The Ontario Provincial Legislature at Queen's Park, Toronto.

Speaking Out: Leaders’ example sorely lacking

By  Elizabeth Gay, Youth Speak News
  • January 20, 2021

Canada’s provincial and federal politicians essentially locked the country down again over Christmas because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Tightening restrictions intensified the dreariness, the darkness and coldness of a Christmas season in Canada. These limits on freedom were even instituted in communities that were faring well with flattening the pandemic’s curve.

But if Canadians are going to make it through this second lockdown, they deserve strong leadership. Sadly, as became very clear over the Christmas holidays, that is not what they got as politician after politician was exposed as lockdown flouters.

The list is long: Tracy Allard, the now former minister of municipal affairs of Alberta, who took her annual family Hawaiian vacation while posting a video of good tidings for the season showing her beside a Christmas tree in the rotunda at the Alberta legislature; similar behaviour via Twitter were also released by Rod Phillips, the former finance minister of Ontario, who jetted south to the Caribbean; Kamal Khera, former parliamentary secretary to the minister of international development, NDP MP Niki Ashton, Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi and Quebec MNA Youri Chassin, still in Peru.

Their hypocritical actions made Canadians question whether the leaders of this country are in this with their people as they promised.

Perhaps these poor examples play worst on the minds of youth. These actions present our leaders as blind to the plight of young people who have been denied so much in the way of academic and social life this year. The benefits of learning in person have been substituted for online learning with open-book exams. (I find this a much less effective manner of learning which does not stay with me as a student as much as learning in person would.)

Youth have also been robbed of natural social interactions which are essential to building up their social skills and community. After being deprived for so long, it will be no surprise if many remain socially isolated in the years to come. Social growth for so many youth has been stunted by the sudden lack of opportunity. I do not think the leaders realize the extent of the damage they are doing and the fact that they do not even abide by their own rules is even more infuriating.

Travelling and seeing family is natural and to a degree can be done in accordance with the current safety measures. Some of the politicians listed explained they were visiting sick families, something with which we can all empathize.

However, it is unjust when this lockdown sees politicians haranguing us, threatening us with large fines for breaking restrictions. All the while many are enjoying the freedom to travel that they would keep from others.

For any citizen to be fined after the leaders have acted in such a hypocritical way makes me question the nature of the society in which we live. Such actions are opposed to democracy. It appears as though the rules apply only to the people and not the elites.

As Ontario and Quebec move into an intensified lockdown, their citizens need stronger leadership. Further acts of elitism cannot be tolerated.

Let us hope the leadership of this country will acknowledge their offenses and return to the defense of justice and the common good in our society.

(Gay, 20, is a third-year student at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

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