Well that was a confusing week.
First, after hearing the NWT’s re-opening strategy was coming soon, we all were left burning in anticipation as other jurisdictions around the country released their re-opening strategies. Finally, with relatively little warning, we got a notice of the phases the Chief Public Health officer has determined is the safest way to get back to a new normal.
Personally, I support our cautious approach to re-opening. Looking down south, it’s pretty easy to forecast another wave of lock downs sweeping the continent by mid-summer, as we’ve seen from other places that re-opened too early. Historically, the Spanish Flu’s deadliest peak was during its second wave. So doing what we can to avoid that is a smart move, though there needs to be more to protect tourism and other businesses who rely on cross-border travel. Keeping the two weeks of self-isolation is a good thing, though we need better programs in place to support the people we do want coming up here — especially our teachers who have been stranded outside the territory.
My sister publications in Yellowknife have been rightly sounding the alarm on the dangers faced by our small businesses. But only the NWT can save the NWT. Buy Local must become our mantra if we are going to emerge from this relatively close to how we fell in.
Certainly, a lot of business is still waiting for phases two and three, but if you had ever been planning to take a boating trip up and down the Mackenzie, as an example, this may be the year to do it, but also if you’ve been eyeing an Ookpik or piece of clothing as a gift to yourself or someone else. If you can find a way to help a local restaurant, home kitchen or other family-run business, even better. Obviously being in the far north, we are reliant on importing goods to cover much of our lifestyle from outside, but buying from Amazon or Alibaba is only going to make billionaires richer, and often times the producers of goods sell right from their websites as well.
In my career, I have now witnessed three governments thrown right into the fire of a crisis after being elected — Caroline Cochrane and her cabinet may not have done everything right, but they kept the NWT to five cases. That’s better than any government south of us has managed. Let’s hope they take economic recovery as seriously as they took public health — the wage subsidy is an excellent start.
However, what’s really made our trip through round one of COVID-19 less horrible than it could have been has been the diligence of our local leaders — be they our Mayors and Councils, Grand Chiefs, First Responders, Public Works or Volunteering Caremongerers — many of the latter offering their business services for free.
We have held together by focusing on what is most important in our communities — each other.
Let’s keep that frame of thought as we rebuild our lives and economy. Our tourism operators in particular are going to need our support this summer, but also our craftspeople, our artists and our suppliers. These are our neighbours and will need our support more than ever.