Powlowski reflects on difficulties of 2021

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer
kkellar@fortfrances.com

Like the year before it, 2021 was in many ways ruled by the COVID-19 pandemic, and not everyone was impacted the same way – something our Member of Parliament is well aware of.

Speaking with the Fort Frances Times to both look back on the year that was and look forward to what might come to us in 2022, Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Marcus Powlowski acknowledged the difficulties of 2021 when it came to COVID, particularly in how different sectors struggled in different ways.

“I certainly realize and acknowledge that the burden of fighting COVID has fallen more on some people than upon others,” Powlowski said.

“Living in a society, you always have to do some things for other people, and the government expects certain things from its population; we all have to pay taxes, we all have to follow various rules and laws. However, the degree of sacrifice the government has asked from its citizenry over the past year is probably only surpassed by times of war. Various levels of government have asked a lot of people, from closing their businesses to not travelling or going overseas, to not visiting their elderly relatives in nursing homes. This has been a very difficult time where it’s only been through people’s self-sacrifice that we’ve managed to avoid many of the hardships that could have come out had we not done these things.”

Powlowski stressed that he is aware that the lockdowns and restrictions have been more difficult to deal with in some areas than others. Pointing specifically to the Rainy River District, he noted that sectors like tourism have been especially hard hit as border closures and travel restrictions cut off the clients who return year after year from the United States or other parts of Canada.

“Some sectors like home repairs have done really well, whereas other sectors like the tourism industry, the hospitality industry, gyms, hair cutting places, for example, have all had to really bear a disproportionate amount of the impact, and we’ve seen businesses that people have spent years and years making successful, now face financial difficulties having to deal with COVID. It has been a real disproportionate impact on certain people and certainly in [the Rainy River District] the tourism sector. The lodge operators have been particularly affected, but also others like restaurants and bars and other stores.”

Powlowski said that all levels of government owe a debt of gratitude to those people who have “done the right thing” during the pandemic, such as limiting social contacts, wearing masks and avoiding travel to help keep the COVID pandemic from getting even worse, and moving forward into 2022 he sees the federal government being able to ease off on some restrictions, particularly as the current Omicron variant is appearing to present less severely in vaccinated individuals.

“Given a lower risk from Omicron, I think that affects the calculus on how much we have to close down,” Powlowski said.

“Having said that, if you have overwhelming number of cases, even though it’s much milder, perhaps – and there’s a big emphasis on ‘perhaps’ – there would be significant problems and burden on the health care system, but I’m thinking it would be wise of Canada to have some faith in the experience of other countries that are ahead of us on the Omicron curve. In original COVID I think we underestimated the experience of other countries.”

“I think this will be a big blip, and certainly the number of cases is high right now, but I’m not expecting this to be a major setback,” he continued.

“It is a setback in that we’re currently seeing closures, but I think it will be a brief setback and not one that causes a lot of hospitalizations. I’m hoping by February we’re seeing ourselves out of this, and hopefully is one of the last blips in the COVID saga, and we can continue on the road to normalcy. I think we were on that road before Omicron hit and this is a bit of a bump, and we’ll still be on that route.”

As long as Omicron continues to be mild, Powlowski said he predicts the federal government will be able to spend less money on COVID response and more on “basically getting on with life.”