Topsail-Paradise MHA Paul Dinn says he’s appreciative of how the residents of his district have come together to combat COVID-19.
“I really want to thank the residents of Topsail- Paradise, and across the province,” said Dinn. “It’s been a really hard year for all of us, and collectively we’ve done, as far as I’m concerned, an outstanding job at keeping COVID at bay. But that’s not without some sacrifices.”
Dinn said that he’s gotten hundreds, if not thousands, of phone calls and emails since the province recorded its first positive COVID-19 case last March, inquiring about any number of pandemic topics, and feels for rotational workers who have had to isolate, couples who have had to cancel weddings, worshippers who have not been able to attend church, workers who have lost their jobs or suffered reduced hours, parents who have had trouble accessing childcare, seniors who have been isolated In nursing homes, and countless others who have been impacted in unique ways by the pandemic.
“COVID created many, many questions,” said Dinn, who noted that keeping in touch with residents during the pandemic, despite the lockdown restrictions, was key.
“When people weren’t calling me, I was calling them. I would actually go down through the phone book and call people and see how they were doing,” said Dinn. “A lot of people were taking it in stride, and doing what they could and staying at home and following all the guidelines.
“We’ve done things differently during the past year, but sometimes the difference has helped. There was more family time… there were more people who discovered our trails and who got out and got active. And I think people got a greater appreciation for those who are in need, and those who are vulnerable in our communities, so that was very good. And I found people were more willing to lend a hand and reach out to those in need. And, of course I can’t say enough about our essential workers, because they really stepped up, from healthcare workers to those manning the corner store.”
Dinn said he is hopeful the province is on the right path to ‘normal,’ especially with the vaccine slowly making its rounds.
So far, he said, there has been no word on when residents of the district will have access to the vaccine.
“And to be quite honest with you, I’ve had no inquiry from any one yet, in terms of ‘Where do I go to get the vaccine?’ So, I think people realize that we’re in the very early stages of this,” said Dinn.
And while the vaccine rollout is one story to watch in 2021, another will be the as of yet unannounced provincial election.
According to legislation, Premier Andrew Furey, who was elected on August 19, 2020, has to call a provincial election within a year of his taking office. Rumours are circulating that the writ could drop this month for a vote in February.
Dinn feels the election ought to be called much further down the road.
“When I hear about an election being called sooner rather than later, and it has nothing to do with parties being prepared, because as you know, all parties are out there now getting candidates in place in the event something is called, but calling an election during the pandemic, in my mind, would be irresponsible,” said Dinn. “Whether other jurisdictions were able to do it or not, I think it would be irresponsible. And, I think calling an election before a budget, and before we hear back from these (economic recovery) committees, I think is unethical. People want to know where we’re going ‘post-COVID.’
“I can’t see a good reason for calling an election sooner rather than later. I think we need to make sure we get the second wave of the pandemic under control. I think we need to make sure we have more and more people vaccinated, I think we need to make sure that there’s a budget there and that we know what we’re voting on and what these committees are presenting. If you say you’re going to put people first, and, as the premier said recently, ‘We’re going to lead by example,’ if that’s true, then you’re not calling an election in the coming months; you’re waiting until a lot of this dies down and we get a clearer vison of where we’re going.”
Dinn also expressed displeasure at the much-publicized Liberal fundraisers hosted by Liberal members, most notably Health Minister John Haggie, during a time when government was warning the public about attending holiday gatherings.
“I’m hoping they’ve learned from that… I hope they will lead by example, but I’m doubtful right now because of their past,” said Dinn.
Looking ahead, Dinn said that government will have to focus on core issues that existed before COVID but were perhaps thrust out of the spotlight during COVID, issues ranging from creating sustainable jobs and providing high speed internet access to all residents to working to make childcare more accessible and affordable and supporting the offshore oil industry.
“The offshore oil industry, we have to continue to work with,” argued the MHA. “The offshore industry provides revenue for us. Yes, there’s going to be green economies coming, and yes, climate change is a big issue, but you can’t just flick a switch on that. And what we produce offshore here is a good, clean product.”
In Topsail-Paradise, Dinn said that he will continue to work on ingoing issues, such as the condition of Route 60 through Topsail, the 1.6 km school busing issue, and concerns about a lack of public transportation — in particular, a lack of accessible transportation — and that he looks forward to continuing that work this year.
“We’ll persevere. We’ll get through this. We can only move forward and hope for a better year ahead,” said Dinn.
“I really think 2021 will certainly be a better year than last year. I’m certainly going to be here,” adding, with a laugh, “I’ll be here until at least the election, and then the people will decide. But while I’m here I’m going to do whatever I can to help residents who need help.”
Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News