Editorials - Dec. 10, 2020
For many in our region, the pandemic has posed a somewhat distant threat. With Huron and Perth Counties having relatively few cases compared to the hotbeds in the province, many residents have no first-hand knowledge of the virus other than hearing about the struggles in our local long-term care facilities. Then, local news outlets reported on a 44-year-old father of three from Belmont, just outside of London, who died from COVID-19 and suddenly, with a name and a face, the threat came that much closer. While we may not know this family directly, the tragedy hit home for many.
Doctors and health authorities have warned of the dangers to all age groups, but at times it’s easy to look at the percentages and think that if you’re under 60 you’re safe. This one news item that made the rounds is a good reminder that this isn’t the case. It’s also an illustration of why local reporters are important. They connect the dots on how global issues affect people right here in our backyard. The story started with a social media plea from the family to take the virus seriously. A local reporter saw it and produced a story, and from there the story has travelled nationally reaching a far wider audience. – DS
Making an impact
Just over six years ago, the Huron County Council of the day voted to double the term of the Huron County Warden from one year to two. At the time, it’s safe to say, many saw the county warden as a ceremonial position, rather than a political one. Councillors would take their turn as warden and spend a year cutting ribbons, bringing greetings and handing out or receiving oversized cheques with a banquet at the end of the term.
That’s not to say those who served as one-year wardens didn’t take it seriously or that their contributions should be diminished, but when a two-year term was instituted, it seems to have fundamentally altered the job. With more continuity and a greater opportunity to develop relationships with provincial and federal officials or those from neighbouring counties, the office of warden is now more of a political position in the truest sense of the word than it had been in the past.
In his farewell speech, after serving four years in the position, Central Huron Mayor Jim Ginn said he felt the county’s profile had been elevated during the last four years and that many high-ranking officials know where Huron County is and what is happening here because of the work done over the last four years.
In this sense, the two-year term did its job, elevating the position and creating an environment in which someone could focus on the work that needed to be done full-time. That is evident in Ginn’s time as the chair of the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus and through flourishing relationships with the federal and provincial governments.
Congratulations to and the best of luck to newly-elected Warden Glen McNeil of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh. He is the latest to step into the role and, with Ginn’s big shoes to fill and the pandemic intensifying week by week, he will have his work cut out for him. – SL
Use it or lose it
The Alberta Federation of Labour, among others, are reporting that the Alberta government is leaving funds on the table that could help support essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and some are suggesting it’s so Premier Jason Kenney can blame Ottawa.
The same argument has been made in Ontario where Premier Doug Ford has been accused of not using funds set aside for education as a means of blaming Ottawa for the shortcomings of his own government. Teachers’ unions and government critics have said Ford is either not using or misusing federal funds meant to help the education sector.
In Alberta, the federal Essential Workers Program, which would add three dollars of federal funds to every one spent by the provincial government, has been ignored with the Kenney government only utilizing 3.45 per cent of its $347,769 allocation.
The program, announced in May, allows employers to offer increased wages for staff working through the pandemic. Most other provinces and territories have used over 90 per cent or all of their allocation, with the Yukon, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, along with Alberta, being the only provinces to not even hit the 70 per cent mark. The moves have brought derision and frustration from those involved as they feel the provincial government isn’t working for the people, but rather to justify Kenney’s (and Ford’s) stance that the federal Liberal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau aren’t meeting their obligations.
The Alberta government says it’s “in negotiations” for the funding, but, with other provinces having used all their funding some time ago, there is doubt as to the legitimacy of that statement.
The provincial governments, regardless of whether they are conservative, liberal or somewhere in between, need to take advantage of this funding to help everyone get through this pandemic. – JDS