Yukon Needs Leadership

April 28, 2020

Now more than ever, as citizens begin to grow weary of the continuing COVID-19 shutdown, the Yukon needs leadership.

Any responsible Yukoner believes protecting lives must come first, however most would also agree our current situation is unsustainable.

Thankfully, the Yukon has yet to experience a single coronavirus-related hospitalization.

That also means the small number of people infected to date is considerably outnumbered by those who’ve been negatively impacted by the shutdown, and in some cases, irreversibly.

These costs go beyond the economic and include the realm of the social.

Physical distancing policies have denied families support everywhere from maternity wards to continuing care; separating loved ones during their most precious first, and final, moments.

It gets even crueler, in the government-mandated isolation where substance, domestic and child abuse goes unchecked.

While it is difficult for those who are suffering, many would say these sacrifices are necessary and preferable to the alternative: community spread.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

If we were willing, however, to close all borders we could stop all contagious diseases; if we outlawed driving we could prevent motor vehicle fatalities; if we shut down the oil industry we could reduce emissions to stone age levels, (though millions would freeze and starve to death).

To be fair, humanity has not faced a challenge like this pandemic in generations, so politicians are taking direction from medical experts – ordinary professionals in extraordinary circumstances doing the best they can – but public confidence wavers when their advice changes daily.

And while doctors may be experts in health, they are not experts in financial or cultural health – or political leadership.

For example, with our Premier seemingly abandoning his post, the Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is left to face Yukoners alone.

But the fact is he was not elected by Yukoners to be our leader.

Most of what has passed for leadership from the territorial government so far amounts to some variation of “We’re waiting for the feds to take the lead.”

Which brings me to the subject of our Member of Parliament, Mr. Larry Bagnell – where is he?

Even the Prime Minister emerges daily from his extended self-isolation marathon like a cuckoo clock long enough to try to grant himself 21 months of unchecked power.

Legislators in democracies around the world, not to mention teenage grocery clerks working for minimum wage, still show up for work every day.

Ironically, it’s not the bankrupted hairdressers whose voices governments will ultimately listen to.

It is the collective voices of their shaggy-mopped clientele, denied basic services, whose thousand-fold chorus will rise and shout “Enough!”

I categorically reject the notion of this so-called new normal – in a free society, quarantining healthy people is not normal and never will be – there has to be a better way, for our vulnerable and for our society and economy.

For our country to survive, we do not need more “free” money that is borrowed from our children – with interest.

We need leadership, and we need it now.

Jonas J. Smith