It’s baffling to think that Toronto is moving faster in its reopening plan than Yellowknife.
Much of Ontario and, more recently, the Greater Toronto Area has entered phase three of its reopening plan, allowing for larger gatherings, indoor dining, theatres to reopen and more. Social distancing remains imperative, of course.
It’s an understatement to say that Yellowknife and Toronto face different challenges with different plans, but, along with Quebec, Ontario bore the brunt of Canada’s Covid onslaught. Ontario is still registering around 100-150 new cases per day, yet it’s moving forward with easing restrictions and trying to get residents back to a semblance of normal life.
Yellowknife and the NWT, on the other hand, have not budged from phase two since it was implemented on June 12.
There has only been one presumptive case in the territory since April 5 and this case will not add to the territory’s total number as it was a mine worker who flew directly to camp from Edmonton.
It has been, as of this week, 17 weeks since the last declared case of Covid in the NWT, but we’ve remained in the same phase for almost three months now. So why have we stalled?
The Emerging Wisely plan says we won’t advance to phase three until a robust, rapid-testing strategy is ready and a second surge of infections in Canada and the United States has come and gone.
For being a condition of moving forward, there has been little word from the government on what progress is being made in rapid testing. And if we’re going to sit on our hands and wait until American cases come down, we could be here a while.
Make no mistake, credit is due to Kami Kandola, chief public health officer (CPHO), and her team for keeping NWT residents safe. The five confirmed cases to enter the territory were caught early while residents were in mandatory 14-day self-isolation.
It’s also justification for moving forward the GNWT’s Emerging Wisely plan. Our tight border controls mean residents and businesses should enjoy greater freedoms.
Some health professionals and doctors in the territory already threw their weight behind the easing of restrictions, citing more health concerns arising from social distancing than risks from the virus itself. The NWT Chamber of Commerce also wrote to Kandola, highlighting the drain on businesses associated with the Covid restrictions.
Now alarm bells are ringing in city council as financial losses from Covid-19 are already in the range of $2.5 million as of June 30.
City bureaucrats have used language such as “extremely volatile” and “unprecedented” to describe the situation. The city has been largely living off savings since the pandemic started.
Although a large portion of the municipality’s losses are coming from land sales at $1.3 million, another $813,000 in revenue was wiped off the books from diminishing user fees and slowing sales of goods, which includes recreational facilities that have been ordered to close.
So far NWT gymnastics has been given an exemption to keep practising despite not being an authorized phase two activity, but why stop there?
The GNWT is already underfunding Yellowknife by $11.5 million per year, so the least CHPO and Health could do is make some exemptions for municipal facilities, where appropriate, and allow the city to safely generate some desperately-needed funds.
Better yet, instead of providing exemptions piece by piece, why don’t we start talking about phase three?