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FORUM: Pandemic brings out the best in humanity (Apr. 2020)

May 1st, 2020 · 3 Comments

Bell fears the worst is yet to come

By Jessica Bell 

COVID-19 has changed our world. Many of us are anxiously living in private, reading our screens, and feeling helpless. At the same time, the essential workers among us are working overtime to keep us fed and safe. They are our farmers, our scientists, our truckers and cleaners, our midwives, postal workers, doctors, and supermarket staff. We see you and appreciate you all. 

“The pandemic has laid bare the utter unfairness of our economy on so many people,”

Jessica Bell, University-Rosedale MPP

Our phones have been ringing off the hook as we grapple with the pandemic and its impact on our health care system, our economy, and way of life. We get calls from residents who can’t pay rent and fear eviction. From workers who are being told they must work even though their workplace doesn’t enforce physical distancing. From health workers who don’t have enough personal protective equipment. From residents who want the construction near their home to stop. From seniors who can’t leave their home and are relying on the kindness of strangers.  This is a very hard time, and the worst is yet to come. 

I have been looking for insight to help me draw meaning and comfort, and this is what I have found so far:

The pandemic is bringing out the best in humanity. Volunteers have stepped up to create local neighbourhood pods to leaflet their neighbourhood and then help people who need it. We care about each other, and my hope is this deepening compassion for our neighbours lives well beyond this time.   

The decline in car and airplane traffic is something I have never seen before. I am savouring the clean air and the quiet streets. It is true that this peace has come about through our temporary forced hibernation, but even so it is letting us imagine what our cities could be and what we are capable of. If we can reduce air and car traffic for a pandemic, we can take these kinds of steps to tackle a climate crisis that threatens our very future.

The pandemic has laid bare the utter unfairness of our economy on so many people. Deena Ladd, the executive director of the Workers Action Centre, explained it well when she talked about the working conditions of janitors on the CBC. During COVID-19 janitors are doing the invisible work of helping stop the spread of the virus, and we treat them so badly for doing so. Many janitors get minimum wage or less, they have no access to benefits, like paid sick time, they have less money saved for hard times, and many are not even eligible for government help if they are fired because some have no social security number. 

What is true for janitors is also true for many of the low-paid workers who are keeping our economy on life support, from our delivery drivers to our security guards. They are overwhelmingly poor women of colour.  As we recover from this pandemic, I hope more of us will work to make our economy fair. For a start, that means demanding governments raise the minimum wage and guarantee decent benefits for all. 

Someday soon things will come back to normal. It will be easier to be happy again. My hope is that when we look back we will remember this period not just for its boredom, anxiety, horror and grief, but also for it being a turning point where humanity changed for the better. 

Until then, stay home, wash your hands, and practice physical distancing.  You are saving lives. 

Please contact our office at 416-535-7206 if you want to know what all levels of government are doing, what we are advocating for, or if you want to receive or provide help to others. 

Jessica Bell is the MPP for University-Rosedale.

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Tags: Annex · Opinion

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