rant

It is hard to believe we are experiencing a pandemic and have been given instructions to not travel and social distance, keep to your household, etc.

The Columbia Valley is located in an interesting part of British Columbia. Three hours away from Calgary, Alberta. Home of some of the most entitled residents in Canada, wealthy, individualistic with a huge chip on their shoulders thinking they have been hard done by by the rest of Canada.

Lake Windermere is surrounded by their opulent second homes, or cabins as they like to call them. Albertans like to remind us at every turn that we are nothing without them. I can’t tell you how often I have been told that this part of BC is their ‘backyard’.

This is the end of a long weekend that saw the area swamped with tourists, the overwhelming majority from Alberta. Every resort full to the rafters, people gathering in condos, outside, shopping, on the lake, at the ski hills and bumping into each other in parking lots.

Who could blame tourists for wanting to be here with the abundance of fresh air, recreation and scenery. Normally they would be welcome with open arms, but these are not normal times. It isn’t inconceivable, even probable some tourists from Alberta have travelled to the Columbia Valley to skirt the health and safety Covid protocols of their home province.

It makes me feel foolish. Why are we adhering to Covid protocols while so many are not? Why are we not seeing our children and grandchildren? Why am I wearing a mask while people in stores and gas stations do not?

It also makes me wonder, at the rate we are going, how will we be able to put the pandemic behind us.

My guess is only about one third of people, in this area, locals and tourists, are adhering to health protocols; one third believe there is Covid but don’t give a shit, because they believe it doesn’t affect them; and the last third don’t believe there is a pandemic and it is made up by government or some higher order to take away our freedoms and control us.

Regarding the last group of people, our local newspaper has given them plenty of space to state their case, with the editor even writing an editorial how we should approach their argument with an open mind. Sorry but I don’t think reptilian super beings are trying to control me. Sometimes I wish I did so I could feel smug like the rest of them in the knowledge that I have all the answers. Is it a coincidence that many of these folks don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground, but have fantastic hypothesis’ on the working of the world.

And the third of the people that don’t give a shit, the travellers from Alberta and beyond and our local politicians acting like giddy school girls welcoming visitors to the valley in spite of our top doctors warning against it, thanks for nothing.

Perhaps a vaccine will put an end to the pandemic, however that is not entirely clear. If it doesn’t we will be in a heap of trouble. There is no way we can control the spread of the disease with only one third of the population adhering to protocols.

So why don’t we just say, ‘fuck it’ and let sickness run it’s course. The final results will be quicker. Sure there will be deaths, but there will anyway, and herd immunity will be achieved faster, after all, it’s just a strain of flu we are talking about.

Of course, I am being flippant but also deadly serious. How long will it take for the one third to look around and question why they are being vigilant in light of so many being inattentive.

I like to think this small tourist trap I live in is not indicative of the rest of Canada. That progress stopping the spread is being made. If I am wrong then throw away the protocols – I’d love to see my children.

This is only the first long weekend of the year and I’m already sick of people selfishly thumbing their noses at the Covid health protocols handed down by our Prime Minister, Provincial Premiers and Canada’s top doctors and scientists.

mixed messages

Sign posted as visitors enter Radium from Kootenay National Park.

The volume of tourists in the Windermere Valley over the Christmas holidays and continuing into January has been extraordinary and troubling. Extraordinary, because the resorts, ski hills and businesses are having a great season. Troubling, because there is a world wide pandemic and British Columbia, Alberta and the entire country have travel restrictions.

The vast majority of tourists who come here are from Alberta. They are second home owners and vacationers seeking the solitude and recreational opportunities this area offers.

The travel restrictions between provinces are only suggestions and can not be enforced. The Provincial governments of Alberta and British Columbia warn against nonessential travel, however what is that exactly?

When the pandemic started I tried to keep my thoughts on how our family can stay safe separate from my feelings of people who refuse to adhere to the suggestions of our top doctors. I haven’t worried about what other people are doing. Lisa and I take calculated risks. We have continued to work throughout the pandemic. I work directly with tourists and I am very careful. I don’t always do the things I am asked by tourists if I feel I may be in harms way.

Lisa looks after her elderly parents. Like many their age they have health concerns and it’s essential they are kept safe.

This Christmas our grown children stayed in Calgary due to the travel restrictions. We talked via FaceTime but it was a very quiet Christmas.

All the while the valley was teeming with tourists. Overflowing a matter of fact.

Alberta has had difficulty controlling the Covid virus with about twice as many daily cases as British Columbia. Alberta’s Premier, Jason Kenny, after ignoring the crisis for many months, implemented heavy restrictions. One of which was to not allow people from different households to gather in the same house. This was a good reason for many Albertans  to vacation in British Columbia where the restrictions are much more lax.

Our small town politicians and business leaders haven’t helped the situation. In short they have rolled out the welcome mat with little care for our elderly, medical staff and front line workers.

In the December 3rd edition of The Columbia Valley Pioneer, just as the second wave was starting, there were two articles of interest.

One was written by local physician, Gareth Mannheimer. Dr Mannheimer is Chief of Staff of Invermere District Hospital. He has been instrumental in keeping the area informed of the dangers of Covid.

In his article he warns the second wave is in the valley and spreading. His article is sobering.

The second article that caught my attention, was the lead article on Page 3, it was titled, Second Wave of Covid-19 Pandemic Looms Just as Winter Tourism Season Set to Begin, with the byline, Local Officials Urge Calm and Measure Approach, Highlight the Columbia Valley Made it Through Summer Tourist Season With Pandemic Going On.

Our Mayor and local businessman, Al Miller is quoted within the article, “There’s never been a better time to get out on the local ski hills or get out to the many other winter activities we have here. It will be good for your mental health, good for you physically, good for local business, good for keeping people at work, and good for community spirit and well-being.”

That’s a mouthful. And yes that’s our mayor and not the President of the Chamber of Commerce, although he held that position in the past. Perhaps he forgot what hat he was wearing.

Our Provincial MLA, Liberal, Doug Clovechok wasn’t much better. 

The article continues: Clovechok pointed out that the travel advisory is a just that — an advisory — and not part of the actual provincial order (which is enforceable by RCMP), and said it’s important that people remember “that just because your license plate is a different colour doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong,” alluding to Columbia Valley second homeowners who happen to be from Alberta (and have red licences plates instead of the blue ones associated with B.C.). “In the summer months, there was travel going on, but there were no major spikes in COVID-19 in B.C, and almost no cases in the Columbia Valley. That’s because people were following protocols…I strongly suggest we continue to do what we did this summer, continue to take it seriously, and follow the rules that will keep us safe,” said Clovechok. “If you protect yourself individually, we’ll be okay collectively.”

The only person quoted in the article who showed good sense was Radium Mayor Clara Reinhart who said, “We’ll work on the economy when we get through this. We need to focus, primarily, on one thing at a time, and right now, that’s making sure everybody is healthy and safe.”

This is what it comes down to; the virus is spreading at a rate we haven’t seen since it started.  The vaccines are here, but could be many months before they make a difference to the spread.

The virus has mutated into several other varieties concerning health experts. These varieties have been detected in Canada. Finally, there are travel advisories warning against nonessential travel. Perhaps it’s time they are taken seriously.

It would be easy, and not necessary to be enforced by law enforcement. The first thing that has to happen is the mixed messages have to stop.

Let folks know when travelling to another province they must quarantine for fourteen days. Stipulate what is essential and nonessential travel, with bulletins posted on Provincial websites. For instance, vacationing in a second home is unnecessary, travelling for a medical appointment is necessary, travelling to another province to recreate (sking, snowmobiling, partying) is not essential.

Bonnie Henry and Deena Hinshaw, BC’s and Alberta’s top doctors respectively have said, staying at home saves lives. Does that mean the opposite is true, travelling unnecessarily costs lives?  

We are Canadians, we naturally want the best for other Canadians. Covid has tested our resolve. It’s time to get tough, if it means sacrificing for a while so be it.