What a long, strange trip it’s been

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Céad míle fáilte. Welcome to our special St. Patrick’s Day edition of the Times. In these days of restricted travel and forced isolation, we thought it would be a nice idea to bring Ireland to you, some photographs, jokes, stories, and other Irish stuff. There is such a positive vibe around Paddy’s Day, wherever you are, and we really need some good vibrations these days.

But more positive news comes this week from the North Dundas Council reports in the paper. As Joselyn writes, both municipal staff and council seem to be making real efforts to keep budgets in check, and to maximise the benefits from the taxes they receive from residents. This is going to be increasingly important as time passes, given the indication of future growth in the Township over the next decade or so.

There have been questions raised about just how ready and prepared North Dundas is to cope with an increase in development, and it is clear that this has been a concern of council also. There has been some good news regarding future accommodation requirements for seniors, and the plans for new residential development of all kinds point to a very positive future.

However, the issue of water and sewage remains critical. There simply is not enough capacity to see North Dundas through what is coming. There is a saying that “growth pays for growth”, the idea being that taxes and charges levied on developers and new businesses and residents will help cover the increased costs of infrastructure needed to support them. That has been tried elsewhere, but with limited success. There is a balance that has to be maintained between encouraging builders and businesses to invest in the community, and the possibly off-putting effects of taxes and charges. It is a delicate process, and this council and staff seem to be working hard at finding ways to match revenues with the necessary spending.

None of this is helped, of course, by the restrictions imposed by covid-related lockdowns. Just keeping the economy of North Dundas going, much less growing, is a constant problem. Although the stats for Ontario generally are heading in the right direction, and cases in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry are slowly dropping, the experience of neighbouring townships are a warning that nothing is certain and continued watchfulness is essential. Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit region has been returned to Yellow-Protect status, a retrograde step for them, but necessary to cope with increased numbers of confirmed cases. But the end, as they say, is not yet. We, as a people, and as a planet, have been through worse times and survived, and it will be the same this time. We are resilient.

This makes celebrating events like St. Patrick’s Day all the more important. It’s a time when we have to simply decide to remember song, music, friends and family, and the years when we spent the day in pubs or homes, listening to great and rollicking songs, maybe even dancing to jigs and reels, and (perhaps) imbibing a pint or two!

Those are the days ahead of us, too. There will come a time when we will get together for times like Paddy’s Day, Canada Day, New Year’s Eve, and others, when we will celebrate birthdays and weddings, grieve together at funerals, and take in all the energy and positivity that being together in one place brings.

I am still amazed at how well we’ve become used to putting on our masks when we go out shopping, how we are so aware of the steps we need to take to keep ourselves and everyone else safe and healthy. We have adapted so well, in fact, that we may continue to feel a little uneasy in crowds when it all ends. That will feel really strange. So many people have commented that when they watch a movie, for example, they feel uncomfortable when they see scenes of people not socially distancing.

In the meantime, before we get to the After Days, let’s remember the Before Times and decide to see these odd times out in safety and watchfulness. People are finding it a strain on their mental health to be so restricted. We need those days when we can relax and remember, and look forward. We at the Times really hope that seeing the photographs and reading the captions, will bring you all a little escape, if only for one day. Out there, in the wider world, there is still beauty, music, stories, and fascinating places, waiting for us to go there one day. For now, we can afford to daydream a bit, to remember that this too shall pass, and that we shall overcome.

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