The city has closed the big gravel parking lot at the entrance to the forest trails where I walk my collies. Another new barrier to protect us from us.
I understand we’re all supposed to nod approvingly at such overweening prudence. Self-denial has become an orthodoxy, a new and more powerful form of wokeness.
I don’t know, though. There doesn’t seem to be any coherence to all this. New rules and prohibitions and changes are coming at us from all sides. We’re like dogs in a bowling alley, as the French say, ducking and jumping frantically, scared, trying to protect our health and income and savings.
If we can line up outside the government liquor store and observe six feet between us, surely we can park our cars and lead our dogs into the forest without getting into spittle range of one another. Please don’t tell me liquor is essential, but walking isn’t.
And anyway, the dog trails themselves still seem open, or at least there’s no notice saying otherwise. All the parking lot closure does is rather stupidly encourage people to park across the public road, with cars zipping by.
I was going to, but then someone said the city was ticketing anyone parked on the road shoulder. There’s some bylaw, apparently. So I tried to call 311, but reached a recording asking me not to. I drove to a nearby police station to ask, but a sign in the window advised the premises are closed to the public, and that any inquiries should be directed to 311.
It’s chaos, really, a profusion of uncoordinated rules sprouting from behind an impenetrable government wall, with full consent from a frightened populace.
An elderly relative in Montreal was stopped as he tried to go for a short walk, informed that people his age are now prohibited from walking outside “by order of the province.”
Why? No answer. We all must be cautious. Do what you’re told. He did.
The mayors of Gatineau and Ottawa, effectively one city divided by a river, are asking residents not to cross the river. Why? No explanation. The river is apparently significant. We’re all in this together, etc.
We may soon have police at the Ontario/Quebec border on the way to Montreal. Provincial borders are notional, separating political constructs. Why have police there, instead of somewhere else? No answer. Please understand these are exceptional times, etc.
I object, but I hesitate to say so out loud, for fear of attracting angry glares from the newly woke.
Asking “why,” which is something I was trained to do my entire professional life, is now frowned upon, it seems. Why is the parking lot closed but not the dog trails? No answer. Will I be ticketed if I park on the road? No answer. Why no answer? No answer. Please, sir, do what you’re told. We appreciate your co-operation.
I understand that this thing is frightening, and that common sense dictates caution, even an abundance of caution, and for heaven’s sake, I’m trying. But there is no agreement whatever on where abundance should stop, if at all.
I can pull up to a window at McDonald’s and buy a hamburger, handed to me by a human being at a much closer proximity than two metres, and then eat the thing, which is an intimate act. This, apparently, is essential, and within the bounds of abundance. Parking in the same lot as other dog owners is not.
Some banks are closed. Others are not. The liquor store and cannabis dispensary are open, but government service offices, where the public might actually get answers about how to navigate all these confusing new government assistance plans, are not. Why not? No answer. Please understand, sir, this is a very stressful time, etc.
The default view of the increasingly supine news media appears to be that any government action is necessary, and we all must pull together, etc. Opposition politicians, not normally original thinkers, are actually showing more inclination to question government overreach than we are seeing from journalists.
We are asked to indulgently accept that governments should borrow staggering amounts of money and shower it on the populace, and that the central bank should begin creating billions out of thin air to support the treasury, because the alternative would be worse.
Perhaps. I don’t know. I’m not an economist. But I do know that economists usually disagree, and are often wrong. I’d like to know what consequences all this has for the rest of my time on Earth. Are we setting ourselves up for inflation? Stagflation? Wheelbarrows of cash? But I’m not hearing about consequences. Just that I won’t have much time left on Earth if I don’t shut up and get on board.
What most disturbs me is what 42 years of reporting here and abroad taught me with utter clarity: Give the authorities consent to do anything, and they will. Give the police more power, and they’ll enthusiastically use it. Tell them that this is not the time to be concerned about small liberties, and they’ll extinguish them. Give bureaucrats a bigger budget, and they’ll spend it.
And they never willingly give up any of it once the exceptional circumstances return to normal. Has no one noticed who’s in the White House?
Oh, yes, about the parking lot: I found a side street in a neighborhood on the other side of the forest with access to the trails. And I let my dogs run.
I know. Shameful.

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