NOTES/QUOTES #15: Big bucks; big problems and bad hair
“If I had a million dollars/ Well, I’d buy you a house/ And if I had a million dollars/ I’d buy you furniture for your house/ Maybe a nice chesterfield or an ottoman.” — Barenaked Ladies, from the 1992 hit song.
Our emotional lives depend on dreams and hope. That’s what the lottery ticket industry preys upon. That’s why you see senior citizens carefully reach into their coin purses to shell out for a 6/49 ticket, a scratch and win or a bingo card. Nobody ever gives up on their dream or a better life for themselves or others close to them.
Of course, I’m no different. I buy several lottery tickets each week. I enjoy sitting in my favourite chair and eagerly scratching away on a Triple Millions ticket, like some dog digging up a bone.
It’s all about keeping your hope alive. Escaping from the drudgery of life — especially in these #covidcrazy times — and wandering through a fantasy life of new cars, houses, jewelry and trips around the world.
My lottery daydreams have evolved over time. They have matured from the rock and roll all night and party every day ethos of the ‘90s, to a more ‘practical’ exotic car collection in the early ‘00s to my community focused thoughts these days.
The word that a $55 million in Friday night’s Lotto Max draw was purchased in Yellowknife has set social media on fire. Fifty-five-frickin-million-dollars. Whew!
My first thought was to check my tickets for the draw. I had two. Neither came close.
My initial feeling was that of raw jealous rage. Yup. I admit it. “Who won that” I thought. “What will they do with it?” I continued. “Why wasn’t it me?”
So after I quickly went through the several stages of mourning, it occurred to me that this will be a great social experiment. I think I know what I would do with that kind of cash. But now I can see how the great burden of instant mega-bucks will be handled by someone else.
So what could the multi-millionaire — the city’s wealthiest person, I would suspect — do with a bank account overflowing with cashola? Not managed properly, it can turn into a nightmare.
The obvious would be to of course, take care of family and friends. Hands will be out and it will not be easy to meet expectations. Of course, have some immediate fun. Although that will be severely toned down in the COVID-19 world.
Then, think of what the community could do with a big chunk of that cash.
Housing? Business? Leisure? Social programs? The list is endless. But if I was the big winner, I would definitely work with local governments and agencies to determine the best bang for my many, many bucks.
After all, how much money does one person need? Out of $55 million, surely half of that could be donated to some causes that would leave a lasting legacy in the community.
But it will all come down to who won. How their life experience has brought them here, to Yellowknife. Will they just pack up and leave, flying away to their new private island?
Imagine if the winner is from a small village or town in the NWT. That place could be in for a windfall if the lottery winner is community minded.
Or we just might never see them again. We all wait with bated breath for the winner to be revealed.
It will be very interesting to see what the winner does with that money. Aside from being life-changing for the ticket-holder, through any philanthropic giving, it could help shape Yellowknife or a NWT community.
As for me? I’ll continue to buy lotto tickets. It’s all random, so there’s no reason another big winner couldn’t come from Yk City.
And on the bright side, I received my $52 Carbon Tax Rebate. And I’ve been using very little gasoline. So I’ll take that as a win.
“Some businesses will fold or be scaled down.” — from the GNWT’s April 29 plan for COVID-19
So the experts have now decided we all have to stay home. And it will be at least three weeks for any easing of COVID-19 restrictions. That’s well into our spring in Yellowknife and into a time where people should be, and need to be, outdoors where social distancing is easy and the virus is far less transmissible.
But wait, what virus? There are no active cases in the NWT. We don’t have community spread. It has been more than three weeks since the last case was reported. All five of the NWT’s cases have recovered. Apparently, only one of those people required lengthy hospitalization.
Across Canada, provinces are slowly re-opening businesses and schools. Or at least have solid plans for doing so.
Not here. No plan. Just a plan for a plan released last week in an online GNWT committee meeting that was plagued by technical difficulties — horrible sound and most participants were a deep hue of blue — to the point it had to be ended early.
On April 29, Chief Public Health Officer Kami Kandola — or, really, Premier Kami Kandola — said it will be at least two to three weeks before any restrictions are lifted.
Does Dr. Kandola know much about corporate debt and restructuring? Does she understand the importance of small business to the economic and social health of the territory, Yellowknife in particular?
“Relaxation of health protection measures will be guided by the chief public health officer — an Emerge Safe Plan,” states the GNWT’s COVID-19 Economic and Social Recovery — Developing An Economic and Social Recovery Plan, released on April 29, 2020.
Yes, it’s time for this conversation about who is running this place. We are allowed to ask questions. We are not just subservient slaves. Government works for us.
My former boss Bruce Valpy, publisher of Northern News Services Ltd. stated in a recent column: “Economic recovery is where the passionately, oft-repeated cry of ‘We are all in this together’ becomes an empty platitude. When it comes to the economy, we are not in this all together.” He noted GNWT workers got a raise on April 1, “… at the very same time businesses were laying off, shutting down, wondering what financial calamity means in every future moment.”
The purpose of the lockdown was to avoid overwhelming the heath-care system. Good. That didn’t happen.
As with any seasonal illness, people will get sick. Some of the most frail will die.
It’s a delicate balance. Life is a risk/reward balancing act.
You go hunting, you could get lost and risk dying in the woods. You go sledding and you could slip into open water or hit a low tree limb. You cross the street and you decide how carefully you will look both ways.
You drive on the highway and you choose to speed. Or you drink and drive. You are making life-or-death decisions. Heck, having unprotected sex can put your health at risk. Remember AIDS?
We open up society and business in the era of COVID-19 and people will decide what level of risk they are willing to take.
We can’t live in our bubble-wrapped world indefinitely. We are now at the point where every extra day counts.
Keep our borders closed and continue to impose self-quarantine orders on people entering the territory. But good grief, just to say “Some businesses will fold or be scaled down. Many small NWT businesses will have more debt,” is admitting defeat and throwing a very wet blanket over the hopes and dreams of entrepreneurs.
We can’t continue to huddle in our houses — hiding under our desks — how do we know when it’s safe to come out? When will they tell us?
What’s the determining factor for us in the NWT — with only five confirmed cases, all recovered — for us to return to some semblance of a normal life?
How many people have already had the virus and didn’t even know it? We need antibody tests more than the test for active COVID-19. We need to develop some level of herd immunity, which we might already have.
How long can this go on without major consequences to the economy? I mean extensive flattening of our GDP to the point where we are totally reliant on the federal government — even moreso than the 80-per-cent we are now?
What about the effects the lockdown is having on society and mental health? We are now risking financial crisis for many non-GNWT workers. Those 5,000 employees haven’t lost a dime since the Covid Clampdown, with most simply ‘working’ from home.
Kids aren’t getting exercise, education and receiving the social contact they need to develop properly.
We get it. We can social distance in public. We can wear masks. We can wash our hands and keep clean. We can keep our workplaces sanitized.
We are living under near-martial law. We are living in a police state where people are asked by the government to rat out their neighbours.
Doctors can only see risks to individuals or groups. While I might appreciate the risk-averse advice from my doctor regarding a cancer diagnosis. But COVID-19 isn’t cancer.
The expert class, the administrative state is winning here and are enjoying the power.
“Prior attempts to engage stakeholders collaboratively have been frustrated by competing interests, goals and objectives. This should not be the case with a shared commitment to successfully recovering from the pandemic,” states the GNWT’s plan for a plan. “The business community, the social sector, communities, Indigenous governments all need to be part of our longer term planning.”
We are in trouble, folks. Whenever I see the term “stakeholders” in government wonkspeak I die a bit inside.
You must comply — or else. But society is used to freedom. Especially up here in the North. We are going to run out of patience.
Does our government really know what they are doing? Sure, it’s very easy to shut things down. The brave part will be to open backup. That’s where we will need leadership and that’s where true leaders will emerge.
Then you have the #covidcrazy people. Those alarmists maybe don’t fully understand the impact the novel coronavirus will have on them. For the large majority of people who are not senior citizens and are in generally good health, you could get sick and have to struggle as you might with the flu. The danger is that one person could infect others in our often crowded living conditions in the North. That’s true. But we don’t all live in those conditions.
So that’s where we need our leaders to come up with solutions that don’t involve locking down everyone.
Allow smaller communities to continue to quarantine themselves if they want until a vaccine or effective treatment is found. That could be months or a year of even more. But it wouldn’t be hard for many smaller places to do this.
That would allow larger centres with more health resources to return to work and breath life into an economy that will help the entire territory.
Economic well-being is integral to social well-being. With travel restrictions here for the long term, our promising tourism industry is on ice.
“International tourism definitely gone short term and will take (a) long time to recover – whether NWT tourism industry can shift to domestic tourism is unknown,” states the GNWT’s plan for a plan.
That’s awful. Tourism was just starting to be a real growth story. Something to in a modest way distract us from worrying too much over the diamond-mining industry entering its final stages.
But we can’t allow other businesses to die on the vine. And government subsidies and emergency loans will only do so much and won’t help all types of businesses.
We need to move forward. The most vulnerable should be helped. They should be allowed to quarantine. So should people who have to — out of sheer necessity — come into contact with Elders or people who are medically frail.
“The NWT, with the office of the chief public health officer, will outline a plan to relax measures guided by shared principles and based on the NWT’s circumstances,” states the GNWT’s plan for a plan.
Just keep in mind that business owners need some advance notice of any new measures so they can plan to reopen. And I would hope we will see more patios available outside restaurants and bars without having to hurdle GNWT red tape
The bottom line is we have a nice new hospital that can absorb some people who contract COVID-19 and need care. But, we have a nice city that is sitting idle.
For the love of Pete, figure it out. And don’t get distracted by some folks hoping to weasel some pet ideology — The Green New Deal, for example — into our recovery. We will be living in a different way as it is.
I am losing trust in this government. I want to see a real plan put forth in coming days on how we can emerge from our Covid cocoons.
We will move with caution. We are scared. But we also need to live our lives.
FINANCE MINISTER TALKS ABOUT A CUT
Caroline Wawzonek has emerged as one of the brighter stars in the GNWT cabinet.
The criminal defence lawyer won the Yellowknife South constituency in last fall’s election and was handed the weighty portfolios of finance and justice.
Wawzonek is well-travelled internationally and territorially. She also has a spouse and two children. She is the kind of person I am always in awe of — balancing demanding professional and personal lives, especially when kids are involved — and I believe she has the potential to be a strong and respected leader. Including being premier.
That’s why it was refreshing to hear how she is struggling on a personal level with the COVID-19 lockdown. We forget how some of the things in life we take for granted are gone at the moment.
In a nearly hour-long April 23 virtual constituency meeting, during which she was frank, open and honest — and after answering many questions, several concerning COVID-19 imposed home-schooling, and obviously questions about the NWT’s finances — she offered some personal thoughts on what she would like to see this year.
“Aside from the fact that I would really like to get my hair cut and not to have to ever teach long division myself … I would like to plant a garden and bake a loaf of bread at some point,” she said.
Ah, to dream.