Despite hardships from Covid-19, the North was spared greater hardship and soldiered on
2020 has come and gone and nearly everyone is likely breathing a sigh of relief.
The year began as many others, with flocks of tourists, businesses in full swing, mines up and running, with the occasional glimpse of emergency hospitals being built rapidly in China due to something few had even heard of at that point: a novel coronavirus.
We were initially reassured it was not going to be a big deal by the World Health Organization, but as research progressed it was revealed to be more contagious and serious than first imagined.
Although it took our federal government about three months to finally close Canada’s borders to travel as infections began to rise, our territorial health officials quickly followed suit and closed the NWT’s borders to travellers as well as implementing a months-long lockdown and public health emergency.
As of Dec. 22, that health emergency has been extended 20 times.
The move to lock down the territory was criticized by many as being too heavy-handed and lauded by others as an uncomfortable but necessary move. In the end, the prudent and fast actions of chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola and her office have kept us safe. As other provinces and territories are dealing with ever-rising rates of Covid-19 transmission, the Northwest Territories has remained one of the the safest places in the country with as few as 24 total cases, as of press deadline.
That’s due to our strict travel and isolation protocols and the willingness of residents to comply.
Almost every single case coming past our borders has been caught and isolated early, a reason for everyone to be proud.
During this time of great uncertainty, Northerners adapted. School was closed on March 16 and remained shuttered until the end of the school year. Learn-from-home plans were soon put in place.
Students from Yellowknife to Inuvik were equipped with laptops and turbo-sticks for online learning and they persevered despite some expected challenges.
NWT businesses also deserve a large shout-out for their resiliency. For a lot of business owners, a mandatory shutdown might have meant the end of road entirely, but thanks to some key federal grants and quick thinking, many entrepreneurs will soldier on. From tourism outlets pivoting to serving those staying close-to-home, to inns and restaurants providing more delivery options and online ordering, those who adapted to serve their communities’ business needs deserve recognition.
The GNWT also attempted to adapt to the ever-changing pandemic landscape with the $83-million Covid-19 Coordinating Secretariat, a division of the government entirely dedicated the pandemic response.
Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty called it a Taj Mahal of government spending. Ultimately, even after scrutiny, the government expansion went ahead, though Premier Caroline Cochrane admitted communication around the move should have been better.
That level of scrutiny is necessary at all times in Canadian government, but especially so in emergencies. Although it should not hinder our response, checks and balances should always be in place. This is a lesson apparently forgotten by our current federal government, which prorogued parliamentary oversight committees while creating more debt than any other government in our nation’s history.
We all, as informed citizens of Canada, should be holding our government accountable and should be encouraging others to pose questions to politicians about how things are done and how our money is spent.