Merry Christmas…you’ve got a lot to appreciate
By Craig Westcott/December 23, 2021
It’s the time of year for counting our blessings.
Even with another wave of Covid shutting down Christmas in much of the world, we’ve still got a lot to be thankful for, especially here in Newfoundland.
Two years into the pandemic our little corner of the planet has largely escaped the devastation that has hit other places. Our isolation from the rest of North America, and the slower economy for much of the pandemic, is largely responsible for that.
The politicians deserve some credit too though. Canada remains far, far too reliant on China and other countries to produce even everyday things that we all depend on. But Justin Trudeau’s government did manage to get us vaccines ahead of many other countries. Double dosing saved many Canadians from the ravages of the Delta variant, and the booster shot – if enough of us get it in time – will knock down Omicron.
The federal government also stepped in, a bit late for some, to save many individual incomes and family businesses during the early months of the outbreak.
We can all recall the fear and uncertainty when the country started closing down in March last year. There were hints and promises of “We have your back” from Ottawa, but no actual money.
To conserve cash to keep the paper going, I had to lay off all the staff at The Shoreline and do everything myself – writing, layout, ad design and sales, and distribution. My father gave me some money at the start of it to tide me over. Between that and an unexpected income tax refund I was able to keep publishing. I even expanded coverage and distribution as far as Carbonear when The Compass closed down.
I remember coming home in the night, after distributing papers to some 160 locations in CBS, Paradise, Mount Pearl Conception Bay North, and the Southern Shore, stripping off my clothes in the basement and cleaning up before going upstairs to join my family. Nobody knew how transmissible Covid was then. Some people were so scared they were even washing their groceries.
I didn’t pay myself for nine weeks, but managed to keep the business afloat. By the end of April, the federal wage subsidies started flowing, and we were able to rehire staff.
Many other small businesses had similar experiences. So, thank to Ottawa for coming through. Canada wasn’t unique in providing such aid – Germany, Britain and even the United States offered similar programs. All that government money caused inflation, but it’s doubtful many businesses would have survived without it. The roar back of the economy since then has helped many small businesses get back on their feet. The Shoreline is actually stronger today than before the pandemic started, thanks to those helping hands when we needed them and the great people who work here. I’m also very grateful to the many businesses that stayed open and their brave employees for enabling us to keep bringing the local news to our thousands and thousands of readers every week.
The provincial government also deserves credit for keeping a calm hand on the tiller throughout the pandemic. Mistakes were certainly made. But how could they be avoided when you are managing the first pandemic the world has encountered in a century?
The pandemic has delayed the necessary restructuring of our provincial public service. The rebuilding blocks are available in the form of the Green Report and the Health Accord commission, which is looking for ways to streamline and improve health care. The pandemic has delayed some very difficult decisions for government. When Covid is conquered, we’ll have to summon the same kind of courage and calm we showed during the pandemic to put our provincial finances in order. Nobody, not even a province, can live on a credit card without paying it back.
On a sadder note, we lost our long-time distributor, Barry Ross, to cancer this year. Barry took sick one day in the parking lot of the printing plant while waiting for the papers to roll off the press. At first, doctors thought he might have suffered a mild stroke. But he got sicker and within weeks had died from cancer of the liver and pancreas. He was a big part of our team, a reliable figure, who even at age 71, went unflinchingly into dozens and dozens of places every week, during a pandemic, to deliver The Shoreline. We still haven’t replaced him, which has meant a lot of extra work for the rest of us in getting the paper to the shelves on time every week. My daughter Maddie adopted Barry’s beloved dog, Angel.
Let me end by thanking the many people who help us in ways big and small this past year: everyone from the women and men at the plant who print The Shoreline every week, to the folks at Canada Post, who help with part of our distribution, to the hundreds of businesses, individuals and organizations who advertise with us throughout the year, to the store owners and their staff who make room for our papers, to the hundreds of people throughout the year who graciously give us their time to share their stories, to you, gentle reader, for taking our paper home and spending time with us, completing the loop that starts when the first phone call for a story or ad is made each week.
God bless you all. And remember, while this latest variant has put a damper on some things, it has not stopped Christmas.
At the risk of sounding corny, Christmas is the light in the eyes of your children and parents and partners, it’s in the smiles and laughter of your friends, in the sometimes unexpected kindnesses of strangers. That is the real gift of Christmas and all the year through.
Thanks to the hard work and great intelligence of mankind, we have the vaccines and know-how now to defeat a dangerous virus. Take comfort in that and do your part by getting a vaccination. The world is depending on you, and you have an important part in it.
So, be grateful, put on a smile, and to quote the crowd from Monty Python, ‘Always look on the bright sides of life…’
Whistling it helps. You can’t do it without smiling. I’ve tried.