To The Editor,

Pretty grim times. Almost 1,200 dead so far. Over 30,000 sick. National economy in the trash can. National debt through the roof. No, not the best of times.

But it will all end, at some point. You and I both know this. The virus will burn itself out. It will end. We don’t yet know when, but it will happen. We won’t have to live in fear of talking with our friends and neighbors any more. We will go back to living our normal lives. But what will ‘normal’ be like? What will be left of our old life? What will our new world look like? Well, we don’t know that either. But we can make some educated guesses.

Unemployment will be very high. A lot of businesses, particularly small to medium-sized business, just will not have been able to weather the storm. Heart-breaking. People put all their money, all their hopes and dreams, all their time, thought and effort into something and, through no fault of their own, it’s gone. Sad beyond belief.

So, what to do? Well, Canadians have proved through crisis after crisis, that they don’t quit. We aren’t built like that. Wars, depressions, natural disasters, we don’t go down. We stand up. We fight back. We look around us at the wreckage, roll up our sleeves and get working. Leave it to others to whine and moan about how there’s no hope. We are Canadians. We invented hope.

So, let’s narrow the focus a bit. What about us, here, in Champlain Township? Well, we are going to take a hit as bad as anybody. A walk around next-door Hawkesbury already shows a lot of empty (not just closed for now) store fronts, and many of our other local employers are cutting back, laying off. No doubt about it, its going to hurt. And whatever we do, it’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of hard work to pull ourselves up. To get back on our feet. So, let’s start doing that. Right now.

Someone way smarter than me once said, “Yeah, sure, it’s a defeat. But it’s more than that. It’s an opportunity.” I like that. Never say die. Never give up. Yeah, I like that. Probably, because I’m a Canadian.

So, what do we know? Well, we know this. In spite of pandemics, disasters, economic collapses or whatever:

The population will continue to grow.

The population will continue to grow older.

That older population will still need somewhere to live.

Yet all the presently existing seniors’ health-care facilities, retirement homes, long-term care residences, nursing homes etc. have become, suddenly, toast.

Would you now be comfortable putting your much-loved mother or father or a cherished grand parent into one of what, in many cases, turned out to be deadly environments? Me either.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming anybody here. They did not see this coming any more than you or I did. And the courageous staff there are doing their level best in an awfully bad situation. But now we know. All those residences are way below the standard they should be. They were not built to deal with what we are now facing and may face again. Across the board, seniors’ homes and nursing facilities are going to have to be completely redesigned and rebuilt. In many cases from the ground up.

So, why not build them here?

We live only an hour’s drive from both Ottawa and Montreal and both these big cities generate thousands of elderly and retired persons every year. Our transportation links are excellent. Our work force is fluently bilingual. Our air is clean. Our countryside is beautiful. Our people are ready, willing, and able. If we could convince others that this is the place to build such residences, there would be hundreds of jobs in construction and the associated trades, followed by hundreds more in the staffing, management, and supply of such facilities. Plus, we would keep our beautiful green and blue township. So, how can we make this happen?

Its pretty clear that this is a job for our local government, our township council, and that it’s a two-fold task. The first is to find the developers and business people who build and finance these long-term residences. How do you do that? And we would certainly need a skilled, energetic economic development officer to do the finding. Do we have any of those?

The second task is for our council, perhaps together with the councils of Hawkesbury, East Hawkesbury, and Alfred-Plantagenet, to put together a package of incentives around taxes, municipal services, land use, etc. And I do not think letting the county level of government get involved would be a good idea. They are the ones who tried, and are still trying, to stick us with that cement plant monstrosity. We get the pollution and economic stagnation; they get the tax dollars. No thanks.

Is this residence-building idea the only one? Certainly not. There must be dozens of other equally good or better ideas out there for clean development and jobs. But with much of the long-term care industry in shambles, and some even discredited, we have a window of opportunity in that particular field which we should at least look at taking advantage of.

In any case, let’s start looking forward now, today. We are down. We are not out. It will end and we will come back. We can do this. We can do anything. We are Canadians.


Colin Affleck

Champlain Township Resident