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Physical Distancing – A Helpful Primer

As we go into another week of living with Covid-19, most of us are trying to do our part to help. A big part of that comes from physical distancing, but it’s not always clear what exactly that entails. We’ve been told to stay a metre apart, then it was two and of course for our American neighbours, it’s been six feet. But what does that look like? What does that distance mean to us in the real world? I have to admit one thing I’ve been watching with interest is how different people at groups are showing us that distance.

So with that in mind, as a public service, and in our continued attempt to help people out, Magpie Brûlé is happy to share the following examples of what these distances look like. Hopefully there’s an example that speaks to you directly. What with that, let’s start with examples using the straight measurements, like this one from the U.K.:


That seems clear, but how about using the human body to measure it?

That’s helpful, but how about we add to the degree of difficulty here by having a human example with props? Let’s try this one from Vancouver Island:


Oh nice use of a bench, but here’s another one that takes it’s up another notch from Jersey in the U.K.:


Okay using the broom like that might be a bit of an anti-social way of promoting this, but if it works for you, I guess broom away. While we’re in a grocery store, what else could you use from there to make this point?


Ahhh, that works and is a bit less pushy too. Very nice. Okay how about animals? Everyone loves animals, right? For you dog lovers out there, this one might work for you:

Source: American Red Cross

Nose to tail folks, don’t forget that. What what if you’re not a dog person? What if you are fond of felines instead? Don’t worry, the Internet has got you covered:

Source: Mercury News

Seems like you can’t forget the tails with cats either. Now those animals are nice but there are certain ones that speak more to Canadians than others, like these two examples here:

Mmmm moose and caribou, very great examples. Although in both cases, I don’t suggest getting that close to either animal to be safe. Also, I would advice against giving any caribou a judgmental stare like that guy is in the Yukon ad, but that’s another matter for another day. And if you’re more of an audio/visual learner and these images haven’t done that much to help sort this all out, here is a good video from the BBC that should help you to stay safe out there. Take care everyone and be safe.


Talking the Response of Politicians to Covid-19 on “The Arlene Bynon Show”

This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Alise Mills. We spoke about how different politicians are responding to Covid-19, those who have failed, those who have risen to the moment & the Prime Minister’s announcements this morning on the global pandemic. You can listen to it all below. Enjoy!

Ugly Disregard for the Moment

In times of emergency and serious national challenge, we normally see the usual political garbage that can skew our politics fall to the side. Usually that involves all the parties involved focusing on the major issue before them, whatever that emergency or crisis may be, work on that and leave most other issues until another day. The fact is that in those kinds of serious moments, it’s incumbent on our political leaders to focus on the life and death issue before us. Basically in these moments, the choices our leaders take that don’t help deal with that issue stand out and deserve serious questioning.

We are weeks into fighting a global pandemic and so far, with very few exceptions, our politicians have managed to stay focused on the issue before us. Taking actions that aren’t helping aide that bigger goal, are working against it or are seemingly using this crisis as cover is very unseemly. It seems like most political leaders have understood that point and not done that, likely understanding the blowback that might come and the long-term damage it could do to their political fortunes after this crisis passes.

But folks, that’s not universally the case because in the past 48 hours we’ve seen a couple egregious violations of this principle, with decisions taken by governments that do nothing to help fight the current public health crisis. We start in Alberta, with a major decision taken by the Kenney Conservative government, via press release late on a Saturday:

Okay folks let’s be clear about this; the Alberta Conservative Government took $128 million in education funding to redirect towards Covid-19 response. That questionable move comes at an extremely questionable time when you look at what’s happening in Alberta. The economy of the province was already in deep pain before this pandemic hit, with thousands being laid off and people hurting badly. So in this moment, when people are worried about their health and futures, the Kenney Government lays off over 25,000 education workers. According to the Alberta Teachers Association, that will add 6,000 substitute teachers and up to 20,000 non-certificated staff to the ranks of the unemployed in the province.

What makes with worse are the details running up to this mass layoff. The Minister of Education in Alberta made this announcement, via press release late on a Saturday afternoon, which is mind-blowingly bad, even for a government trying to bury this news. Add to that fact that of the places that the Alberta government is looking to “redistribute” funds from, none of that is coming from the $30 million set aside for their Energy War Room. Between the global pandemic and Russia and Saudi Arabia’s price war driving the price of Western Select so low that it’s now cheaper to buy a barrel of Alberta oil sands oil than to buy a bucket of extra crispy from KFC, you’d think that the need for that war room might have faded away for now. The energy sector is sadly more a victim of circumstance in this moment than foreign funded environmentalists, so you’d think you could find a few bucks from that operation to put towards the cause. But seemingly that’s not the case. The last detail though that makes this all the worse is the fact that barely two weeks ago the Education Minister was asked about this very possibility. What did she say to that on March 15th, 2020?

Yeah, she said it wasn’t on the table and then boom, it happens. This from a government that was fighting and bashing teachers on a regular basis before the pandemic came just happened to do this now, while every is focused on fighting a global pandemic. And the Kenney Governments answer to those now laid off? “Hey, have you heard about these nifty new funds that Ottawa has put out there?” That to me might be the most galling of all because when it came to improving EI benefits to help energy sector workers, Premier Kenney got insulted at the idea, rightly pointing out that EI does not replace a well-paying job. But in this moment, it seems that Mr. Kenney has forgot that point, or at least it’s not as convenient. But when it comes to “convenience” in this moment, the Kenney government is not alone is making a questionable decision like this during a global pandemic. We’ve got another example from the United States, one that just blew my mind when I saw it:

Look everyone, it’s not controversial to point out that Donald Trump’s judgment in response to this global pandemic has been questionable at best. It’s also pretty accepted that Trump’s overall judgment is lacking and that he has a history of making decisions that are best for him, personally or politically, instead of doing the right thing. But this story just blew my mind because of how craven, ugly and disgusting it is.

According to PBS station WBUR the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs told the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts on Friday that the First Nations reservation will be “disestablished”, and its land taken out of trust, on order from Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. Basically to have one’s reserve “disestablished” means that Trump is taking their land. He’s taking this land, in the middle of a global pandemic. Or, as Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell put it:

“At  4:00 pm today — on the very day that the United States has reached a record 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and our Tribe is desperately struggling with responding to this devastating pandemic —  the Bureau of Indian Affairs informed me that the Secretary of the Interior has ordered that our reservation be disestablished and that our  land be taken out of trust.  Not since the termination era of the  mid-twentieth century has a Secretary taken action to disestablish a reservation.”

Yes, so while a nation is fighting back against Covid-19, trying to save lives from a scourge that 100,000 Americans had as of that day, Trump decides to steal the land of this Indigenous nations. Cruel and craven doesn’t go far enough to describe why in the Hell they would do this now, of all times, especially since no American government has done anything like this in decades. So why do this now? What exactly would the rationale be for this? Well, if this couldn’t be anymore Trumpian, it involves a casino:

Yep, you had to know it was that craven. It turns out that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe was trying to use some of its land that’s held in trust by the government of the United States to build a casino on it, to try to create some economic development for their peoples. That casino was opposed by some local residents and their opposition was supported by none other than Donald J. Trump. We know this because the US House of Representatives passed a bill to “protect its reservation, regardless of what the courts decide.” But Trump is on the recording have asked Republicans to reject it, calling the bill a “special-interest casino bill”. And now, this First Nation has had its land taken out from under it, by the simple stroke of a pen late on a Friday during a global pandemic. Such awful crap.

In both of these cases, we’ve seen actions taken by governments trying to use the cover of a global crisis to justify something they already have shown proclivity to want to do anyway. And in this moment, when people are dying, communities are suffering any everyday people are worrying about their well beings, these two governments chose to see this as an opportunity to exploit, not a chance to be empathetic. We keep pointing out that people are taking note of governments who act outside the bounds of decency in these times and I hope that is still true a few weeks into this. Because these two acts are exactly the kinds of things that need to be remembered and accounted for, in order to show other governments who are thinking of doing similar things that the price to pay for such crap will far outweigh any advantage they might perceive in it. In the meantime, we’ll be making our list and checking it more than twice, so we remember whose been naughty, not nice.

Failures to Read the Room

We are not in normal times, which at this point should be abundantly clear to all of society. As we try to slow Covid-19, we as a society are having to take measures that are outside the norm but are necessary to protect one another. That has raised anxieties and made people feel uncomfortable, which is completely understandable.

The sentiment of this moment should be unmistakable to all, but as I’ve been known to say “Common Sense isn’t all the common”. Not everyone seems to be getting the importance of this moment or are failing to adjust themselves to the realities we are now facing, which frankly are drastically different than they were a few weeks ago.

As this crisis goes along, I continue to be amazed by the tone deafness of some who seem to refuse to “read the room” before they spout whatever they are. And this is proving to be a problem all across the political spectrum, not just exclusive to one side of crazy or the other. Today I’ve got two prime examples of this, examples of statements from purportedly serious people who want to have serious effects on our society. Let’s start with the Conservative Party leadership race, which is amazingly still ongoing, with this gem from the perceived front runner and wannabe next Prime Minister of Canada:

Okay folks, this is mind-blowingly bad stuff. While there seems to be a growing consensus within the Conservative Party that their leadership race should be suspended or postponed, albeit a bit late to arrive, Peter MacKay has decided to go in another direction. And I mean a completely different direction. Instead of reading this moment and reacting to the dangers and seriousness of it, MacKay actually wants to speed up the race and move the vote up sooner. When you think of it, that’s not only selfish and just dumb, it’s downright dangerous and totally counter to every piece of advice from the medical community. And for what? A perceived political advantage this moment has brought him? If MacKay and team think that trying to win their leadership like this will be to his advantage, he surely isn’t thinking about what people will think of him after this pandemic is over.

But after first making his irresponsible call, he had a chance to see the error of his ways and walk it back. It wouldn’t be the first time his team has, so surely they could have done it again. But nope, instead a few days later they released that tweet and that email above, giving the most asinine rationale for calling for this race to be sped up. MacKay should know that, as someone with 30 years in political life in Canada. I have 15 years of work and volunteering in our politics, and I didn’t need all that experience to know just how off the mark his comparison with Elections Canada preparations was. Let’s be clear folks, just so you know; Elections Canada is always preparing for the next election. Minority government, majority government, all the time they are preparing for the next one. That is their very reason for existing, period. They operate on their own schedule and there is nothing conspiratorial or more to read into what in the hell Elections Canada is going. They’re doing their jobs, period.

For MacKay to try to spin that into a weak reason for trying to shorten their leadership campaign in a bloody global pandemic, well that just makes many Canadians question his judgement and his actual ability to lead. You know, something most leadership candidates would actually worry about. But when it comes to questionable judgement in this serious time Peter MacKay is not alone, not by a longshot, as this story from the National Observer shows in spades:

Look, there is a time and place for just about any criticism of government or policies they take, I accept that and value it. But at the same time, I also accept the fact that this moment of national emergency to fight a global pandemic is not that time nor place. In fact, it’s quite the opposite of it. And on my social media feeds, I saw many people gripe and groan at the idea that the Federal government might help industries and sectors that they don’t like, so this story didn’t shock me in that sense.

But all that being said, right now there is only one concern above others that matters; the emergency right in front of us. Dealing with the emergency means helping everyone we can, including those that work in the oil and gas sector, people who were already struggling before this happened. And since then, the price of oil has plunged through the floor meaning that even more layoffs are coming for those who work in that sector. It’s in this moment that the government should be helping everyone, regardless of sector, to get through this moment of emergency.

So when I read that piece from the National Observer quoting Environmental Defense Canada, Oil Change International and Senator Rosa Galvez it was clear that they are putting their issues and concerns over those of the workers who are suffering dearly at this point. Their “yeah, but” comments put forward a cold, indifferent view that basically says that they don’t care if workers in that sector, the very same workers they say deserve a “just transition” should be left to suffer right now because any help for their sector would be an affront to their stated world views. That’s the kind of ugly, callous disregard for the immediate needs of those workers and their families that undermines any belief from those very same people that those groups are at all interested in their well-being. It’s that kind of indifference that feeds conspiracy theories about “foreign funded radicals” trying to take down Canada’s energy sector out of spite and makes it all the more difficult to achieve the goal of a greener economy that includes those workers when that time comes.

Let me be clear, as important and laudable goal that is, this is not the time for that. We’re more worried about life and death due to Covid-19, and any attempts to superimpose other issues over this in this dire time are just completely inappropriate and ignoring the moment. Those groups and individuals quoted in that story tut-tutting the Federal government for “daring” to not help everyone in need in this time risk creating the same kind of damage to their movements and goals as Peter MacKay is doing to his. It’s time for the subjects of both of these stories to read the room, realize we are not in normal time, and simply stop it. Stop it. Stop it now. There will be a time and place for the conversations that both of the subjects here are calling for, and this is not it. Because of all the uncertainty that we have out there, there is one thing I can be certain of coming out of this; people are paying attention and they will remember those who didn’t rise to the seriousness of this moment or didn’t act right. Those memories stand to do far more damage to their causes and goals than a few weeks of silence ever will. They would do well to remember that, but something tells me that if they haven’t already, I shouldn’t be too hopeful.

Not Helping the Team

We’re in hard times and in these times, we need a lot of empathy and compassion for others out there. Let’s face it, as human beings that’s not something we always do best. We fight with each other, we argue, we belittle and frankly treat certain others as less than or expendable. That’s not right, but that’s part of our history across the board, we can’t deny that. But despite that as we’ve faced Covid-19 as a society we’ve managed to rise above that so far. Regardless of race, religion or political persuasion, we’re all on the same team and we’ve acted as such, trying to help each other out.

But as this moment of crisis becomes longer, we’re starting to hear some voices singing different tunes. These people are spreading dangerous and morally questionable ideas that seem to either try to wish away the crisis we’re facing or worse, try to exploit it for their own benefit. It’s an ugly kind of thing to see, a morbid view in serious times. Today I saw three specific examples from across the political spectrum around the World that speak to this ugliness, and I felt deserved to be named and shamed. The first comes from Brazil, with an unsurprising source continuing his Covid-19 denial:

Look, it’s not a shock that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said these things at all, that’s just who he is. He’s used brute force, try to wipe Indigenous peoples from the Amazon and has watched the Amazon burn long before Covid-19 came along. When Covid-19 started, he called it a fantasy, only to later see one of his senior staff get that “fantasy”, exposing not only him but US President Donald Trump to it. Yeah, insert your own jokes about karma here.

What jumped out at me about this story was not his denialist rhetoric and continued attempts to burry his own head in the sand, but his open attacks on those who are actually trying to attack this problem head on. He went on national TV to address the whole country to try to pressure mayors and state governors to roll back lockdown measures that have brought in to try to protect their citizens from the menace of Covid-19. That’s far from being constructive, it’s in fact dangerous. It’s one thing to want to ignore reality, but it’s something quite different to try to pressure others to stop dealing with that reality and putting lives at risk. But while that’s bad, there is another example brewing just to our south that’s leaving me gob smacked and rather speechless:

Okay folks, I am not without empathy for the concerns about the effects on the economy and the effects that current measures are having on people’s lives. I have big empathy for small business owners who are losing everything before their eyes, people being laid off and wondering where their next pay cheques may come from. So I can’t be furious at the idea of wanting to try to ensure everyone’s economic well being in most situations.

But there are rare circumstances where all other considerations need to become secondary to life and health, and this is definitely one of them. And this is where I find this entire line of argument extremely disturbing and just unacceptable, that basically “Hey people are going to die anyway so why should the economy hurt”, to be extremely morbid and craven. The idea that American politicians are actively saying that “Seniors are willing to die to save the economy” is mind-blowingly immoral, especially coming from Republicans, the same people who just a decade ago were fighting tooth and nail against basic healthcare for people by calling part of their implementation “deal panels”. This is a kind of economic Darwinism that’s beyond the pale and just plain ugly, especially coming from those who claim to hold the moral high ground in the American political context. But if you thought this kind of blinkered, ugly thinking is only coming from the political right, we’ll you’d be wrong, as this example from the United Kingdom shows us:

This…. This…. This really left me speechless for minutes when I first saw it. Part of me wanted to believe that it wasn’t real, but it does look real and seems to have their hallmarks, as we saw with their stupidity on Vancouver Island just less than a month ago. This Extinction Rebellion group are this vapid and ignorant in their views and approaches, somehow managing to become more vile in their views and words than groups like PETA, which is a hell of a feat when you consider some of the things that PETA has said and done over the years.

But that? That’s just downright crap. Covid-19 is not a cure and humans are not a disease, period. To try to suggest this in any way, shape or form is the ugliest crap imaginable. It’s eliminationist language that no moral human being should ever want to be associated with. What’s worse is that the tone of that post is almost triumphalist to an extent, as it seems like they are celebrating that a global pandemic is killing people’s family and friends. It’s a tone that acts like somehow that climate change is linked to this horrible disease, which it is clearly not, and that it’s a good thing. This is the kind of crap that makes people revile environmentalist and those who are fighting to stop climate change. It’s tone deaf, unempathetic and the most craven thing I’ve seen so far in this moment, even more so than the two examples above, which is saying a lot.

Whether if we want it to be the case or not, we are in a global crisis and we are in this together. We are a team on this because the acts of every country in the world have an effect on us at home, and our actions here have an equal effect on those others. We all need to do our part to protect our friends, family and neighbours, it’s just that simple. We can talk about individual rights and liberties but none of those matter if you aren’t alive to enjoy them. Furthermore we don’t just have rights, but we also have responsibilities, responsibilities to our society and one another. Some seem to be forgetting that last part in this important time, and that means doing what we can to protect others. In this moment many people are making mental notes about who is truly trying to help the team in these hard times, and those how are working against it. I would argue that in these three examples, we see a group of people from around the World who are not working with the team. People will remember that when this is all over and I doubt that this will be forgiven when that time comes, once we get through this together.