COVID-19 - The Orca



The COVID-19 pandemic is dominating the news, and rightfully so. Maclean & Jordan will offer an on-the-ground perspective of the implications and challenges of this societal shift – and links to interesting stories, news and takes. 

Trust the People – Again

May 5, 2020

We did our job (and in B.C., we did it spectacularly well): we flattened the curve so healthcare wouldn’t be overwhelmed. But now politicians are moving the goalposts…

From Kevin Libin in the National Post:

“…our initial, at least reasonable goal — ensuring our health-care system could cope with the pandemic — appears to have been lost. Leaders apparently think they must now stop people from catching it altogether.”

But trying to 100% contain the uncontainable is impossible. We trusted citizens to be careful and smart and #stayhome (and employers led the way in making massive financial sacrifices to do just that) — now politicians must trust those same citizens to be careful and smart and mitigate the risks for themselves.

Give us the tools and the guidelines and trust the people. It wasn’t Adrian Dix or Justin Trudeau or even Bonnie Henry who flattened the curve: it was millions of Canadians sacrificing every day. Trust us again.

– Jordan Bateman

Not this bad, surely? (Credit: Tony Hoffarth)

The world to come

April 16, 2020

Remember flying before September 11, 2001?

Try to imagine going back in time to 1999 or so, and telling yourself you’d willingly submit to removing your shoes, a pat-down and full-body scan just to board a short flight across the Straight. Now, such things feel normal…if still annoying.

Emergency measures sometimes have a way of becoming permanent. There’s no better example than income taxes, introduced as an emergency measure to finance the First World War.

Why do temporary, emergency measures become permanent? An entire economy forms around them: jobs; equipment; training; regulatory bodies; and much more. And few companies or governments want to be the first to say “this thing we’ve been doing for your safety? It’s too expensive to justify anymore.”

So for example, if airlines start taking passengers’ temperatures before they board, there’s every reason to believe our kids will still be doing it 20 years from now.

I’ve been thinking about the ways the COVID-19 crisis will change the world – from the big and profound, to the small and comparatively trivial. It’s a thought experiment, and I hope you’ll join me.

If you’ve got any ideas or wild speculation about the post-COVID world, please email them to, and we’ll start collecting and sharing them. Big, small, sweeping or narrow and personal – I’m interested to hear them all.

– Maclean Kay

The family that masks together, stays together

The Bright Side – Day 29

April 13, 2020

I married up. Almost 20 years ago, Jenny and I got married and it was the best decision I ever made. And (not that I needed the reminder) it sure has shown during our past four weeks in isolation.

Yesterday, Jenny tweeted this gem:

As usual, Jenny is right. We will likely never have this quantity of time to spend with our three kids. There have been moments of incredible joy and laughter, and (of course) moments of fatigue and loneliness and sadness.

Jenny added a followup:


– Jordan Bateman

Jobs ⬇️

April 9, 2020

The early unemployment numbers from StatsCan are crushing: more than 1 million jobs lost nationally in March.

And April looks to be worse.

In B.C., 132,000 people lost jobs — 132,000 people and families thrown into turmoil.

It’s heartbreaking.

– Jordan Bateman

Housing Starts ⬇️

April 8, 2020

The folks at Desjardins sent over a troubling chart:

It’s not a surprise that B.C. housing starts are down 20% in March. The question is where B.C. will bottom out. How do you market pre-sales? Who feels confident enough to buy a new home? Will it fall off another 20, 30 or even 50% next month?

It’s another body blow for the B.C. economy, and another sign of how a V-shaped recovery may be a pipe dream.

– Jordan Bateman

What are you thinking, Green Party?

April 7, 2020

One of the more encouraging aspects of the COVID-19 response in BC has been the temporary ceasefire of partisan politics.

The opposition BC Liberals and (sort of opposition) BC Greens have been singled out for setting differences with the governing NDP aside, and working together on a unified policy and message.

For a collection of reasons, this spirit hasn’t been nearly as evident at the federal level, but neither has it been business as usual. While there has been criticism – in particular, a poorly-communicated attempt to give the ministry of finance sweeping powers to raise taxes without oversight – opposition parties have, in general, and admittedly with some examples to the contrary, understood that sniping is counterproductive at the moment.

So it was disappointing, to say the least, to see the tweet below:

Where to begin? First, it’s not accurate. Decisions about what constitutes an essential service are made by governments, not corporations – including the one in Victoria, supported by the provincial Green party.

Second, the presumption. Neither Elizabeth May nor the intern(s) tasked with social media are, to my knowledge, a medical doctor, much less an epidemiologist. There are guidelines in place for work sites, from construction sites to grocery stores.

Are they adequate? I don’t know, and neither do you. But if Dr. Bonnie Henry’s policies are robust enough to grow, ship, stock, and buy groceries safely, there’s no immediately obvious reason to think she’s being wildly reckless elsewhere.

Third, the tone. Fine, you don’t support Trans Mountain or Coastal GasLink. That’s allowed. You can express that – yes, even during a pandemic – without sounding like a throwaway line of dialogue in Riverdale.

Yes, a majority of Canadians and British Columbians support the two major current projects. But there’s a sizable and vocal contingent that doesn’t, and there’s nothing wrong with speaking to and for them. But you can do that sincerely and respectfully. Really, it’s not even that hard.

Good morning. Today, we’re continuing our focus on convincing authorities that it’s a mistake to continue work on A and B. We hope you’ll speak up with your support.

That’s just a first draft, written in seconds. I’m sure they could do better with even minimal effort.

The Greens, like many political figures around the world, have fallen into a now-familiar trap: they’d rather play for applause on Twitter than try and change unconvinced minds. Being taken seriously is harder, but it’s the only way to have real, lasting influence.

– Maclean Kay

R.I.P. Bill Withers

April 3, 2020

I’m not a big music guy. The children (and my wife) make fun of my terrible taste, which basically extends to songs I know the words of, and were put out before 2000.

But when I saw Bill Withers passed away today (of heart issues, not COVID-19), I couldn’t help but take a few minutes and listen to his song, Ain’t No Sunshine.

I’m not sure it’s possible to listen to it and feel nothing. What a gift he had.

– Jordan Bateman

Peak 2020?

March 30, 2020

Today, I sat at a makeshift desk in my home, perched on a hard dining room chair, and took a webinar to learn how to lead a webinar.

That’s pretty much peak 2020. (Or it would be, if I did a podcast episode about the experience afterward.)

– Jordan Bateman

I tried to get loud.

March 30, 2020

I tried, Jody. I really did.

Like many others, I’ve been inspired by the dedication, professionalism, and flat-out heroism of healthcare workers and other frontline workers. After reading Jody Vance’s piece about how much it meant, and how cathartic it’s been in her household, I wanted to follow suit.

It doesn’t take much persuasion to prod my five-year-old into making noise – especially at what ordinarily is bathtime.

Our condo isn’t in downtown Victoria, but it’s close, and – I thought – sufficiently urban that we wouldn’t be alone.

So, one evening after dinner, I brought the little man with me out on the balcony, and told him when he heard people applauding, banging pots and pans, and shouting “thank you”, he should feel free to join in.


You know the scene in How The Grinch Stole Christmas where, at the top of Mount Crumpet, the Grinch eagerly cups his ear to hear sad wailings from Whoville?


Waaaaaaaay off in the distance, we could hear some isolated cheers. They stayed far away and isolated.

From the balcony, I could see some of my neighbours on their balconies and patios. They weren’t listening, they were cooking, lounging, eating – acting completely normal.

I couldn’t bring myself to start banging pots and shouting at them.

Maybe tonight?

-Maclean Kay

Doug Ford

Ford Nation. ?

March 26, 2020

I had quite the thought yesterday:

Given the lackluster Democratic field, the Cuomo prediction seems pretty reasonable. The Governor has dominated the media and taken big, bold steps to try and lockdown New York. He certainly seems to compare favourably to the current president.

Over at RealClearPolitics, Cuomo has better odds to secure the nomination than Bernie Sanders:

The Doug Ford ascension during this crisis might be the biggest political surprise of all. When the Toronto Star (THE STAR!!!!!!) publishes headlines like, “Doug Ford has risen to the coronavirus challenge,” you know we’ve entered some kind of weird world. Ford’s handling of the crisis is supported by 70% of Ontario residents:

Not bad for a guy who was way underwater a month ago.

And, as bad as the Democratic field turned out to be, the Conservative Party of Canada has been even worse. Could Ford be the answer?


Remember: if you’re in construction, check out for a regularly-updated list of resources to help you navigate this pandemic.

The last pre-lockdown sunrise I saw from my office window.

Ups and Downs.

March 25, 2020

We’ve had more family dinners in the past 10 days than we did in January/February. We’ve walked miles and miles together. We’ve played video games. And street hockey. And mowed the lawn. And cleaned out closets and drawers. The dishwasher seems to be running twice as often as normal. We celebrated a birthday. And watched shows. And did puzzles. 3PM has become our regular date with Dr. Bonnie. My wife and I working from home; the kids being respectful of that.

For 9 days, it has been pretty good. Sure, one of us would get tired or grumpy from time to time, but we persevered and those down moments were isolated.

Yesterday – Day 10 – was a tough day for the five of us in our house. It was as if all of us suddenly realized at once that there is no end in sight to these physical distancing measures. There’s no end date, no relief in sight. Just more of the same. No hanging with friends, no seeing dear members of our family, no school, no office time, no shooting hoops with our buddies, no, no, no, no.

We get that we’re lucky to have a nice home, a stocked pantry, and good health. But as our liberty and freedom is set aside for the good of society, there will be more tough moments.

This morning, things are brighter here. A good night’s sleep reset us. One day at a time – that’s what we talk about now.

Hang in there, everyone.

Remember: if you’re in construction, check out for a regularly-updated list of resources to help you navigate this pandemic.

I mean, you probably have time.

Lockdown reading

March 24, 2020

So. You’re stuck at home. Instead of staring at the wall, waiting for the daily briefing, allow me to share lots of great Orca content to read:

Dene Moore on beacons of hope in a sea of darkness – British Columbians who are stepping up to the plate and helping the people around them.

First Nations communities, in many cases remote and already with worse health outcomes, are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. As Carol Anne Hilton notes, it’s imperative they take action – and many are.

Businesswoman and mom Ada Slivinski was (partly) homeschooled. What she learned then can help you now in quarantine.

Jody Vance is finding ways to stay connected with friends and family – and so can you! Here’s how.

Finally, it’s not reading, but Jody Vance and George Affleck are always worth a listen/watch. In UnSpun 63, they assess how local, national, and international players are handling the pandemic.

Pre-beard, pre-power grab


March 24, 2020

Justin Trudeau overreached.

The Trudeau Government went into the House of Commons today seeking unfettered tax -and-spend powers for the next 21 months. They cloaked it in the COVID-19 emergency, but really, this was a way to short circuit a minority parliament and impose their will on the nation.

If you’re being generous to them, maybe you think they would have used the power for good. But if that’s the case, such measures should fly with the Opposition parties (see how the NDP, BC Liberals and Greens worked things out yesterday in Victoria as a good example). This one didn’t, and for good reason.

Trudeau dropped one controversial clause, but the legislation still leaves the government with very little parliamentary oversight. The Tories are clear:

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, the party’s finance critic, said the Tories would be willing to pass the aid part of the legislation — additional money for Employment Insurance and the newly created Emergency Care and Emergency Support benefits — “without any of the power grab provisions that they tried to sneak in.”

Time for Trudeau to do what he should have done in the first place: vet this legislation with the opposition parties BEFORE trying to force a showdown in the House. It’s another example of the Trudeau Government talking about the importance of non-partisan communication, and then failing to walk that talk.

Remember: if you’re in construction, check out for a regularly-updated list of resources to help you navigate this pandemic.

Spring can’t be quarantined.

A Whole New World.

March 23, 2020

An email sent to me today was like a crocus in the deep freeze of winter: beautiful but fragile – hope coming just a bit too soon.

A noted provincial business leader sent me three ideas for how to generate an economic recovery after this pandemic. It paraphrased a quote from Rahm Emanuel: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

True. But timing is everything. Every government on earth is (or should be) running full tilt on controlling this pandemic and helping those harmed by the virus and the economic collapse that is occurring with it. They are at full capacity, and then some. They simply do not have the space for their own ideas and legislative plans (when’s the last time you heard about no-fault insurance from the BC NDP?), let alone new ones for the post-pandemic world.

I kept the email and the ideas – for as surely as spring follows winter, so will the opportunity to blaze new economic trails and pitch all sorts of bold plans and strategies — hopefully to open, hungry, receptive ears. We’re just not there yet.

But just as winter came, so we know: spring will come, too. And I can’t wait to see what ideas come forth — and you can bet many of them will be right here on The Orca.

Shameless plug: if you’re in construction, check out for a regularly-update list of resources to help you navigate this pandemic.


March 19, 2020

For most of us, being “stuck” in a pandemic means being in isolation at home. But for thousands of Canadians abroad as airlines and borders shut down, being stuck means something quite different.

Ottawa has confirmed many Canadians will be stranded abroad for weeks – possibly including a judo team of 13 kids caught in Ukraine.

The Orca’s very own Bob Price is among those caught abroad. He’s doing fine, but it’s sobering to know the federal government can only do so much; chartering private flights for everyone outside our borders simply isn’t feasible.

In the meantime, if you’re reading this from away, hang tough, stay healthy, keep safe.

Provincial state of emergency, legislature coming back, and more.

March 18, 2020

Before the daily 3:00pm briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, here’s what’s new today.

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth declared a State of Emergency, and announced the legislature will resume sitting next week, with a minimum number of MLAs, and likely for one day only. Here’s how that will work.

The Orca has had some great pieces on the COVID-19 from different angles:

Here’s Jody Vance reminding us that different people will face different health, financial, and emotional challenges during this crisis. Stay calm, and be kind.

Roslyn Kunin: What we need now is leaders – political, business, and social – who have a healthy dose of decency.

We don’t know what’s coming – but we do know we can’t afford to be casual about COVID-19, writes Michael Taube.

Small businesses aren’t cookie cutter, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for them to get through the pandemic, says Ada Slivinski.

That’s just a start – check back every day for more.

K-12 schools closed until further notice

March 17, 2020

It’s official: school’s out. In an update today, Premier John Horgan and Education Minister Rob Fleming confirmed what had been suspected for some time – that schools have been directed to suspend in-class instruction indefinitely.

All students will receive a final mark, and those who were on track to move up to the next grade will do so, including Grade 12. For the time being, daycares and preschools are allowed to stay open.

COVID-19 Updates

March 13, 2020

Starting Monday, we will have some fresh perspective on COVID-19 and the effects in BC. In the meantime, do what we do: obsessively refresh the BC Centre for Disease Control’s website at: