Don Martin: Pandemic divides, from grocery shopping to the border
OTTAWA -- Pandemic polarizations are breaking out around the world.
We’ll get to the politics of division in a bit, but profound distancing in personal behaviours and attitudes are also taking hold.
Consider my residential isolation tank, now shared with a working-from-home spouse holding a higher place in the household hierarchy as sole income-generator.
She laughed off my weeks-old drive to load up on survival supplies, including a number of cases of beer and wine, by pointing out there was enough food and booze in the house to last for months if required.
Forget the risk of a grocery store trek for fresh produce and meat, she said, rummaging deep into the freezer for a frost-encased pot roast which could’ve been deposited there when beef was cheap during the mad cow outbreak in 2003. A little freezer burn never hurt anyone, apparently.
Then there’s the shopping dilemma.
Like many Canadians, I believe in supporting the besieged retail economy and staying safe by shopping online, all the while remaining in deep denial over the cut-in-half value of my supposedly-bulletproof RRSPs.
This dramatic behavioural shift actually produced a day when TWO delivery vans crossed paths in the driveway at the same time, one of them dropping off TWO parcels.
Trouble is, you could buy a dozen Home Depot items with just one credit card charge and sneak it into the garage without being noticed.
But online purchases are billed and delivered individually, which unleashes a shriek from my spouse at the reading of every Amazon-filled credit card statement. This is invariably followed by an immediate cease-and-desist order to stop my unaffordable shopaholicism when a retirement in poverty is reflected in the stock market freefall.
What’s worse, you can’t even sneak purchases into the house because every delivery is announced by the ringing of the doorbell. Being busted by the bell is going to be a chronic problem.
This has created considerable tension with my spouse, even though one of my best purchases was a Bluetooth earpiece so I don’t hear both sides of her speakerphone business calls. Trust me. This is now essential survival gear in a shared home-working world.
Now, this supposedly being a political column, we should turn to more serious divisions at play.
Consider this week in Parliament where the unity of the crisis didn’t even make it to the emergency Commons floor before fracturing into partisan acrimony.
To his credit, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer embraced the $107-billion-plus support package the Liberal government put forward. Scheer’s head would’ve exploded at that historically-deep red number just one month ago.
But these sneaky Liberals couldn’t resist embedding a power grab in the bill, giving the government unsupervised emergency power to spend, tax and subsidize until late 2021.
It was a silly, quickly-repealed move and it spoiled the unity mood, which was already rocky given the Liberals regularly shrug off Conservative demands for tougher isolation measures only to impose them a day or two later as a responsible response to keep Canadians safe.
This brings us to the most dramatic and potentially deadly divide in pandemic politics - the tightening Canadian coronavirus clampdown verses ramping-up American sentiment to save the economy over lives.
Nobody yet has a clear picture of what the massive North America trading block will look like if U.S. President Donald Trump enacts his Easter economic resurrection over the dire warnings of his own public health experts.
The Canada-U.S. border would become much more than a line of political demarcation.
It may separate a Canada on hold waiting for the all-clear on COVID-19 containment from an America where the virus runs free in a population accepting vulnerable deaths as collateral damage for the greater good of a collective paycheque.
This suggests a dramatic difference in how leaders personally handle the crisis.
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau washes his hands, it’s to scrub off the coronavirus.
For Donald Trump, it’s an economic clean-up procedure. But the blood from tens of thousands of lost American lives won’t wash off with just soap and water.