Covid. Never has a word instilled so much fear and anger…
But what has it meant for the average family living in Canada? The answer would very much depend on who you ask, and although we have fared much better than our American neighbours, the toll on the economy, the loss of life and the inability of Prime Minister Trudeau to get vaccines into Canadian arms, has left a bitter taste in many a mouth.
Things seemed to start well in March as we went into lockdown, borders were closed, businesses shut down, and the government rolled out CERB payments – Canada Emergency Relief Benefit that the government implemented to help Canadians afford their necessities if their job was impacted by Covid-19.
Canadians were given $2,000 every four weeks for a maximum of six payments. Businesses were also given relief funding, both for employers to keep their employees, and to stay afloat. Wonderful! What could possibly go wrong?
Firstly, the government initially gave out criteria businesses had to meet to qualify for the payments. But then, weeks later, it changed the criteria and asked self-employed people that had originally qualified to return the funds that they all of a sudden didn’t qualify for.
The government had set a minimum requirement of income to be $5,000, but weeks later they changed this wording to NET income, meaning that certain people that had qualified previously now no longer did. This sent small businesses into a panic as they had used the money to keep their dying businesses afloat and had no way to return these funds. With a projected 200,000 small businesses in Canada closing over the course of this pandemic, changing rules and splitting hairs in what qualified a person for aid was a real kick in the teeth for struggling Canadian businesses.
As the months passed, more and more businesses closed their doors for good. And still are. And these are not just your local “mom and pop” stores (a colloquial term for a small, family-owned business), but small, well known chains. It was either not possible to stay open within the new guidelines, or the loss of money during government closures was just too much to carry on.
Luckily for our family, we managed to keep our small roofing business afloat, but we took a huge hit. Our roofing season started as we went into lockdown which led to customers cancelling and delaying work. We had no calls coming in to the office, and had no idea if our business was going to be deemed “essential” for us to be able to carry on working after lockdown. The government set up an interest free loan for businesses, but our little business couldn’t meet the criteria they had set. They wanted to know exactly how much of the loan was going towards paying employees, and without having any staff at the time, or knowing how busy we were going to be the rest of the year, we couldn’t answer that – and were refused the loan. It really felt like the smaller the business was and the less money you earned, the harder it was to get aid. Billions were spent on relief funds but Mr Trudeau is still refusing to give out all the details on where the funding went exactly. Leaving a lot of questions remaining on how well these funds were allocated and who actually benefited.
Schooling is also still very different here.
With the previous school year ending in a total free-for-all leaving parents hanging on to their sanity, September brought about huge changes in education. With the exception of Quebec (don’t ask), parents were given the choice whether to send their children back to school, or to continue to remote learn at home. Remote learning brought about online classes and a whole new approach to learning, as well a lot of hurdles to overcome. Even though schools are open, hot spot areas have schools closing their doors amid outbreaks, throwing children back into remote learning again, causing more issues for parents who are trying to hold down a job and pay bills.
For our family, we decided that our one school age child would stay home and remote learn. It was definitely challenging to start with, but he’s thriving and enjoying being able to learn technical things that he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to at school. But as great as it’s been, the second they no longer require mask wearing at school he will be returning. The lack of socialisation with his peers is not something we would entertain long term.
As well as the struggle of taking care of two toddlers, I have to juggle life between nap schedules and school break timetables, making sure the older one is signed on and working, handing in his documents and hopefully not leaving his bedroom door open for the whole class to see me in my pyjamas. It’s not been ideal, but we’ve made it work.
As Canadian cities and regions dance in and out of different zones and lockdowns, the pressure is on for Mr Trudeau to get vaccines rolling out to the masses. With dates that seem to be ever changing, the best we can get from our Prime Minister is that everyone who wants a vaccine will have one by September, with the elderly and infirm getting theirs starting in June.
As I look out of my window at the snow covered March landscape, September and its air of pumpkins and bonfires seems like a lifetime away. Two whole seasons, in fact. As a leading world country, I can’t help but feel as do many, that this isn’t really acceptable. We currently rank 40th in the world in per capita vaccinations with a little over three percent of the population having been vaccinated so far. With our American allies backing out of providing us with the promised vaccines with cries of “America First!” (no surprise there), Europe falling way behind in providing us with the ordered vaccines, and Canada having nowhere to produce them, Trudeau has sent out a plea to India which is promising one million vaccines will be sent to us. But who knows if we will get them.
We watch on as our American and British friends are posting selfies of their vaccinations, wondering when our time will come and how long this is going to be drawn out for. We are stuck in a kind of limbo, with regions opening and closing, zones constantly changing, and the threat of yet more lockdowns to come looming over us. We are fed up, tired, and just want normality back. How long that will take remains to be seen, but I can’t help but feel a bit despondent as I watch the rest world get vaccinated knowing our time is so very far off.