Are we in this together?

Published May 19 2020

To the Editor

Some of the images that will remain long after the COVID-19 isolation is over are the long lines of fire trucks and other vehicles driving past hospitals in salute of medical staff. We’re all united in our appreciation of the work that front-line workers are doing. This shared appreciation has brought us together and made us proud of what we can accomplish when we’re unselfish.

Sadly this feeling of goodwill has not extended across other social divides. The stay-at-home orders have brought to light ugly prejudices that continue to circulate.
Seasonal residents have been asked not to come up to their cottages in order to spare the very limited health facilities in cottage country from being swamped. This has sparked a number of comments on social media that use the term “citiots” to refer to people who are part-time or seasonal residents. In return we have heard the comments from some cottagers who suggest that they pay most of the taxes for this county.

When we moved up here in 1986 we were told that we would never be considered locals unless we were born here or had lived here 40 years! We also learned very quickly that there was a long-standing enmity between many residents of Minden and Haliburton. The reason for the dislike was buried in decades of history: no one remembered why they just knew that they didn’t like people from the other town.
Isn’t it time that we put behind us all the long-standing but unnecessary divisions? We all like to travel which means we become tourists but we sneer at “tourists” in our own community as if they were trespassing. If we love our community we should be delighted that others want to come and enjoy it too.
The disparaging comments about “city-people” or cottagers often result from envy. It can be difficult to live in one of the poorest counties in Ontario and spend your summers working for minimum wage while the cottagers enjoy their second homes.
Seasonal residents who pay taxes on our lakes are indeed concerned about their properties and would love to sit out these weeks in their peaceful confines. Who can blame them? But a few of them need to know that many of the full-time residents of the county also live on the lakes and pay higher taxes for the privilege.

Full-time residents need to appreciate that many of the people who choose to have a second property in this area do so because they also appreciate the beauty and the pace of life: they contribute to the arts community the preservation of nature and give their time and money to the needs of the community. Yes there are those who think that a cottage is “party central” and have loud parties without consideration for their neighbours. They should realize that the neighbour next door or across the lake may be the nurse who has to get up and work the next morning!
I don’t care if someone is a full-time or part-time resident or which town they come from. I do care that they respect their neighbours  and contribute to their community. That’s something we could all be proud of…

Helen Brown
Algonquin Highlands