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I am just coming off of five days self-isolation due to the Covid-19 protocol. Someone very close to me fit the profile to be tested and logically, I was as great a risk to my fellow Northerners as the restless to-be tested young patient. So I did the right thing, also resentfully. 

My time was shorter than the 14 days quarantine but much comes to mind endlessly flipping the channels, checking emails and news feeds, even that damn Facebook feed, feeling as healthy as my 65 years on the planet permits.

Yet I was in house arrest. I wanted to be at work.

The company I work for, Northern News Services, itself almost 50 years old, and printer Canarctic Graphics, depend on other Northern businesses and their customers, the biggest one being government, to pay the bills. Our future, as the bright days lengthen, appears dark for those of us outside governments whose staff have the most solid incomes and pensions.

None of the government people making the decisions depend on customers to survive, as they shut the economy down. NNSL and our printer Canarctic Graphics are in the same boat as the people who work at the restaurants, bars, airlines, tour companies, hotels, small retailers, even franchisees in town, we and many more are in jeopardy.

Yet those government people making decisions about our lives are making the right ones. They may have to make even harder decisions.

While we may have one of the best health-care systems in the world, it is not designed for a pandemic. It’s a luxury car, not a fleet of buses. If we start getting sick, and all predictions are we will, the system will become quickly overloaded. ICU beds are in the single digits, ventilators are even less. If people start treating our health-care system like they fight for the last roll of toilet paper in the store, vulnerable people will die. 

There are over 5,000 government workers, many of whom are to receive a 2.5 percent wage increase April 1. Compassion, integrity and understanding should guide their workday. It’s not that they lack those qualities now, it’s just that systemic allegiance to process can cloud, even torpedo, true goals which should be to help people.

Strong social safety action and a viable private sector are needed in abundance to match the threat we are facing, especially the sick and elderly. Blind adherence to policy and paperwork, even job descriptions, must stop.

The smaller communities outside of Yellowknife and up the valley to the Beaufort-Delta are in graver danger – overcrowded houses, lack of medical services, wildly expensive food, a significant, precious, biologically vulnerable Elder population. 

As we have seen in other places under virus siege, only total acceptance of a common cause – slowing the spread of the virus –  will win the day. Person by person, population by population, we will win.

We have to follow the rules set by health professionals. We might grumble but we should take comfort that they are well-paid to have our best interests at heart. How we act will determine how well they can do their jobs with the resources they have.

And the Northern economy, more than any other jurisdiction in the country, depends on what and where government spends.

In the spirit of Northwestel’s pledge to dispense with data caps during the crisis, NNSL has launched a BUYNORTH campaign for Northern business. We will post messages from business on the page and run in our newspapers along with promotions on social media, free of charge. Go visit our BuyNorth page. 

Every dollar the government and financially secure government workers spend on the businesses posted here will help sustain a Northern economy.

We want all Northern businesses still standing when we come through the other side of COVID-19.  

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Bruce Valpy

Bruce Valpy is publisher of Northern News Services Ltd. He can be reached at 1-867-766-8228 or valpy@nnsl.com.

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