By MPP Toby Barrett
There is little doubt 2020 and the COVID pandemic will be a piece of history taught in the future.
While there have been pandemics before with higher death tolls, never before has a virus brought the entire planet to a halt in the age of global travel and modern medicine. Globally there have been more than 25 million cases and in excess of 850,000 deaths.
To put this in a historical perspective, there have been worse pandemics. The Spanish Flu a hundred years ago is one example, with a death toll in excess of 50 million. The Asian Flu, Russian Flu and Hong Kong Flu are all other examples where the death toll crossed the million mark.
Although one death is one too many, the reality is we have been dealing with the pandemic. Ontario has been a leader in the control of the virus. On the positive, our hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units were not overtaxed.
The pandemic has meant change for many families – and that hasn’t all been bad. Families have spent more time together and become creative in spending time together. In some cases, this has meant they’ve produced bountiful gardens. They’ve reconnected with the outdoors. Hardware stores and sporting good stores sold out of items like basketball nets, patio furniture — anything that had to do with spending time outdoors. People have been purchasing items that make their home more enjoyable and a place to spend time, not just a place to lay their head after a long day’s work.
Home renovations have also intensified. Paint stores, when they were able to reopen, couldn’t mix paint fast enough to accommodate the contractors and homeowners who were itching to get projects done that had perhaps been on the backburner.
The battle isn’t over yet, and casualties aren’t limited to those afflicted with the virus. While it’s been business as usual or a boom for some sectors, others – like the travel industry – have been decimated. Enterprises that people have put their life savings into are making difficult decisions, and some will close their doors forever.
Municipalities have also been impacted with increased costs from dealing with and enforcing new protocols. At the same, time revenue has decreased. Recreation and facility rental income, for instance, is almost non-existent. Likewise, in the private sector, Legions, churches and service clubs are also seeing huge losses in income from no rentals.
On the health care front, our government is delivering up to $30 billion to support our frontline health care system, to provide relief to families and businesses, and to ensure municipalities can respond to urgent priorities. That includes $510 million through the Social Services Relief Fund, and $14 million for community-based mental health and addictions services.
Although we aren’t out of the COVID crisis yet, there have been bright spots: There were over 528,000 jobs added in June and July. Over half a million people are back to work ― 72,000 new jobs in manufacturing and 47,500 new jobs in construction.
This winter could still be a tough one. I have faith the people of Haldimand-Norfolk will persevere. The spirit that built this area will pull us through yet another bump in the rocky road of history.
Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk