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Editorial: Good riddance to a bummer of an October

Even though it means we’re now closer to real winter and the unrelenting cold and darkness that come along with it, Thompson can be forgiven for feeling glad to be through with October.
october 2020 calendar page

Even though it means we’re now closer to real winter and the unrelenting cold and darkness that come along with it, Thompson can be forgiven for feeling glad to be through with October.

The month Thanksgiving falls in didn’t bring about many good tidings for Thompson. When it began there were a grand total of two cases of COVID-19 in the Thompson/Mystery Lake health district since the pandemic began, both of them having occurred back in April, long before the province began identifying cases by the health district where they came from. By the time it ended there, were 40, give or take one or two, about 10 of them active. And while that sounds bad, there are other places in the north, like The Pas and surrounding area and Cross Lake, where the rise in cases has been more rapid. There are now about twice as many cases in The  Pas/Opaskwayak Cree Nation/Kelsey health district than there are in Thompson, the vast majority of them still active, and all of them having occurred since October was already more than half over. Cross Lake’s number of cases has been growing rapidly as well and they now have the third-most cases in the north behind The Pas and Thompson and more than twice as many active cases as the Hub of the North. Thompson seems, for the moment at least, to have gotten a handle on things, at least in the sense of preventing explosive growth in the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus.

The tenth month of 2020, which sometimes seems like it’s been going on a lot longer than that, also brought about the completion of Vale’s comprehensive review of its Manitoba Operations, and 144 job losses. This wasn’t unexpected – head of Manitoba Operations Franco Cazzola said when the review was announced back in June not that there might be job cuts, but that there would. Still, losing close to 20 per cent of the unionized workforce at the mine and mill, either through layoffs (75) or early retirement (25), along with 44 staff jobs, is not what the city of Thompson needs, not when it’s reeling from the late arrival of COVID-19 and weathering the economic effects that the public health response to the pandemic has precipitated. Vale has trimmed about 700  jobs in Thompson since 2017 and whatever jobs have been generated to replace them, if any, probably don’t pay nearly as well.

As October drew to a close, Statistics Canada released its annual Juristat Crime Severity Index, which measures crime in Canadian communities not by how much occurred, but by the cumulative seriousness of those crimes. Thompson should be accustomed by now to being at the top of the list among communities with 10,000 or more people for crime severity, violent crime severity and non-violent crime severity, as it has been at or near the top of those rankings for the last decade or so. But to be one of only two communities with a crime severity index score above 400 and to have a violent crime severity index of more than 800, compared to about 550 for the second-place North Battleford, Sask. makes it seem that, although Canada as a whole is seeing crime severity increase over the past five years, Thompson is seeing it increase faster, making it appear less likely that the city will ever see itself out of the top 10 for the foreseeable future.

Another thing many of us may be glad to see in the rearview mirror by the time Remembrance Day rolls around is the United States presidential election, the results of which are not yet known at the time this editorial is being written. Given everything that has happened south of the border in the last year of Donald Trumps’s first and perhaps only term as U. S. president, it would be nice if there were a clear winner on election night, to prevent uncertainty moving forward, or the ultimate winner being decided, as it was in 2000, when George W. Bush and Al Gore were the Republican and Democratic candidates, respectively, by the courts instead of by the people. But given the way 2020 has been going, and the body blows that Thompson absorbed last month, it’s probably better to be prepared for a long drawn-out battle, no matter how tired everyone is of fighting the coronavirus and everything else.