Looking back on this most dreadful year, I think about how wholly unaware we all were as 2019 drew to a close that 2020 would be unlike anything we ever experienced. I thought I knew what I would be doing right through the year. I look back now through a calendar of canceled plans – the JUNOs in Saskatoon in mid-March, a visit to my Cape Breton family in summer, the climate negotiations in Glasgow in November, a big family Christmas. All canceled.
We learned a whole new vocabulary with words – like COVID19 – and some old words with new meanings – like “flattening the curve,” “bubbles,” and “zoom.”
I never imagined I could end up with back spasms from something called zoom – as members of parliament stayed focused in our desk chairs in home offices across the country for 14-hour parliamentary sessions. Mind you, I am grateful we had the technology that allowed parliament to continue to function without all of us travelling back and forth across the country. Travel never felt safe in the pandemic – even with masks and gloves and distancing in the airports. By July, we were squashed together on the planes. I was very relieved in September when we finally adopted the practice of voting on zoom.
I left Ottawa in October without having to go back for the rest of the year. Still, I made amendments to legislation, debated on every bill, and represented my constituents – arguing for changes, many of which were accepted.
Of all the words with new meanings, right now “second wave” feels the most unsettling. Since spring, we were told by infectious disease specialists that the second wave would likely be worse than the first. We feel that now with a deeper reality. But we are also experiencing hope. The dedicated efforts of scientists around the world have produced a range of vaccines in record time. The challenge over the coming months will be to stay very careful. The availability of vaccines will remain limited. We must remain vigilant, taking on our personal responsibility as we fight to be free of COVID altogether.
So, my wish for 2021 is for new words – next words. Let our 2021 vocabulary be full of words like “recovery,” “resilience,” and “renewal.” As British Columbians and as Canadians, we are among the luckiest people on earth. We know we can rebuild a more resilient society because the pandemic has shifted our priorities. We will emerge from this awful time stronger. For the first time since the Second World War, we have gone through a shared experience of sacrifice and national resolve. When called upon to continue to move together to a stronger economy that moves rapidly away from fossil fuels, we can do it. We can work together to ensure we have more access to locally produced goods and more local food. We can remake a fairer society. Resilience is key to our recovery.
May 2021 be a year of recovery, renewal and of a re-imagined future.
Elizabeth May is MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands