THE GOOD NEWS: it’s easier to fight off Victoria’s grey, damp winter chill when your blood is boiling.
For those keeping score at home (and really, it’s hard to keep up) the latest revelations about people in leadership positions travelling abroad include A) a Globe and Mail story about Canada’s top bureaucrat in charge of border and travel health taking a free holiday to Jamaica, and B) Global News’ discovery that the head of UBC’s school of public health spent the holidays in Hawaii.
And that follows the red-hot indignation aimed at a phone book’s worth of politicians — Ontario’s (now former) finance minister Rod Philips, Alberta’s (now former) municipal affairs minister Tracy Allard, Saskatchewan’s (now former) highways minister Joe Hargrave, New Democrat MP and (now former) cabinet critic Niki Ashton, Conservative MP and (now former) ethics committee chair David Sweet and Liberal MP and (now former) parliamentary secretary Kamal Khera, among others — who were found to have travelled internationally at the same time that we in your lower social orders were being admonished to stay home.
Note all the formers; mere apologies don’t suffice when, like Bill Clinton caught with his pants around his ankles, they sound less like genuine contrition than damage control.
Still, before climbing so high on our horses that we pass out from oxygen deprivation, we might want to consider the following: a Leger/Association for Canadian Studies poll found four in 10 British Columbians ignored the pleas of health officials and visited people outside their households over the holidays. Pot, meet kettle.
Leger vice-president Christian Bourque sounded surprised: “Usually we Canadians are sort of much more, I would say, disciplined when it comes to going by what governments are recommending in terms of our behaviour, but over the holidays, apparently, it was sort of tougher on Canadians.”
OK, maybe what we saw over the holidays was an aberration, a stumble by weary people risking letting their guards down for a day or two. Or maybe it reflects who many of us really are, people so entitled and privileged that we’re able to perform whatever mental gymnastics are necessary to justify exempting ourselves from what we have all been urged to do — as though nobody else had a family that mattered to them, or a parent who had gone unhugged for months.
In any case, social media blossomed with photos of happy people celebrating the kind of multi-generational Christmas that others yearned to have but sacrificed for the greater good.
Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed those transgressions at her Thursday briefing. “We somehow convince ourselves that it’s one little thing and it doesn’t matter,” she said. In reality, she said, those seemingly inconsequential moments add up.
The proof is in the numbers. B.C. is seeing a post-holiday spike in cases. It was no surprise Thursday when the social-gathering restrictions we’ve been living under since mid-November, the ones that were due to expire today, were extended until Feb. 5.
It’s not as though the international travel that we’re so up in arms about is the only threat. COVID can fly here just as easily on a plane from Edmonton as one from Margaritaville.
Nor does the virus care whether the travel in question is illegal or has merely been discouraged. “We simply need to avoid non-essential travel, period,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said on Thursday.
It would be nice to have a clearer idea of what essential travel looks like, though. Ditto for what constitutes staying local.
Authorities, reluctant to provide definitions that can be twisted, to impose rules that cannot be enforced, instead rely on us to live within the spirit of what they ask — but that doesn’t help much when you’re trying to decide whether it’s OK to go to Mount Washington or not.
Also, there’s a thirst to see sinners punished. It’s easier to play by the rules when we’re confident that the ref will blow the whistle on those who don’t. Most people like to think that if they go through life doing the right thing — paying their taxes, picking up after their dogs, not budging in line at the ferry terminal — karma will kick in. On the flip side, it’s hard to find the energy to keep bailing when the next guy is allowed to chop holes in the boat.
Henry urged against giving into that kind of thinking. “We can’t dwell on the people who make mistakes.”
To conquer COVID, we all need to focus on our own actions, not those of others.