As I reflect back on 2020 and forward into 2021 I am tired, grateful, and hopeful. There is no doubt that the arrival of the pandemic, and the uncertainty it brought, eroded much of the “togetherness” normally felt in Oak Bay. The inability to gather, both formally and informally, meant the loss of the Oak Bay Tea Party, Summer Night Markets, Music in the Park, and hundreds of block parties, picnics, gatherings and events. Most travel for vacations, family visits, and more had to be cancelled.
Many lost their jobs, either temporarily or permanently. Some industries like tourism may not recover for years. And those still working feel the constant pressure of safety protocols and added workloads. All have faced financial worries at some point this year, and most have also had to worry about vulnerable parents, grandparents, or children in schools. It’s been hard, and I want to express my gratitude for all those who have carried this burden for so many months with grace and resilience.
But from those challenges, the community responded. Residents across the region put hearts in windows and banged pots at 7 p.m. nightly to show support for front line workers. Calls to help the less fortunate were met with record charitable donations. Our businesses found ways to bring a new vibrancy to the streets and sidewalks of our commercial areas and workers found innovative ways to work. Church and service groups created support networks and neighbours checked on neighbours, cooked meals, went shopping, and generally took care of those in need.
Meanwhile toilet paper eventually returned to the shelves and we all learned to “Zoom.”
As I writes this everyone is wearing masks in public and the first immunizations are arriving. It’s a time of both hope and continued vigilance, and I trust our residents to keep doing what they have been doing so well throughout this pandemic – thank you. It may well be next autumn before things can start to really feel normal, but it’s nice to have the light at the end of the tunnel, and great having the community we do.
I also think it’s worth taking time to appreciate how blessed we are to be living where we live. Not only have COVID-19 cases been limited on the Island, but our parks, natural areas, and weather allow for activities that are the envy of Canada. As an example there was someone waterskiing off Willows Beach earlier in December.
At the municipality, Oak Bay continues to work to keep parks, recreation services, water delivery, building applications, and other services running both safely and effectively to allow everyone the safe environment they need and deserve. I am also very grateful for regional municipalities, their Mayors, the CRD, and the Province, all of whom have been invaluable partners.
I will finish by thanking Oak Bay staff and council for their work over the last year and say how excited I am about what’s coming in 2021. Each day poses challenges that are treated as opportunities, and that attitude serves us well as we enter 2021. I wish everyone the very happiest of New Years.
Kevin Murdoch is the mayor of the District of Oak Bay.