. There are many people over the age of 65 who may enjoy receiving $300 tax-free but who do not need it and their children or grandchildren will just have to pay it back with interest. To me, it just smells of bad politics and a total disregard for the financial burden government is placing on the shoulders of future generations.
This is why I believe, especially during times like these, that accountability is so important. Governments almost by definition will try to get away with what they can. It is important to not let this happen. If doctors and nurses can be on the frontlines to protect our health, surely members of Parliament can do the same to hold government accountable and protect our democracy, our human rights, and our economy.
We should expect nothing less.
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!