By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
Oshawa MP Colin Carrie, like many, spends his time social distancing while continuing to do his job, and also washing his hands a lot.
“I try to get into the office about once a week and do my rounds,” he says. “I go shopping usually, get some groceries, and I do try to drop some things off at the local food banks and stuff like that because they are suffering right now.”
Carrie says he is experiencing social distancing like everybody else, and is missing the human contact he would have normally had.
“I’ve noticed, again, the essential services, and normally I go shopping just north of my house at Freshco on King Street, and I had a conversation with the manager, and was very impressed with those Canadians who are at work providing our essential services and working together,” says Carrie.
He adds he’s noticed businesses have made investments to keep their employees safe.
“When you go out shopping, you’ll notice there’s these plastic barriers, gloves, things along those lines to make sure that everybody that is working is doing so safely,” says Carrie, adding it’s a bit unusual, and is taking everybody a bit of time to get used to it.
He notes this is an unprecedented time, and praises Oshawa and the rest of Canada for their fortitude.
“We’re seeing some of the best Canadians here in our community. A lot of people are sharing, helping out neighbours,” says Carrie. “The role though of our government is to make sure that the health and safety of Canadians remains our primary concern, and as we get through this we have to learn how to deal with a pandemic such as this, because we’ve had pandemics before, we’re going to have them again, and make sure that we protect the most vulnerable.”
Carrie says his life has consisted of conference calls during the pandemic, and he’s been back to Ottawa a few times as well.
“We’ve all been working together as part of the opposition to hold the government to account,” he says. “There’s been some unprecedented spending put forward, and programs, and the good news is, by working together I think we’ve been able to improve these programs.”
However, Carrie notes there are a lot of questions coming from constituents who want to know if they qualify for benefits from the federal government.
Carrie is also concerned about small businesses in Oshawa, as he says they are hurting.
“We’re getting a lot of calls. This morning, my first inquiry was from a hair salon, which have all been shut right down,” he explains. “It’s a small business, it still has rent and bills to pay. How do they make it through this? How do they bridge through these shut downs before they can reopen safely?”
Carrie notes there are also questions on what will be required when this first wave of COVID-19 ends, and how will companies reopen. He notes businesses will want to get ahead of things so they’re prepared to safely open their doors, and keep their employees and customers safe.
“There’s so many questions, because really the response here from the government has been unprecedented around the world, and we’re learning as we go. So I think everybody’s intent is to all work together, get through this, and find out what the new normal is going to be like,” says Carrie.
He says the efforts everyone has been making has seemed to flatten the curve.
“The challenge with a respiratory disease like this is it’s very hard to contain, and we’re doing all of this to avoid the overburdening of our healthcare system, which I think right now, if we’re looking at Canada and different places around the world, we’ve been fairly successful in that goal,” says Carrie.
He notes there are still high numbers in Ontario and Quebec, and social distancing will have to continue as the virus continues to be studied.
Carrie says his concern for seniors hits close to home, as his 91-year-old mother is in a seniors residence.
“I’m very, very concerned about her, because it does seem to be people in that demographic that it hurts the most,” he says. “I miss the contact with people that I’m very friendly with, but we have been adapting.”
Turning to the government, Carrie says right now there is a lot of time to criticize the response of the federal government.
“I think if you look in the media there is a significant criticism of the laissez-faire approach [from the federal government],” says Carrie. “I know myself, I was asking questions in the house about when the government is going to start taking this seriously. There is a realization now that we definitely need to do better and, as part of the opposition, we want to make sure that we get the government’s policies as close to perfect as possible.”
Carrie is positive that as society moves through the initial waves of COVID-19, the Conservatives feel the House of Commons should be up and running, it’s just a matter of how it’s going to work.
“I personally think the more questions we ask of the government, the better it is because then we come up with better policy, and that’s better for all Canadians,” says Carrie. “There are definitely some problems and challenges that the federal government will have to answer for as far as their handling of the pandemic.”
However, Carrie doesn’t believe now is the time to be extremely critical of the federal government, but it is the time to criticize, and make improvements to the policies that are out there.
“I’m happy to say too, that we have been quite successful in that regard,” says Carrie. “The government has listened to us, they’ve made changes, and some people argue they’ve made too many changes, they should have listened a little bit more earlier on.”
However, Carrie notes the government doesn’t always listen, and believes they are more “reactive” than “proactive.”
“Right now what we want to do with our role [as the opposition], is make sure… that they do come up with the best policies, and if they don’t, we improve them,” says Carrie.
Carrie also hopes to have better statistical gathering from the government in order to better protect citizens.
“I’ve been talking to some of the nurses in the nursing homes. They have a classification called ‘presumptive COVID,’” explains Carrie. “This is somebody who may have one or two of the symptoms, but they’re just assuming they’re suffering from COVID-19, when it could just be the normal flu that’s going around this year.”
He notes some presumptive COVID cases he was told about were also having urinary tract infections, which isn’t a symptom of the virus.
“We need to collect better statistics, and we need to test more Canadians,” he says.
He says without good statistics, the government can’t make good policy.
“I think that’s what we’re seeing right now. There’s been some scrambling on how to send resources to the places where they’re needed the most,” says Carrie. “Thankfully, it appears now what we’ve been learning out of Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan, if you want to look at modelling at who’s done it better than Canada, they definitely have done it much better.”
He notes two weeks ago South Korea, which is right next to China and was initially hit hard by the virus, was able to successfully have a federal election despite COVID-19.
“They began testing, collecting data right away, and it was contained a lot quicker than it has been in Canada,” he explains. “So I would say that really needs to be accelerated right now.”
To those who are beginning to feel stir-crazy, Carrie reminds them to base their decisions on science, as well as hard data.
“Sadly, because the government hasn’t been testing, and hasn’t been collecting the data with the right categories, it’s really difficult to give really hard and fast answers to people who are going stir crazy, who want to get back to work, and who feel it’s reasonable to get back to work,” he says.
He notes they are looking around the world at what other countries are doing to see the best practices the federal government can emulate.
“Every life is precious, and we have to do our best to make sure that as we ramp up and return to normal, and return people to work, we do it once the wave has passed for sure, but we do it in the safest way, and the healthiest way possible,” says Carrie.
To frontline workers, Carrie says he believes Canadians owe them the biggest thank you.
“We’ve seen Canadians step up in our healthcare system, our transportation system, our food and delivery system… they’re doing their best to go into work, maintain all the best practices, and continue to help the everyday people who are most vulnerable,” says Carrie.