Every three months I contribute a quarterly update to local papers for you to read. In my last column at the beginning of March, I talked about our balanced budget and programs that will help us in the Kootenays. I ended by saying that our government is monitoring the coronavirus and its economic impacts and putting in plans to contain it. I advised people to wash their hands and stay home if sick. However, I had no idea how much our world would change by the time I was to write my next column.
With the leadership of Dr. Bonnie Henry and a citizenry who took this pandemic seriously, our province has done an exceptional job at reducing the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by this coronavirus. I want to thank you for doing what was needed and acknowledge that it wasn’t easy. It required mass behaviour change and shutting down much of our day-to-day lives, but it was necessary and we know now for sure that it was the right thing to do.
Still, we must also acknowledge that it has hurt our economy, our businesses, our livelihoods. I spent the last 2½ months in my living room on the phone or online in over 120 meetings as your MLA and as BC’s minister for Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness listening to how this virus has impacted our communities across this province.
Because we are all in this together, I took what I heard back to my government colleagues and to the federal government so that we could develop quick-response programs that met our collective needs. At a time of rapid change, all this talking and listening was critical to taking action to address the economic impacts of fighting COVID-19, and I am proud of the programs our government has been able to deliver.
And now we’re heading into re-starting our lives outside the home. Like you, I need that haircut! And am so grateful how my salon along with all the other businesses on which we rely are taking safety and hygiene seriously so that we can get things going again.
The steps we take now and over the next several months will determine our ability to contain a second wave of the virus and ensure that we don’t have to shut down all over again. In other words, all that cleaning, sanitizing, social distancing, self-isolation when sick or if immune-compromised are together the single biggest thing we can do to keep ourselves safe and get our economic recovery going.
As I talk about how we are all in the fight against COVID-19 together, and how we are all in the economic recovery together, not everyone is taking that to heart. Racist and hate-based attacks by individuals have been on the rise. And most recently, there have been specific incidents in North America that demonstrate the racism that can persist in our institutions. And people are angry about it. I’m angry about it because in 2020, I don’t understand why I and countless others still have to say that racism is not acceptable, tolerable or legitimate in any way. Shouldn’t that be a given?
Yet, here we are, having to still say it and push for equality. I am a believer, though, that love will always conquer hate. I don’t necessarily know how all the time, I just know that it will. So, I keep working for social justice, speaking out, listening to people’s experiences and doing my best to make the world a better place. I’m very proud to live in a part of the world where people are doing the same and where the courage to show love, even when having to stand two meters apart, is with us every day.
Thank you to all who are showing love by standing up against racism, by staying at home when sick, sanitizing hands and public places, being kind to essential workers, by taking care of loved ones and the public, and by being calm in this time of incredible upheaval and change.
Michelle Mungall is the New Democrat MLA for Nelson-Creston