Not unlike the classic radio programming promo tagline, it was all COVID all the time on Thursday (December 17) when Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef conducted her annual end-of-the-year one-on-one media interviews.
Coming near the end of an extremely challenging and, for all too many Canadians, tragic year, that was no surprise. Since its advent in March, the pandemic has dominated global and local headlines with little to no sign of that changing any time soon. That it dominates MP Monsef’s thoughts as the calendar prepares to reveal a new year fulfills expectations.
For those who expect to hear expressions of hope and encouragement from their elected representatives in the midst of dark times, MP Monsef doesn’t disappoint.
“We have, over the past 10 months, gone from not really knowing what this virus is to having a vaccine for it,” she says.
“To have vaccines on our soil, to have those first needles go into people’s arms this past week, we have come a long way since this pandemic was declared. That’s a testament to the systems and institutions that those who came before us have left us with — our universal health care system, our democratic institutions, our public health.”
“We know the fight against COVID has not yet ended but there’s certainly hope. Hope that the vaccine is going to roll out, hope that our communities are going to hold together, and hope that the lessons of the pandemic will be applied to building even stronger systems, even stronger institutions, even stronger communities to be able to have the resilience to deal with whatever may come next.”
As the the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, MP Monsef stays on script, saying if there’s a silver lining to be found in the dark COVID cloud, one need look no further than the role women have played in the response to the pandemic.
“Eighty per cent of those on the front lines of the fight against COVID are women,” says MP Monsef.
“One of the few highlights of the year has been our country’s collective appreciation for women who are essential to our very survival, whether it’s stocking grocery shelves, or cleaning hospitals, or looking after our kids, or looking after our elders.”
“These amazing humans, who have devote their time and talent to looking after our loved ones, to looking after our very basic needs, haven’t always received the appreciation or recognition that they deserve.”
“There’s a collective reckoning across the country where we are seeing these heroes in a new light. They have made some of the biggest sacrifices. They’ve taken time away from their loved ones, they have been exposed to the virus, they have showed up to work day after day.”
“The best thing that we can do to help them and lessen their workload, to let their live get back to some semblance of normal, is to keep following public health advice. To stay home this Christmas, as difficult as that may be, to wear face coverings, and wash our hands.”
Saying the best part of her job “is the people part,” MP Monsef says she has been no less immune to the pandemic’s effects.
“My community is where I get my grounding. It’s where I get my inspiration. To not be able to walk downtown and go into Showplace or Market Hall and see people, see artists on the stage, see the community supporting them; to not be able to go to the Norwood Fair, to not be able to see the Santa parades, it is definitely hard.”
“Life has changed but what fills me up now is our community has been able to contain community spread so well. That’s thanks to so many people, including public health and our residents who are making a lot of sacrifices.”
Staying connected to each other, says MP Monsef, will be key to any success the COVID recovery plan meets.
“At the end of the day, we are all Canadians,” she says. “The response to COVID has been strong because of our connections, not only with one another but also between leaders. That Team Canada approach is going to have to hold strong.”
“The federal government has been able to do what it can so that eight out of 10 dollars spent on COVID measures support individuals, businesses, and charities, but also support provinces and territories with delivering on their responsibilities around health care, around education, around child care, and so on.”
“That collaboration is going to be essential to the vaccine rollout but, beyond that, in the recovery. Those connections are going to have to remain strong for Canada to get out of this, to stay competitive, and to build back better.”
As she looks ahead to the new year, equally anxious to put 2020 behind us, MP Monsef says “there are so many reasons to be hopeful and optimistic about what’s ahead of us.”
“My hope is we continue to practice physical distancing and other public health measures that have allowed our community to come this far. My hope for those who have lost loved ones and haven’t been able to come together to grieve is that they find strength knowing there’s a community around them that can’t wait to give them a hug; who can’t wait to shed tears with them.”
“It’s going to be okay. We’re going to get through this because we’re Canadians and because our community has always come together in difficult times.”
“There’s going to be a lot of hard work on the other side of this thing. We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and move forward fast, but my hope is everyone takes a break (over the holidays). A lot has happened. Very few people are okay. I haven’t met anybody who has said ‘Oh ya, I’m doing great.'”
“My hope is people rest and know they have just endured one of the most difficult years of their lives, but it is going to get better.”