NOTES/QUOTES #22: Green on the ‘Rona; a sturdier cabinet; one defiant killer; and media mumblings
“The plan is what it is, Ollie. I can’t change it. I recognize the need to defend it politically.” — Health Minister Julie Green talking to Cabin Radio’s Ollie Williams on the Emerging Wisely Plan.
In her first major interview since landing the fraught Health minister position in cabinet, Julie Green failed her Covid-19 test.
Failed, as she upheld the GNWT’s position of simply ceding all aspects of pandemic management to Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) Dr. Kami Kandola.
“I guess, like everyone else, I’m waiting on Phase 3 to come along. It’s going to give us much more freedom than we have now,” Green told Cabin Radio’s Ollie Williams last week.
Minister Julie, you are now in a position to lead, not just to follow. Are you going to simply rubber stamp every policy suggestion that is placed in front of you by your staff? Agree to all schemes dreamed up by your policy advisors?
Of course, as a public health professional, Kandola will put forth her ideal plan to provide chance-free protection of the territory from the nasty coronavirus. And she’s proven to be very capable of doing just that. But to the detriment of our daily life experiences.
But as with any other public servant, she will ask for more than she actually expects to receive.
And Kandola is going to be the star at future medical conferences. She’ll be held up as an example of what can happen when weak politicians at the highest levels just listen to the public servants — even if they are the CPHO.
Said Green in the interview: “I recognize that I may be able to provide some — not advice to the chief public health officer, because this is really a medical position and I’m not a medical person — but I can certainly relay the concerns of my constituents and the residents of the NWT in wanting to advance.”
Green has imagined he whole process of government in reverse. Now, at the beginning of this pandemic, I can understand how everyone freaked out and just wanted to get a handle on things. And Kandola’s plan has worked perfectly. The five cases we had at the time of this writing — with no community spread — have all recovered. And that was months ago.
But with our border closed and with mandatory self-isolation for all but essential workers, why are we stuck at the overly restrictive Phase 2 of the Emerging Wisely pandemic recovery plan? It’s just a situation without merit — and without a foreseeable ending — given the reality on the ground in the territory. The Emerging Wisely document was drawn up months ago and enacted in June. Hasn’t anything changed since then? Has nothing been learned about how to live with the threat of the ‘Rona?
People get it. We are socially distancing and wearing masks as needed. But businesses and civic facilities need to be allowed to open up more. Winter is coming and our life in the North involves being inside. Unless you enjoy being out on the land.
But I’m not a moose hunter and want to be able to enjoy life inside the NWT’s Covid-free bubble. Now if that bubble was to burst, we can roll things back a bit if we can’t test and contact trace the small outbreak of cases that we might very well get. But it’s just unfair and unreasonable to make us languish in Phase 2 until a vaccine is available up here. Which could be months and months and months from now.
“We are told by the media all the time that a second wave is coming, and that we need to be prepared for it,” Green said the interview. “And we’ve been briefed as regular MLAs – and I know the media has, too — about the pandemic plan and about the precautions that will be in place to take in large numbers of cases.”
How, exactly, would we all of a sudden get large numbers of cases? I can see maybe one or two cropping up in the evolving group of people who have travelled and are waiting the 14 days. But how would that translate into large numbers of cases without being detected and dealt with?
This is irrational fear. This is taking things to the extreme. This is a public health professional getting everything in her dream plan rubber stamped by spineless elected officials.
If we never take any chances in life, why aren’t all speed limits lowered to 30 km/h across the territory? Why do we actually allow people to go out on the land where they can get lost or injured? Heck, why do we get out of bed each day?
Said Green in the interview: “Did the return of teachers and students produce more cases?”
How could that possibly happen? We have no cases right now. Consider this simple equation: Add (virus-free) children + (virus-free) teachers + (virus-free) staff and what do you get? Virus-free schools.
Minister Julie, go ahead and get the Protect NWT and the 811 line staffed properly. Go ahead and make sure the enforcement at the border and of self-isolation plans is nimble and effective.
But please, for all that is precious, show some leadership and direct a relaxation of the rules inside our ‘Rona-free bubble to let us live in a bit less disruption. More people in bars and restaurants. Let our kids be kids in schools, pools and rinks.
We need to be able to gather indoors and as the days get darker and colder and be able to savour life in the North as we know it.
BUILDING A CABINET
I note that Green received the most appropriate portfolios for her abilities in the recent cabinet shuffle, necessitated by the recent ouster from cabinet of the rebellious and outspoken Katrina Nokleby.
I suggested in a previous blog Green should receive the Social Services, Persons with Disabilities, Homelessness and Seniors departments. Which she did, for the most part, along with the whopper file of Health.
She just didn’t get Homelessness, which would have been appropriate, as she represents the constituency of Yellowknife Centre. That responsibility remains with Paulie Chinna, of the Sahtu constituency in the middle of the territory — a person who has already admitted she isn’t keenly aware of aspects of the problem which is a major issue in the capital.
But I digress.
I didn’t think Premier Caroline Cochrane would take health from Diane Thom, despite the Inuvik Boot Lake rep underperforming on the file.
Overall, the shuffle does look decent. Caroline Wawzonek gets to focus on the Finance Department, with R.J. Simpson taking the Justice Department off of her hands.
However, the bright and accomplished Wawzonek does get the important task of directing the Covid-restriction saddled Industry, Tourism and Investment sector.
DEFIANT POST ON KILLER’S PAGE
A convicted killer apparently engaged in some jailhouse bravado — before he was sentenced.
“Locked upp but not forgotten, I’ll be out less den 2 years. #FreeAlecus,” stated a grammatically challenged post on a Facebook page apparently belonging to Alecus Quitte, of Gamètì.
Quitte, 23, was originally charged with murder in the stabbing death of 59-year-old Wedzin, which took place during an early morning argument April 2019 in Behchokǫ̀, fuelled by alcohol and drugs. And maybe some jealously.
Quitte later made an agreement with the Crown to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
On Sept. 8, he was sentenced in Supreme Court to six and a half years in prison. As I reported, Quitte was five days short of two years of remand custody credit, so will have that deducted from his sentence.
By law, most offenders must be released by the Correctional Service of Canada, with supervision, after serving two-thirds of their sentence. That means Quitte will likely serve three years behind bars.
Perhaps that post indicates some extra optimism with the pending plea deal with the Crown? Or maybe his math was just off.
MORE MEDIA MALFEASANCE
One of the many crosses that I bear is an inability to let bad journalism slide by.
Even if many outlets in the North employ rookies fresh out of journalism school, the editors are, for the most part, an experienced lot. In any event, the people of the NWT deserve responsible, accurate and intelligent reporting from companies purporting to be media.
So, I will call them out when the need arises. Here are a few matters that raised my eyebrows over the summer and in more recent times.
1) Driven by poverty and substance abuse, domestic violence in the NWT is a dire problem. We have some of the highest rates of the tragic crime in the country.
I was, however, a bit confused when it was announced in early August that the federal government was giving four women’s shelters in the territory more than $300,000 as a result of COVID-19.
The Tuktoyaktuk shelter and YWCA each netted $97,000. Hay River and Inuvik facilities each received $63,675.
It was part of a national money drop by the feds, including some 1,000 similar organizations.
As reported by CBC North, NWT MP Michael McLeod stated in an Aug. 5 news release the organizations have been “deeply affected” by the pandemic.
“The COVID‑19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for survivors of sexual and domestic violence and the organizations that serve them,” the Liberal MP stated.
“That is why our government acted to support women and children fleeing gender-based violence, including front-line organizations here in the North.”
No problem with that. It’s terrific news for the organizations. What I did find a bit confusing was the comment made by Lyda Fuller, executive director of the YWCA.
“(It’s) enabled us to purchase additional cleaning supplies and protective equipment, and to make other changes to ensure physical distancing for clients and staff who live or work in our safe shelters,” she said in the statement.
Confusing because three months earlier, Fuller told CBC North the number of women seeking her agency’s help dropped to a standstill amid the COVID-19 pandemic
“Here in Yellowknife, we had no clients at all for the month of April,” Fuller is quoted as saying. “And it’s still empty … And that’s very, very unusual. I can’t remember a month when we had no clients before.”
In the May 7 story, Fuller said was concerned abused women might not know the shelter was open, or worried over the potential for contracting the disease in the facility.
At the time, the NWT was in Phase One of the Emerging Wisely plan, or essentially complete shutdown. Relaxing Phase 1 came into effect on May 15. Relaxing Phase 2 came into effect on June 12.
Now I’m sure the $97,000 in federal cash will be well-used by the YWCA and perhaps they have seen clients showing up in the weeks after the May 7 story. But how many? And what was the cause of the pause in clientele seen earlier this year?
I do wonder why the CBC didn’t do any research on it’s own website and ask Fuller about that before simply re-writing the McLeod news release and hitting the publish button.
2) Disgusting spray paint vandalism over the summer at the Centre Square Mall parkade featured symbols of the neo-Marxist protest movement, Black Lives Matter.
A number of cars parked there were defaced with red spray paint — including a classic 1971 Volkswagen Beetle. Among the nonsensical scribbles were the letters “BLM” sprayed on a column, two walls, and the floor of the parkade.
For CBC North to describe the incident “alleged” vandalism is just silly. I mean, you can see it with your own eyes. I doubt the car’s owner did it to her own prized possession. The media up here in general use the term ‘allegedly’ far too often when reporting on crime. It’s just poor form.
Ambe Chenemu, an organizer affiliated with the BLM movement and its June rally in Yellowknife, said the BLM lettering didn’t represent the movement.
“I want to state here clearly that BLM is against any such acts of vandalism,” he told Yellowknifer. “I would like to emphasize that these types of sentiments and actions are what the black coalition has to deal with constantly to distract from the main conversation about anti-Black racism.”
3) This is just funny. But good on The Edge for candidly admitting its one-letter mistake.
I’m wrapping up this blog with an image that should send shudders through anyone who thinks the year is moving too fast. Or those of us who just dislike Christmas for a variety of reasons. Even before we enjoy Thanksgiving or Halloween, the fine folks at the local Canadian Tire are preparing to deck their shelves with all things Yule. A feast of excitement and anticipation for some; visual festive nightmare for others.