Annapolis Valley Register : 2020-03-19



A9 SALTWIRE.COM • ANNAPOLIS VALLEY REGISTER THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 2020 opinion Managing Editor: Bradley Works The great shutdown It started Friday, and rolled on right through the weekend, gaining speed – and if you weren’t taking the COVID-19 pandemic situation seriously yet, the last three days should have changed your mind. From swimming pools to recreation centres to, in several provinces, schools and universiti­es, the shutdown of scores of the things we take for granted – all in an effort to slow the spread of the virus – is simply unpreceden­ted. And it’s going to continue. The object? To keep people away from each other, at least enough to limit spread. In Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, the closure of all casinos seemed like an obvious decision. Clusters of people, sitting close to each other and sharing the same touch pads on the machines? It just seems like an opportunit­y to share whatever you might be carrying with your neighbour. Likewise, the Atlantic Lottery Corporatio­n’s video lottery network – it has very much the same risks that a casino carries, including the fact that patrons can be drinking and may be less concerned about proper hygiene. (If you don’t think that drinking and sloppy hygiene go – sorry – hand in hand, try taking a trip to almost any drinking establishm­ent’s bathrooms at about midnight.) ALC video lottery machines shut down on Monday. The weekend’s developmen­ts strengthen the need to pay attention to official sources of informatio­n and to ignore unofficial, inexpert advice and rumours. The premiers and the provinces’ health officials are operating with the best informatio­n available and have the expertise to handle this situation. The public should pay close attention, as it’s our best chance of containing this pandemic. Everything has to be weighed to ensure it is the most effective and safest way to address the problem of close personal contact, especially in group settings. What can you do? Roll with it. In the great scheme of things, shutting down many things we enjoy – from the arts to profession­al sports to spring break travel – is a small price to pay compared with the dangers that pretty much all of the world faces right now. We’ll have to get used to reduced social contact, less travel and, for some of us, working from home for the next few weeks at least. It is likely to get much, much more difficult. If in a month, when we’re looking back on all this, you hear people saying that it all seemed like we went overboard, you’ll know it was worth it. Because that will mean that it worked and we managed to blunt the impact. Do your part. Byelection­s deliver net gain to Tories former Premier Ike Smith, held the old dual riding of Colchester in the 1960s and early ’70s. Ritcey’s win swells the official opposition PC caucus to 18 MLAs in the 51-member legislatur­e. The Liberals retain their bare majority with 26 members, and the NDP has five. There are two independen­ts. The NDP’s distant third in Truro confirms what many locals would have told them. Former NDP MLA Lenore Zann may have won the seat on an orange wave the first time, but she retained it through the 2013 and 2017 provincial elections all on her own. Zann left both provincial politics and the NDP last summer to run, and win, Cumberland-Colchester for the federal Liberals. The New Democrats professed high hopes in Truro and ran a strong candidate, Kathleen Kevany, a professor at Dalhousie University’s agricultur­al campus in Bible Hill. But the NDP only managed to win 14 per cent of the vote, compared to Zann’s 44 per cent in 2017. The Liberals' Allan Kennedy, also a strong candidate, got just over 24 per cent, but Ritcey ran away from the field with 51 per cent of votes cast. The bright spot for the NDP came in Cape Breton Centre, where Cape Breton Regional councillor Kendra Coombes held the seat vacated when Tammy Martin resigned for health reasons earlier this year. The Liberals were hoping for a repeat of the 2015 byelection in Cape Breton Centre, when their candidate, Dave Wilton, won the seat. Wilton lost to Martin in the 2017 general election and was the Grits’ candidate again Tuesday, and again finished second. Liberal popularity in CBRM has been a roller-coaster ride since the last election. It plummeted after the government announced hospital closures in North Sydney and New Waterford as part of the consolidat­ion of health facilities in the region. Now, it seems to be recovering in the wake of provincial announceme­nts of new health, education and recreation­al facilities for the area. Old political heads will tell you not to read too much into byelection­s or try to discern province-wide trends from what are, for the most part, local elections. While the Tories have won six of seven byelection­s, four of those were in seats previously held by Tories. The win that stands out is the Sackville-Cobequid byelection last June, won by PC Steve Craig, a former Halifax Regional councillor. The riding had been NDP back to the 1980s until Craig edged out New Democrat Lara Fawthrop by fewer than 200 votes. But it was the utter collapse of the Liberal vote – they took just 10 per cent – in a suburban Halifax seat that caused a stir. Ten of the Liberals’ 26 seats are in suburban Halifax County, so if they’re in trouble in the sprawling HRM ‘burbs, their government is in trouble. But polls like the Narrative survey released this week indicate that the provincial Liberals have recovered from a low-water mark that pretty much coincided with the SackvilleC­obequid byelection. Only Premier Stephen McNeil knows when the next provincial election will be and, while the opposition parties are gearing up for a fall election, the premier says that isn’t going to happen. By nature and necessity, political parties are eternally optimistic, so each of Nova Scotia’s major parties can find something positive in a recent pair of provincial byelection­s. Some just have to look a little harder than others. The Progressiv­e Conservati­ves (PC) won Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River in a cakewalk, running their record to six wins in the seven byelection­s contested since the last provincial election in 2017. The NDP held on to Cape Breton Centre, proving the party can still win outside its power-base in the old cities of Halifax and Dartmouth. The Liberals finished second in both, suggesting they are broadly competitiv­e. But Grits may find more solace in the Narrative Research poll released March 11. It gives them a double-digit lead over the Tories provincewi­de among the two-thirds of voters who can summon a preference. Both seats were held by New Democrats before resignatio­ns forced the byelection­s, so the party suffered a net loss of one – the Truro seat – to the Tories. The PC win in Truro restores the natural political order to the Hubtown. Before the NDP took the seat in 2009 on its way to government, Truro-and-environs had been Tory for something like 41 of the previous 50 years. The PCs tapped into that legacy and nominated Dave Ritcey, grandson of Gerry Ritcey who, along with contact us Q Website: Fax: Mail: 902-681-0923 10 Webster St., Suite 104 (Centre Square), Kentville, NS B4N 1H7, or mail: P.O. Box 430, Kentville, NS B4N 3X4 The Valley Register welcomes letters on matters of public interest for publicatio­n over the writer’s name. All letters must be accompanie­d by the author’s name, address and telephone number so that they can be verified. Letters are subject to editing and limited to 300 words. Copyright in letters and other materials submitted to the Publisher and accepted for publicatio­n remains with the author, but the Publisher and its licensees may freely reproduce them in print, the Valley Register, its Publisher or Publishers and SaltWire Network do not necessaril­y endorse the views expressed therein. Jim Vibert, a journalist and writer for longer than he cares to admit, consulted or worked for five Nova Scotia government­s. He now keeps a close and critical eye on those in power. Assessing the whipsaw effect the obvious fears you have about your own health and about your family – especially older family members and those who have any sort of compromise­d immune systems. Meanwhile, everything’s also wrapped up with a whole bunch of economic issues. What happens to your job if you’re working in the gig economy or in the hospitalit­y industry if a shutdown widens across bars and restaurant­s and non-essential businesses? Maybe even things as derivative as your mortgage or the effects that a freefallin­g stock market is going to have on your ability to ever do something close to retiring. It’s all legitimate. Yet at the same time, we’re surrounded by the normal. There are few enough cases right now that it’s a bit like being told a hurricane might hit next week. The sun’s still shining, with a handle at both ends. I can tell you for a fact that it cuts just as deep no matter which of its two directions it’s going in.) The next couple of months are going to be strange. Anyone with any experience of trauma can tell you that. Whether COVID-19 lives up to the most dire prediction­s, the least, or somewhere in between, life is going to be dramatical­ly different. If you’re just back in Canada, self-isolating, there are going to be little hiccups and big ones. There’s going to be the question of whether the virus is actually lurking in you, waiting to appear, or whether you can actually handle two solid weeks cooped up with your own family while the selection of possibly watchable Netflix series drains steadily away. On top of that, and along with everyone else, there are other issues: the inconvenie­nces, people buy groceries without looking any different, there’s gas at the gas station and fruit and vegetables at the store. Buying toilet paper and Tylenol might be a bit tough right now, but that has more to do with people and their herd instincts than it does with any real shortfall. Yet people are clearly concerned. Ask someone online if they’re isolating themselves after coming back from a state that has community infection, and there are threats and rage raining down before the traveller can even answer that yes, of course, they are. You might not want to admit it, but no matter what the result, this state of affairs is going to chew a lot of people up. It’s like preparing for the death of a family member, lurching back and forth between fear, anger and impending loss. It takes a toll – an actual, physical toll, as well as a mental one. And, as anyone who has dealt with the weird workings of the human mind, and emotional trauma can tell you, it’s a rollercoas­ter. You can go from almost euphoric and ridiculous­ly hopeful to near-complete despair in a moment. That’s the whipsaw. You can’t stop it cutting. But you can try and prepare yourself by recognizin­g its unpredicta­bility – and know that you’re not the only one experienci­ng this. It’s better to recognize the whipsaw instead of just lying there under its teeth. I tell you so you will be ready. But you still might not be. A whipsaw is, officially, a two-handled saw that is pulled back and forth by two people, one on each end. It’s also become a term for a sudden change in the markets, when financial security or other fiscal product starts moving in the opposite direction of what logic and experience says it should be doing. When I talk about the whipsaw, I actually mean it in both ways. (Disclaimer: I have a whipsaw. A four-foot-long, rusty, deep-toothed devil of a saw Russell Wangersky’s column appears in SaltWire newspapers and websites across Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at russell.wangersky@ thetelegra­ — Twitter: @ wangersky. Kirk Starratt, Ashley Thompson, reporter Kirk.Starratt@kingscount­ 902-680-5915 All material in this publicatio­n is the property of the SaltWire Network, and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior consent of the Publisher. The Publisher is not responsibl­e for statements or claims by advertiser­s. 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