Nothing in modern history seems to have touched so many people across New Brunswick and around the world so quickly and in such a profound way as this pandemic. Nothing seems to have made us feel more connected and disconnected all at once. Nothing seems to have created such immense anxiety and at the same time, captured our imaginations for a better future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has at once brought our world and economies to a stand-still, while opening up a whole new world of possibilities in how we communicate, work, operate our businesses, and entertain ourselves.
At the same time, a crisis has a way of shining light on our strengths and weaknesses as a society. We are seeing where the weak spots are in our social safety net. We are witnessing the vulnerabilities of our import-driven food system. We are recognizing the value of essential, yet underpaid, workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.
What have we learned so far
In NB we have had the good fortune of being much less affected by this pandemic and our recovery is further along than most other jurisdictions in the world, which allows us to take some time to reflect on what we have learned from the pandemic so far.
In health, we have learned that our health system is not capable of fully operating while responding to a pandemic. This accelerated the move to e-medicine, but it also revealed a health care system under such strain that thousands of surgeries and procedures had to be put on hold to avoid overwhelming it.
While COVID-19 has so far been kept out of our nursing homes, the experience elsewhere has taught us that we must re-think how we care for the frail and infirmed, and how we value those who care for them.
We quickly discovered our supply lines are too long, as essential medical and protective equipment was no longer readily available for import from distant manufacturers. It has been assumed, that whatever we ordered would show up when we needed it. Now with the closures of major meat producers, and questions about vegetable supplies this fall, the pandemic has shone a bright light on our reliance on imported food as well. This has underlined the need for greater local self-reliance.
Temporary income replacement programs and prohibitions of evictions have masked the human cost of the pandemic, but as these supports are removed it will be necessary to replace them with something more permanent, such as a guaranteed livable income.
We discovered that partisanship can be put aside, and party leaders are capable of working together to serve the common good, as we have on the all-party cabinet committee. And we learned that when silos are toppled inside government, and public servants are given the opportunity to truly serve the public, they achieve great things in record time.
What gives me hope.
Over the last couple months of the pandemic, the stubborn strength of New Brunswickers has been evident. We have shown ourselves that we are resilient, adaptable, and extremely creative peoples. This gives me hope that we can navigate an uncertain future together, not only in dealing with COVID-19, but in responding to the other global menace, the climate crisis.
I’m inspired by the way everyone has done their part to help keep us all safe, secure and healthy. I am in awe of the cashiers, taxi drivers, caregivers, health professionals, first responders, and so many other essential workers and volunteers who refused to let their fears get the best of them in the early days of the pandemic so they could go on serving the rest of us.
A crisis has a way of getting us to reconsider our priorities. I know this pandemic has already changed the us in ways we may not yet be aware of. I believe we are at a moment in our history where once again we can see the possibility of change, to make our world a better place; more caring, more compassionate, less frantic - where we stand against inequality and make our peace with nature and each other.
Leader of the Green Party of NB
MLA for Fredericton-South