I’m certain that regular readers of News from the Park have not been surprised that I have not posted the column since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless-to-say, my team and I have been beyond swamped with calls and letters from individuals, groups and businesses posing questions, asking for clarification and direction, and offering thoughts and observations on the crisis as it has unfolded. This is in addition to the numerous appeals for the usual issues that arise in peoples’ lives.
Before I go any further I want to thank the incalculable number of individuals and offices that we have called upon for information and assistance as we endeavour to resolve the questions, concerns and needs of the people of Algoma-Manitoulin. With so many workers now having to operate out of their own homes, it understandably takes a bit longer to access information, often requiring some creative ingenuity to make all of the connections and exchange correspondence. My team and I do thank all those officials and offices that have gone above and beyond to work together with us.
Equally important, we want to thank the constituents and business owners of Algoma-Manitoulin for their understanding and patience. With the overload of requests and contacts the staff and I receive, people have been incredibly patient and composed as the team and I do all we can to address issues and concerns. It is truly the exception for us to have to deal with critical, disparaging or selfish individuals. However, these have been limited to a handful of inquiries and again we’ve seen the best come out of the vast majority of people. After first being elected I quickly learned that Algoma-Manitoulin is truly blessed to have access to unfathomable wealth. We have forests and minerals at hand as well as pristine waters and scenic beauty that defies description. But, as I’ve always said, Algoma-Manitoulin’s greatest resource is its people.
Everyday we read or hear about some group or family that is stepping up to organize some initiative or other to help the community to get through this crisis. And even though we are pretty much isolated from friends and neighbours, with little to no effort we see and experience so many small kindnesses from friends, neighbours and people we don’t even know. Whether it’s dropping off groceries or baked goodies, using their skills and crafts to knit, sew or create something needed to keep us safe, or just checking in on each other, there is no shortage of goodwill in this region. Someone even made me a couple of masks that I wear when I go out to keep myself and others safe. To all these people we say thank you.
And how can we possibly begin to thank the many, many individuals who put themselves at risk on the front lines to provide necessary care for those who need help? Doctors, nurses, PSWs, police, paramedics, cab drivers, truckers, couriers, pharmacy and convenience store workers, grocery store workers…. the list is endless. These people have loved ones and family too who need them. Some who are most at risk have chosen to not go home for days at a time, staying in motels, campers or even at work, just so they don’t inadvertently take the virus home to their own loved ones.
This is a time where all of us need to show compassion and help one another. We must work together; even politicians need to put aside their differences and focus on finding effective, fair solutions quickly. Just as the Federal Liberal and Provincial Conservative Governments has effectively set their differences aside, New Democrats have committed to work with all levels of government in offering suggestions and amendments to emergency legislation. Now is not the day for political gamesmanship. Now is the time for compassion, ingenuity and collaboration. When we find ourselves on the other side of this crisis, there will be plenty of time and opportunity to look back to see what we did well and what we need to do to make things better in the future.
Author and televangelist the Reverend Robert Schuller said, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”
As we go forward, it seems already that better days are ahead. This does not mean that we should slacken our efforts, but rather work together to see us crush this crisis. Now is the time for us to encourage one another, double down and follow the advice or our public health and medical officials. Yes, spring is around the corner and our bodies and minds are hearing the calls to get out and do all the things we have been looking forward to all winter long. Hopefully those opportunities will come soon.
Reach out to your neighbours, friends and loved ones, encourage everyone to stay the course and stay home. Soon we will see the sunset on our problems and the rise to a better world — a world that has enjoyed an opportunity to grow. We have seen days of adversity. In response we faced the challenge head-on by turning a horrendous negative into opportunities. Instead we have turned this into tremendous positives by exercising our inner strengths which we can use both now and in all of our days ahead.
Stay home – stay strong – and stay safe.
Throughout this crisis, my staff and I have been, and will continue to be available. Call or write the office if we can offer any assistance or resources. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.