Roger Dunkley regrets his initial choice of words, but his messaging in support of Albertans visiting their Shuswap properties during the COVID-19 pandemic remains the same.
Prior to the May long weekend, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District issued a media release encouraging people not to travel. Included was a comment from CSRD chair Kevin Flynn stating it is not the time to pack up the RV for a road trip or to head to your cabin. Flynn explained though it is difficult to tell people to stay away, “We do not want to jeopardize the effectiveness of the sacrifices we have all made over the past two months.”
In response, Dunkley, whose family has owned a cabin in the Shuswap for more than 40 years, wrote to Flynn and the CSRD to express his disappointment with the unwelcoming messaging, emphasizing what he and fellow Albertans contribute to the local economy.
“In fact, from now on I will go out of my way and spare no expense to ensure that all the money I used to put into your economy will stay in Alberta by bringing every single thing I need with me…,” wrote Dunkely. “I believe that many of the Albertans I’ve been reaching through email and social media on this issue will do the same. And Mr. Flynn, only a fool would underestimate the power of social media.”
Dunkley, however, admits he might also have underestimated the power of social media. After comments from his initial letter became public – which he said he never intended, Dunkley had to turn off Facebook and tune out the storm of criticism.
However, Dunkley said he also received support and constructive feedback, and has since submitted a second letter to the CSRD. In it, he apologizes for his first missive and, with a more conciliatory tone, explains how he should have focused on fostering greater understanding and bring people closer together, rather than cause greater division.
“I also want to make it clear to the people of B.C. that we Albertans fully understand the concerns of British Columbians and the full-time residents of the Shuswap area have about COVID-19 being brought in by outsiders and we are sensitive to that,” wrote Dunkley. “No one wants to see new COVID infections occurring anywhere and certainly no one wants to be the cause of it.”
While he supports would-be tourists staying home, Dunkley maintains he and other Albertans should be able to stay at their secondary/recreation properties in the Shuswap – provided they take every precaution to limit contact with others. This includes bringing their own groceries from home and not making any stops on they way.
“If we do need to make some stops and perhaps do a little local shopping, we need to take every possible safety precaution (face masks, distancing, hand washing, etc.) to protect the safety of others,” writes Dunkley.
Dunkley hopes to get local political leaders thinking more carefully about their messaging. He explained telling Albertans to stay home only adds to the sense of alienation people in that province are feeling.
“People here in Alberta need to be made more conscious of the fears people in B.C. have, but hopefully people in B.C. will understand the point of view of people who for so many years have contributed to their economy and tax base,” said Dunkley. “Hopefully we can get some reasonable compromises on both sides.”
Dunkley said he will be returning to his Shuswap cabin soon so that he can get sandbags in place to prevent flooding.