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Provinces move to relax economic lockdown

MichaelTaube
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Not the beginning of the end, but perhaps the end of the beginning.

The slow, gradual process of reopening the Canadian economy has finally begun.

Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island announced last week that the economic lockdown in their respective provinces would be relaxed.

None of the timelines are fixed, local businesses won’t open up at once, and everything could theoretically change if an unexpected uptick in the number of active COVID-19 cases and total deaths occurred.

But it’s a good start.

On Monday, Canada’s two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec, announced their tentative plans to relax the economic lockdown and create a sense of normalcy.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault, with the blessing of public health officials, said that primary schools will be allowed to reopen in his province on May 11. (The one exception is Montreal, which will start the process on May 19.) High schools, community colleges and universities will remain closed until the fall, however.

“Life has to continue,” Legault remarked during his press conference.

He’s right, even though it may end up being a different life than we once had.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford unveiled a cautious, sensible three-stage process to start reopening his province’s economy. “This is a road map, not a calendar,” he said, and they “won’t be rushed into anything.”

Public health officials will work hand-in-hand with the Ontario government. Businesses will be brought back into the marketplace with a trickle-down effect. Appropriate social distancing, combined with regular hand washing and other safety measures, will be part of the daily regimen.

If the virus spread continues to decrease in regular two-to-four-week increments, access to businesses and outdoor locations like parks will increase. Certain facets of daily life will return in Ontario and residents can finally start to breathe sighs of relief.

Ford didn’t announce a timetable for his plan at the press conference. Since COVID-19 symptoms aren’t under control in Ontario yet, that was a prudent move. My guess is it will start in June or July.

The rest of Canada’s provinces and territories should follow suit shortly.

The key to defeating the COVID-19 pandemic is, and has always been, about patience.

Yes, there are Canadians hurting financially and emotionally. Yes, there are Canadian businesses and employees who want to reopen – and, more importantly, need to reopen for survival. And yes, the Canadian economy needs to get moving again.

Crowding public areas like sardines, joining anti-lockdown protests, screaming to the heavens that everything should be back to normal, and claiming to know more than the experts in the field won’t get us closer to those goals, however.

The vast majority of us have used social distancing, staying at home, self-isolation, and safety and health measures in a wise, prudent fashion. That’s why the number of active COVID-19 cases and total deaths has remained relatively under control in Canada.

We know that some things will be different in our society. They often are after experiencing life-changing events like a pandemic, if you use history as a guide.

A vaccine remains a wild card. Many individuals, companies and institutions around the world are working night and day to find a cure. The hope is something will be available in March or April 2021. It could take much longer.

Nevertheless, many things will return to normal. Seeing, holding and socializing with our families, friends and loved ones. Going to restaurants, bars, theatres, sporting events and other forms of entertainment. Walking on the streets and in parks for as long as we want.

Our freedoms and liberties will also come back in full force. Capitalism and the free market economy will make a most welcome return, too.

We’re getting there, ladies and gentlemen. We’re getting there.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

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