|Site C, BC|
In the past couple of weeks reports have started to come in of freshly empowered cops and by-law officers seemingly going overboard enforcing often vague new rules around social distancing. In Police and bylaw harassment is not a coronavirus cure we noted that without proper oversight and control police will seize on even necessary restrictions to behave in draconian and arbitrary ways and that this is certain to have a greater impact on racialized and marginalized communities as well as on those living in poverty.
It already has as with the grotesque example of police in Hamilton, Ontario ticketing homeless people.
There are also mystifying examples like the Oakville, Ontario family hit with an $880 ticket after going rollerblading even though they all lived together and were nowhere near anyone in an area that was not marked as closed. This is obvious overreach and the enforcement officer was, frankly, acting like a bully.
To excuse such pettiness various politicians point to the fact that there are people recklessly flaunting the rules in anti-social ways. There was even a "demonstration" by a group of conspiracy theorists in Vancouver who were later labelled quite rightly as "covidiots" by twitter.
Clearly intentionally dangerous behaviour like that is unacceptable.
The trouble is that all around the crackdowns and pleas for social distancing by the political class hovers a dark cloud of hypocrisy.
Some of the hypocrisy is on a personal level. Thus we have Justin Trudeau, despite "repeatedly urging Canadians to stay home for Easter amid the coronavirus pandemic, even if it meant not seeing their families" crossing the border of Ontario and Quebec to do exactly that with his. At a cottage no less though authorities have begged people to not go to their cottages.
Then there was Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, Liberal B.C. cabinet minister Carla Qualtrough, and Conservative Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer, his wife and their five children all practicing the opposite of social distancing on a small jet to Ottawa on Friday. Not a good look.
Far worse is the fact that millions of Canadian workers cannot practice social distancing in any meaningful sense for large parts of the day as their jobs have been deemed as "essential". Many of these are among the lowest paid workers in the service sector at grocery stores, chain pharmacies and the like.
To some degree this is unavoidable. People have to be able to purchase food and medicine, though it does not necessarily follow that they need to be able to do so in the relatively laissez-faire way that is for the most part happening. This lack of structure is entirely meant to put the corporations and the economy ahead of the health and safety of workers and the public.
But even accepting that some of these stores need to be open, and that some services like the mail need to continue, huge construction projects are being allowed to proceed when there is nothing "essential" about them under these circumstances at all.
These include projects like Site C in British Columbia where literally hundreds of workers not only work in close proximity to each other but also live together in man camps. The BC NDP government even rescinded the state of emergency that the City of Fort St. John voted to implement to allow construction to proceed.
As the new BC Ecosocialist Party pointed out, this does put the foolishness of the "Covidiots" into a bit of perspective.
The demands for people to stay at home already do not fall anywhere near evenly in their burden. It is one thing for wealthy or upper middle class folks drinking cocktails and wine on the patio or in the yard to not leave home and quite another for poor or working families living in overcrowded apartments to do so.
Due to overzealous enforcement and confusing "rules" some people have told media that they are scared to go outside at all lest they get in trouble. Alternately they have to to get to work.
The problem with such obviously egregious disparities and with government and political hypocrisy both small and large is that it undermines not only public health efforts to fight the spread of Covid-19 but also public confidence that our "leaders" actually mean what they say and are practicing what they preach.