David Marsden: With the amount of money being spent, costly virus fight should pay off

It’s worth acknowledging the city’s admission that community garden plots should be permitted this season, despite measures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For those unfamiliar with the gardening program, the public makes spaces available at a small cost for Red Deerians to spend time outdoors in fairer weather so they can grow their own vegetables.

Predictably, residents’ response to the ill-considered ban was immediate.

“At the young age of 81, I still feel the need to get out to the garden, be it for exercise, fresh air, or just the satisfaction of growing my own veggies,” wrote Ron Hiebert in a letter to the editor.

“It is not a meet-and-greet occasion,” he said of the hobby, noting there’s no reason people who are already self quarantining together can’t enjoy cultivating a garden.

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If the city hadn’t been dragged into changing its mind on community gardens by the common sense of Red Deerians, it would have been embarrassed just days later.

The provincial government has ruled the garden centres we associate with spring are an essential service.

Residents will be happy to know that once warmer weather finds its way to Alberta, as it has done in recent days, there will be greenhouse-raised plants ready to be nursed in our gardens.

Canadians have been united in their resolve to combat the spread of COVID-19 and have acquiesced to unprecedented limits on their ability to socialize, earn an income and spend time with loved ones.

Canadians have complied with regulations that have prevented the proper observance of births, birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, retirements and deaths, all in an effort to ensure as many people as possible survive the scourge.

Protection of the public’s health won’t come cheap, of course. The federal government’s bill alone for direct support to Canadians is estimated at $52 billion.

It is an expense that will limit future governments’ choices and will weigh on generations to come.

Time will tell how effective the response has been. We already know that Canada and many other countries were slow to respond to the threat of the virus.

Public health officials ignored warnings that transmission of the disease was spread from person to person.

Calls to close the border were dismissed as xenophobia by those who are still in charge of Canada’s response to the pandemic.

Canadians have heartfeltedly witnessed the dedication of front-line workers such as medical employees, especially those who care for our loved ones in extended care facilities.

But will paying almost all public-sector employees to stay away from their workplaces smooth the curve?

Will giving a government cheque to every private-sector worker who doesn’t sell such essentials as gas, grass, liquor and lottery tickets, or deliver meals, be the secret to stopping the spread of the disease?

These workers, and the dedicated people staffing grocery stores and big-box retailers, are the barrier between Canadians and the disease.

The trouble is people aren’t staying at home, even when they’re being paid to do so at tremendous public cost.

We can only hope that as people go about their daily chores, picking up essentials such as hair colour and beer, and perhaps food for the next meal, that their actions will keep the disease at bay.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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