I was probably 13 when I realized how tourists affected my personal economy.
All these years later I can still remember the time. I was on the cliff in Fenelon Falls, steeling my nerve as I stared down the 20 feet that felt like 60.
Someone in a boat passing by underneath yelled “jump.” Ever a capitalist, I replied reflexively, “50 cents!” The boater said, “OK”, and I leaped with abandon. It was that very moment when I joined, for the first time, the tourist industry — one that vies with agriculture as the most important industry in our municipality.
I have found myself thinking of this memory, and hundreds more like it, as I have been watching social and regular media conversations about cottagers (sorry, I mean seasonal residents) and COVID-19.
The issue of whether or not people who own second properties in our “city” should be allowed to come here during the pandemic has been a hot topic since almost the start of the lockdown.
I have read heated arguments online between locals and seasonals (the two solitudes of our city) that, at least in some quarters, aren’t coexisting as peacefully as our colourful city brochures would suggest.
To be sure, the situation wasn’t helped by the mixed messages coming from our local authorities, with the mayor stating that he thought seasonal residents should come here if they want — an opinion which contradicted the advice of our local health unit.
Choices by our prime minister and premier about trips to secondary properties only further muddied the waters.
For the record, I believe we should all be following the direction of health authorities, as uncomfortable as that has been over the last few months.
And it’s perhaps my bias — that I’m forever the person swimming to the boat, and not the boat owner— that makes me reject the argument that paying taxes equals a right to occupancy in a second home during a pandemic. I could have paid taxes on a flight to Italy three months ago. It wouldn’t have given me the right to fly there.
It’s a short list of odd jobs that I haven’t done for tourists and cottagers to make money.
And I couldn’t possibly understand what the people who own tourism-dependent businesses are going through right now.
As emergency measures started to lift, it is a tug-of-war between two codependent entities: health security and economic security.
If we are going to survive and thrive in Kawartha Lakes, it may take all of us (seasonal and permanent residents alike) truly treating and thinking of each other as neighbours in the real sense: people who care about each other; people who will do right by each other, people who will protect each other.
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