Nothing beats a Chilly Dog Winnipeg politicians have a running list of ways to overcome feeling locked down and out
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/04/2020 (940 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
If there’s one thing getting Nahanni Fontaine, the MLA for St. Johns, through this Unprecedented Time, it’s that she’s still able to work.
“There have been a couple of days where I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m about to go crazy if I stay in the house one second longer,’ but the thing about being an MLA is you’re constantly working — even if you’re in isolation…” she says. “I’m so grateful that I’m working. It keeps the mind busy.”
Fontaine thinks of herself as a pretty adaptable person, able to roll with the day-to-day upheaval and the learning curves working through a pandemic has thrown her. But she’s also an empathetic person. “There have been a couple times where I’ve broken down crying,” she says.
“I’ve always said that I believe being an MLA is a sacred responsibility that you have for people. So to see the way many Manitobans have been really struggling has been hard. You feel so helpless to help, right?”
And so, she has been baking, every day, for her constituents, community groups and beyond. Bundt cakes, cookies, cupcakes, scones, cheesecakes — you name it, she’s baked it.
“It’s an act of love,” she says. “It’s a tangible loving, caring thing that I can do. If I can make people happy with some sweets, that’s what I try to do.”
Here are five things Fontaine can’t survive without during the pandemic.
1. Technology (phone, iPad, computer)
“That has been, literally, the connection between myself and constituents in Manitoba and Manitobans in general. I remember seeing on Twitter people saying, ‘Are (MLAs) even working?’ For me, personally, I’m constantly on my phone or my iPad or my computer reaching out and chatting with folks and advocating for folks. I don’t think people really realize how much advocacy people have needed throughout all of this, and help to navigate all the different systems and concerns. I’m so grateful for the technology that we do have now that we’re actually able to work from home. I had never used (video-conferencing app) Zoom — I didn’t even know what Zoom was — and now we’re using it once or twice a week.”
2. KitchenAid Stand Mixer
“I have two of them — one I’ve had for years and years, and I actually got a second one last Christmas or the Christmas before, and I’ve used them every single day. Yesterday, I baked about 125 cookies to support Indigenous women who are making 50 bagged lunches for some of our homeless citizens. I packed them up, and I have little stickers that I got made a little while ago that say ‘Baked with love from Nahanni.’ Honestly, I use them every day. I’ve given baking everywhere — to health-care providers, to community organizations, to different constituents — not only in St. Johns but all over Manitoba.”
3. Chilly Dog, her German shepherd/greyhound mix
“He’s my rescue from the Humane Society. I think if you have a dog, it allows you and forces you to get out of the house and go for a walk. My dog is really big, so he needs at least an hour-and-a-half or two hours of walk every day. I couldn’t live without him because he really does force you to go for a walk and get out of the house. I love my Chilly Dog — I’m obsessed with him — and he’s been amazing throughout this… and you can tell he’s so happy everyone is home all the time.”
“Luckily, we have a couple of weights in the basement that I had actually invested in months ago — and who knew they were going to come into such use? I certainly needed them because everything is closed, but more importantly, my son has really needed them; he’s 18 and, in the last year, really started getting into weight lifting. So we both will work out downstairs with our limited weights and our little, little cheap bench, but cheap as it may be, it’s been a life-saver.”
5. The 1995 BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice
“It’s something I go to all the time, especially on planes. It’s literally, like, six hours long and I’ve watched it so many times. I think you have moments where you’re like, ‘Ugh, what do I do now?’ so I’m just going to throw that on and be happy for however long. You want something that gives you a sense of familiarity and that you’re just used to.”
With the snow gone and the weather getting warmer, many Winnipeggers are taking to the outdoors to relieve the stress of social distancing. Brian Mayes, city councillor for St. Vital, is no different.
An enthusiastic runner, he’s spent the entire month of April doing a tour of Winnipeg’s running tracks with the intention of securing money to provide much-needed upgrades so that anyone who wants to get their endorphins flowing will be able to do so on a safe, well-maintained track this summer.
Mayes is enjoying the extra time spent with his family and his dog and using the slower pace of life to catch up on reading and TV, especially Game of Thrones (no spoilers, please).
“I have been a daily runner for over 40 years and I have been able to clear my mind during this crisis by running through St. Vital. Running on the new track at Victor Mager School always cheers me up.”
2. Family dinners
“My wife is a professor and during the day she is in one room of the house preparing lectures, while my two teenage sons are doing schoolwork in separate rooms. But we have had all four together for dinner every night during the pandemic — it’s been wonderful family time.”
3. Library books
“We took a ton of books out just before the shutdown, and my wife has been using the Libby app to read books online.”
4. Dog walking
“Our dog, like many dogs, loves having everyone at home full-time. Four or five walks a day. I do the early morning and before-bedtime walks, and I think we both enjoy the time together.”
5. Game of Thrones
“My guilty pleasure. I had never seen an episode before the pandemic, but my older son and I are binge-watching. A bit heavy on the nudity and gore, but the politician in me loves the wheeling and dealing.”
Frances Koncan (she/her) is a writer, theatre director, and failed musician of mixed Anishinaabe and Slovene descent. Originally from Couchiching First Nation, she is now based in Treaty 1 Territory right here in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.