Here to there

The lockdown will soon be over, causing many to ponder getting from here to there.

The journey began in early March last year as word of a pandemic spread across the globe. Panic-stricken, most of us accessed news sites, read newspapers and caught hourly updates on television.

Those early days seem like yesterday, despite nearly a year of constant dread and worry – worry for friends, family, employees, fellow business owners and neighbours.

Our concern for others extended far past the immediate circle of connections just noted. It comes with the job so to speak, thinking about the communities within the county our publication serves.

Those hopes aren’t just about dots on a map – we are instead referring to the many diverse elements that make Wellington County what it is. Examples abound like the many faiths practiced here, farmers, artisans, history enthusiasts, business owners and various cultures that have settled here. These are all communities of interest to be celebrated. Respect for all these moving parts and traditions is what binds us together as a county.

The custodians of that trust are our local politicians and during the past year there have been moments of deep personal reflection on their challenges navigating this pandemic. That stems back to spending a dozen years in public life decades ago, which left an indelible sense of understanding of the demands that governing places on men and women elected to serve. The yoke of office weighs heavy in good times, let alone the unprecedented times Canadians are currently trying to survive.

Time doesn’t allow on a Tuesday to call each and every politician or high-level bureaucrat in the county, but we are going to go out on a limb and suggest not one is happy about the lockdown. Not one will be happy with the level of disruption placed on families, schools or institutions that provide entertainment and happiness for so many. Not one of them has expressed an interest in denying the faith community a chance to practice their beliefs. Not one has phoned police or suggested rounding up people unwilling to follow safety protocols.

Instead, they have supported residents here and encouraged the embrace of health measures that will limit the spread of COVID-19 to vulnerable sectors of the population. They have appealed to and relied on the good nature of residents to honour rules imposed from above. If there happens to be a mistake in those claims in Wellington County we will happily publish a correction next week with appropriate examples, but we can think of no situation or council action with regard to the pandemic that could be categorized as a spiteful move not in the interest of all residents.

This united front in the battle against COVID has helped assuage the very natural inclination for people to second guess public policy. It would come as an absolute shock to us that councillors have swallowed safety measures whole without a snippet of critical thought or conversations about the impact of those measures. Consideration will have been given to businesses and their struggles, families balancing home schooling with the need to earn a living, and even kind thoughts for seniors locked away unable to see friends or family.

Only a completely self-absorbed fool would not have considered those implications, but in the interest of all residents local politicians sought common purpose – that is, making the best of a horrible situation by focusing on things that can be done, rather than dwelling on items and eventualities beyond their control.

That formula for harmony these past few months was shattered last week when Centre Wellington councillor Steve VanLeeuwen broke ranks and joined the “End the Lockdowns Caucus” movement. While that official stance happened last week, we understand that he has raised concerns for months, more specifically before Christmas, in an email to fellow councillors.

The arguments are not new. In fact they are representative of much of the conversation on social media and alternative websites. Had the content of that email been discussed at a council meeting rather than in the recesses of the internet amongst a quorum of councillors, VanLeeuwen’s leap of faith would have been more understandable. There is some irony in that secrecy – when a serious health policy conversation was held outside a duly constituted meeting.

Perhaps that explains Mayor Kelly Linton’s refusal to grant our reporter an interview, opting instead to provide a statement by email. The startling part about that response is it is the first time he has declined an interview. A post similar to the email Linton sent to us was placed on various social media channels, reaffirming his beliefs in public safety measures. That submission allowed him to dodge the obvious question of how he intends to deal with VanLeeuwen’s conduct in flouting accepted COVID-19 safety protocols.

According to VanLeeuwen the anti-lockdown posse photo posted to Randy Hillier’s website was taken in a garage outside of Centre Wellington. In the absence of full disclosure on his part, one must conclude then that the participants took part in non-essential travel, cavorted with non-related parties, failed to social distance and failed to wear masks. It’s bad optics all around.

Further to that aspect of personal accountability and responsibility for their actions, disrespecting those protocols is against the law and hurtful.

People don’t expect perfect and are generally forgiving but this brazen bunch, including VanLeeuwen, may as well have given the finger to every nurse, doctor, emergency services provider and essential worker across Ontario. One must suspect that never crossed their minds as they posed in disdain against their peers and colleagues responsible for guiding us through the pandemic. The role of critic is so easy and so unproductive when wielded with contempt for others.

Like millions of Canadians, we wholeheartedly support getting businesses up and running again, but this sideshow is just that: a cabal of malcontents, some elected, plenty unelected, and a good number disenfranchised from their various parties for understandable reasons. That may be a blunt assessment, but the fact of the matter is this “caucus” is a nothing, with no power, no ability to legislate and no responsibility except to satisfy their own egos and prey on the public’s worst fears.

As we get from here to there over the next few days, let’s do so with grace and faith.