Gonna race (society) to the ground - Denny Scott editorial
Maybe it’s an age thing, a rural-versus-not-quite-as-rural thing, or maybe it just speaks to the kind of person that rural Ontario municipal politics attracts, but it needs to be said: I don’t get the rush to return to in-person council meetings in the area, and the rush to reopen municipal buildings.
In the past few weeks (as well as this week), The Citizen has run a number of stories about councillors wanting to push to reopen municipal offices and hold council meetings in person as COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted across the province. From the ridiculous, “It’s difficult to not be face-to-face” comments to the utterly inconsequential, “I’m tired of Zoom meetings”, there are many reasons that have been provided to speed up the reopening efforts, however I’ve yet to hear of a reason that actually holds weight.
I’ll admit it – I’ve been paranoid since the pandemic first reared its ugly, transmissible head and I’ve been doing everything possible to limit my exposure to other people. It was only last week, officially two weeks since I had received my second dose of my COVID-19 vaccine, that I was able to feel comfortable taking my mask off even in a wide-open public space.
Oh, and I haven’t started broadcasting 5G signals or grown any additional appendages yet as a result of the vaccine. Actually, I’m still waiting on that, I was looking forward to being a vaccine-powered superhero.
There’s a reason for my paranoia – I have family members who are immunocompromised, as well as family members who are just plain old and may face a far deadlier reaction to COVID-19 than I may. I don’t want to be the person who hospitalizes someone I love, or worse, passes on a disease that eventually claims their life.
There are chances that we simply have to take: we have to get groceries, we need to shop for medications and, for the parents reading who also have a full-time job, we have to send our children to day camps, daycares or overnight camps so we can get some work done.
However, there isn’t a single part of dealing with a municipality or dealing with municipal council meetings that can’t be managed through other means until we’re all sure we’re at a safe place that allows us to reopen.
Sure, Zoom meetings are a bit of a pain, especially for those living in our picturesque countryside, but between telephone integration and ever-advancing cellular internet technology, there are plenty of ways for people to participate in council meetings. (And if you’re using another video meeting service provider for council meetings and you find problems with it, maybe it’s time to switch over to Zoom. It may not be perfect but there’s a reason it’s become popular as of late.)
As for municipal offices, some municipalities have been able to have them open by-appointment for quite some time now, so there’s no excuse for staff to be unreachable by the general public. Beyond that, there are plenty of online and telephone systems that could allow people to easily accomplish anything with municipal staff that could be done in-person.
Like I said – maybe I feel this way because I’m a bit younger and more comfortable with technology (or to be crass, maybe I’m a bit younger and hopefully have more life to live in front of me). Or maybe politicians are just starving for some face-to-face time with other people. I mean it is hard to shake hands and kiss babies through a screen.
Whatever the reason, the drive to reopen municipal offices and return to in-person meetings seems destined to cause even higher jumps in COVID-19 case counts across Ontario than the one that happened over the weekend. In case you were like me and disconnected from the world for a while, Ontario reported 423 COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the largest number of new cases in nearly two months and nearly double that of the previous Sunday.
Like the inexplicable drive by Ontario’s government to shove kids back into schools without vaccination (you won’t often hear me saying this, but I feel bad for the teachers because of that one), the drive to a return to normalcy before we’re ready is a bad one. Pushing the issue is just like that fun “Hold my beer” cousin at the family reunion; we all know it’s going to end up in the emergency room.
I hope I’m wrong, but these kinds of reckless actions are likely going to end up in a fourth wave and doctors and experts (you know, the people we should be listening to, not provincial politicians) are convinced a fourth wave could be devastating to our healthcare system. In my mind, opening buildings and meetings is a risk-versus-reward situation, and the reward just isn’t there.