By Stewart Skinner
Last fall, Jess and I took the plunge and finally bought a house – a house that is attached to 65 acres and a couple pig barns – but a house all the same.
The lawn is in tough shape; it hasn’t seen a roller, sweeper, or any seed for quite some time, so like a dutiful homeowner I went to town in search of grass seed, fertilizer, and a broadcast spreader last week. Beyond a successful mission for the tools I needed to start competing with the well-manicured lawn across the side road, I came away thinking that Listowel seemed to be back to normal. Canadian Tire was packed, Walmart and Zehrs had a parking lot full of cars and the nursery was rammed full of folks, eager to get into their gardens. Flash forward a couple days to Sunday and I was reminded that we still have a long way to go in our pursuit of getting back to normal. I woke up with a craving for Dianna Sweet’s hashbrowns and a strong desire to be at Knox Presbyterian Church, neither of which were possible.
There are inconsistencies that have arisen in the approach we seem to be taking here. How is it that a church remains closed, not even given the chance to implement a social distancing plan for worship, while a couple arrows taped on the floor no one pays attention to in Canadian Tire are deemed safe for the masses of people in search of greener lawns to congregate? This perceived inconsistency is not pointed out in protest of the protective measures as a whole, but I will admit to becoming increasingly frustrated with approaches that seem to be deviating from common sense.
There was much gnashing of teeth by pundits and health professionals as images from popular gathering spots this past weekend showed mass gatherings of people. A popular spot was Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto; hundreds of young urbanites packed into the park on what felt like the first weekend of summer. The gathering elicited condemning remarks from Mayor John Tory and Premier Doug Ford, yet it seems that some are missing the real reason the park was packed.
People who have been cooped up in a 700-square foot condo in a concrete jungle can only go so long without green space and time with other humans. If I am going squirrelly on the aforementioned farm, I cannot imagine trying to do this in a condo. People generally make their decisions based in self-interest and folks who have looked at the stats and realized that while there is still a small risk of negative outcomes from gathering, the need for social contact and desire to soak up some sunshine with friends far outweighed any perceived risks.
As long as there continues to be confusing rules that the average person perceives to be inconsistent, there will be reduced conformity. Why would that urban dweller at Trinity Bellwoods listen to the Premier or Prime Minister when they have both travelled to cottages and gathered with extended family? Why shouldn’t our family join with friends in a backyard for a campfire when we are interacting with untold number of strangers every time we go for groceries?
There may be good underlying public health reasons for the approach taken right now, yet if that is the case, those reasons are not being presented in a manner that resonates with the general public. As long as the communications disconnect continues, this haphazard ‘opening up’ will continue to see people flouting rules that don’t make sense to them.
Stewart Skinner is a local business owner, former political candidate, and has worked at Queen’s Park as a Policy Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @modernfarmer.