General News · 30th March 2020
I hope this finds you well in the crazy that is our new reality! And, thank you for taking this seriously. It’s absolutely imperative that we all do.
I’m not able to attend Tuesdays online meeting due to a combination of limited internet access (something I’m sure I’m not alone in on Cortes!!), being in a radio dead-zone when it comes to picking up Cortes radio (also a situation I doubt is unique) and my work commitments. As such, please consider this letter my contribution to that important discussion.
I find I must express my concerns and reservations about some of the recommendations you have posted over the last few days. I strongly urge you not to make choices for the community that tier individuals into groups with different rights, like limiting ferry service for tradespeople. The provincial government has clearly stated that decisions about COVID safety measures will be made at the provincial level, not in individual communities. Please respect that here, especially when considering further limiting personal freedoms, even at the ‘ask’ level. It’s already extremely challenging to run a small business in the time of corona virus, please don’t let it be the Cortes community that ultimately makes it impossible.
Already we all know so many Cortesians that have been laid off, are out of work or are facing being out of work in the near future. This is a time we should be trying our best to support the community as a whole, not singling out tradespeople, or summer people, or people who travelled recently for different or lesser status in the community. Fostering an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality won’t keep people safe and is destructive to the fabric of the community. Those people still in a position to earn and bring resources into the Cortes community must be allowed to continue to do so until such time as the provincial and federal health officers may decide the risk outweighs the benefits of economic continuity. The government purse is more open than its ever been, but this money isn’t free. Ultimately taxpayers will be footing the bill. Which is why those people able to continue working with negligible risk to the public, like trades and construction, must be allowed to continue, must be allowed to keep some part of the economy functioning.
The proposal to limit ferry travel especially for tradespeople is not in line with our provincial and federal recommendations, and I believe is harmful to the island as well as the tradespeople here. The underlying assumption that tradespeople are somehow more likely to be carriers/spreaders of COVID-19 than the general population buys into a ‘dirty workmen’ stereotype, and divides us (Cortes tradespeople) from community members to ‘others’. This is not evidence based. This is not the community ‘in it together’. All the tradespeople I have spoken to (on and off Cortes) that are lucky enough to currently still be employed, are taking this very seriously. And, just like most people, are doing their utmost to follow evolving federal and provincial laws and recommendations around travel, social distancing and cleanliness.
Many of us tradespeople are self employed and small business owners. Those of us still in a position to earn and bring money into the Cortes economy are absolutely not going to take avoidable risks that jeopardize our health, our loved ones health, our clients health, our businesses or our community on Cortes. We do still need to access the ferry; many of us are of necessity our own couriers for our business needs. We do need to allow off island contractors to access job sites. Several trades have been included with the provincial list of essential services, and not all of these are represented on island. Telling Cortesians not to have tradespeople in their homes, and not to bring off-island trades could have serious consequences for the well being of individual community members and families. Handing out pamphlets discouraging tradespeople from visiting Cortes and completing their work does not benefit the island, and honestly seems like one more unnecessary and avoidable point of contact between individuals. Let’s reduce those instead!
My hope is all Cortesians take steps to protect and support themselves, their families and the community through this tumultuous time. That we all make the choice to ask our neighbours what we can do to help them through their quarantine periods after travel, instead of gossiping about who just arrived from where and what they brought back with them. That when some of our summer only neighbours inevitably arrive we do the same for them, and they return the favour by supporting local businesses. And that tradespeople are supported in their important, and increasingly riskier, work on the island repairing septic disasters, plumbing gas lines for cooking, installing heaters and hot water tanks, getting water to homes, getting water out of homes, repairing leaky roofs, and generally making peoples homes safe and functional to get us all through the undoubtably difficult stretch ahead.
Thank you for reading this.
All the best with the times ahead,