By Pauline Kerr
We are being told the end is near – the end of life as we have known it for the better part of the last year, that is. And not a moment too soon.
We have seen the light at the end of the tunnel, and for the first time in a year, it does not belong to an out-of-control freight train.
The end of the horror story of 2020 is being written – the end of wearing masks in public places; the end of treating everyone we encounter as potential carriers of a deadly illness; the end of having our businesses disrupted by government orders; and the end of figuring out ways to work from home while supervising our children’s on-line education, doing the grocery shopping and obeying stay-at-home orders, all at the same time.
There are times we have wondered if life will ever return to normal. Now we are being told it will, and soon. And more than a few of us wonder if we want it to.
We will be overjoyed at the opportunity to hug friends and relatives we have not seen face-to-face in far too long. We will take great delight in attending those delayed graduation ceremonies, weddings, baby showers and other events we have missed, and will even take comfort in the memorial services we can finally attend.
But what about the rest of it – the frequent expeditions to the city to shop and attend events, the social gatherings we attended out of habit or obligation, the frenetic social schedule we will soon be free to resume?
COVID-19 forced us to take a look at where changes must be made, both to society in general and our personal lives.
We cannot continue warehousing our most fragile and vulnerable citizens as we have. The people who raised us, who built this country into what it is today, deserve to live their final years in dignity, properly and respectfully cared for by well-paid staff.
To do otherwise not only shows us to be lacking in compassion and basic decency, but unnecessarily risks lives.
We have seen the value of high-speed internet, not just as something used by city-based business and industry, but as a necessary tool for agriculture, schools, small retail and rural homes. Where the railroads were once the key to opening up Canada, communications technology will be the key to future prosperity. Canada can no longer afford to lag behind other countries.
Canada must not relegate itself to being nothing more than a supplier of resources and commodities. When the pandemic hit, we were forced to stand in line for many things, the personal protective equipment needed for surviving COVID-19 being at the top of the list. Now it is the vaccines that will end the pandemic.
We have the expertise and raw materials to produce items like hand sanitizer and protective masks, but chose to purchase them cheaply from other countries – until the pandemic taught us contracts and trade agreements are not carved in stone. Countries quickly stopped shipping when items were needed for domestic use. We have learned protectionism is a mere hair’s breadth beneath the surface in our global economy.
Ontario’s business and industrial sectors shifted gears and produced hand sanitizer, masks and a lot more. We have the means and expertise to produce our own vaccines, too, but once again are waiting in line because of decisions made by foreign suppliers. The impact of this will be counted in illness and death.
The grassroots responded admirably to the emergency, coming up with solutions that worked. Bravo to the innovative spirit that is alive and thriving in our local communities, businesses and industries.
Now is the time for some top-level planning to begin on how to make the most of that resilience. Canada needs to be seen more as an equal partner on the world’s industrial and technological stage than as a source of raw materials.
That requires economic diversity – encouraging small businesses, fostering entrepreneurship and supporting start-up industries.
Change is in the air. Bring it on!