Running a Marathon

It is mid-November and I am pretty sure I can hear the ticking of a clock close by. Somewhere surely, Krista’s beautiful smile is imploring me to make my deadline. Hurry up. 

The truth is I feel at a bit of a loss for what to write about this month. Will it fall on deaf ears to implore our community to find empathy again? Writing that British Columbia is reporting record high numbers feels like I am whispering into a windstorm. Shall I use this opportunity to ask people to be diligent so that we will not join our neighbours of the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions, and have to experience new health orders and tighter restrictions? Which will have a terrible impact on our business community? 

COVID-19 is hard and COVID-fatigue is a real thing, I feel it, too. As the mayor, as a mom, as a friend and a wife. It is hard, there is no doubt about that. It feels though that because we are fighting an invisible fight, a form of amnesia has set in. It’s as though we are running a marathon and the end is nowhere in sight. 

The province of BC declared a ‘public health emergency’ under the Public Health Act on March 17, 2020 which gives our public health officer the ability to issue verbal orders that have immediate effect and can be enforced by police. This also provides Dr. Henry with the authority to amend the Public Health Act without legislatures’ consent. 

The following day, March 18, 2020 British Columbia declared a ‘state of emergency’ under the Emergency Program Act, that allows for a series of statutory powers that include limiting travel. 

Both levels of government are operating in a context of extreme uncertainty, watching data inform the latest epidemiological modelling. Right now, in BC that means that COVID-19 cases are doubling every 13 days*.

All of this is happening simultaneously to our community demanding dry space to resume indoor activity, to get back to a sense of normality. We are also aware that transmission rates are moving much quicker because we are indoors.

Local governments are in the middle of all of it. The push and pull of community expectation. Alongside serving the needs of our community, we have been ordered to implement health orders, keep our communities safe and to establish a strong coordinated response to COVID-19. 

With winter arriving, and the fact that we are training an almost entirely new streets crew to respond to our huge snow removal needs, it sometimes feels impossible. Yet, here we are. Local governments across the province will continue to serve the needs of our community; and deliver essential services, and try to open up spaces for community sport, and respond to bylaw issues, and issue building permits, and keep the water running. It is truly remarkable. 

I hope at the end of this pandemic we are able to look back at the role local governments played at the forefront of this fight and take a minute to pause and consider what that is going to mean in the future and how local governments need more support. Not less. 

In the meantime, Fernie, I hope you find empathy for our streets crew. Let’s cheer them on to success. There is nothing easy about starting a new job, especially with the entire community watching you! 

Be kind, be safe and be gracious. We are all friends and neighbours, and we are in this together.