A red construction crane is slowly tipping over Victoria’s government street, while the sound of hammers and drills resonates in what is usually the busiest downtown intersection in the city.
There should be horse-drawn carriages, double-decker buses, paddle boats, water taxis, seaplanes, ferries, buskers and street vendors all around this bustling harbor walk. The first cruise ship of the season in one of Canada’s busiest ports was scheduled to arrive this week – a key moment for a local tourism economy – but COVID-19 canceled all of that.
On Wednesday morning, a cyclist in a yellow jacket leaned against the cold rain pedals in front of the iconic 112-year-old Empress Hotel (closed), nearly 123 years old in British Columbia. legislature (also closed).
A white tailgate stops at a red light on Government and Wharf streets, where the city installed a new pedestrian crossing this year to allow the dozens of tourists who typically obstruct pedestrian crossings in all directions. Not a single pedestrian crosses while the car is waiting. A man with a briefcase walks past the vacant stand at Tourism Victoria. Some floating umbrellas can be seen in the distance. A jogger bounces in a soaked gray t-shirt. Traffic is a light but steady mix of commuters, city buses, taxis, municipal work vehicles and construction trucks.
The red crane on Government Street continues to rotate, delivering two port-a-potties to the ultra-luxurious customs project. It is a quintessential Victoria development project – the heritage facade preserved, but rebuilt inside with units so expensive that most local residents cannot afford them (the pre-sold penthouse for 10.79 millions of dollars).
Most of the city’s soundscape now comes from the many condo construction sites, where work continues uninterrupted.
– Rob Shaw, Vancouver Sun
West Cordova Street may have been obstructed by early morning traffic at one point, but at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, you could have driven four tanks head on and seen nothing.
Zipped and woven bicycle couriers, accountants rushed to their offices in Granville Square on foot, and security guards and the homeless were the most common sites when passerby Kristina Kudryk stopped to chat .
A composer who works in film post-production, she went to her office in Gastown, which would be empty and therefore, she hoped, safe.
Yes, she agreed, it’s good to continue working, but she doesn’t expect it to last more than a week or two.
“These first few weeks have been difficult, it’s a big upheaval for everyone,” she said. “It is one thing above the other. “
Like everyone else, Kudryk hopes this new normal will not last too long. But it makes no sense to go back to the days of pre-removal and isolation until this thing goes well, she said.
“I don’t think we should go back now, I think we have to stay the course and get through. “
She just canceled a planned trip to Whistler.
Whether you’re still heading to the office like Kudryk does, or working from your home office – or having been released and sitting at home – everyone faces boredom. All those who are alone are alone, those who are not alone are looking for a place to escape to spend time alone.
Who would have thought that standing in line outside a store for a few errands or a roll of rationed toilet paper would become the adventure she had?
“It is everyday,” she said, “it is not having things to do at the end of the day that is maddening. “
– Gord McIntyre, Vancouver Sun
In Edmonton, they are called trails: a network of shopping malls, public transit stations and office towers connecting downtown. When punitive winter winds blow on Jasper Avenue, the trails become the main street in downtown Edmonton.
Wednesday morning, for the first time, I’m not sure how long, I put on a mask and went down the aisles. I guess at this point it shouldn’t have been shocking to see them so empty – we’ve all seen hundreds of more famous places stripped of their usual crowds. Still, there are places where you turn a corner and see nothing but an antiseptic hallway. It’s strange.
It’s ultimately a good thing – a sign that the vast majority of people are staying at home. There are still a handful of people using the Edmonton pedestrian network (lawyers and bankers working in office towers are among the professionals the Alberta government has deemed essential). There are also cleaning staff, who wander around with vigilance, cloth and disinfectant spray in hand.
The biggest change is the City Center shopping center, which has closed all but essential businesses. The mall occupies three blocks and is the heart of the trail network. Security guards stand in the hallways. A black and yellow warning tape stretches across the Skyway entrance threshold.
For many, downtown and adjacent shopping malls are a place to warm up and one of the few heart spaces with reliable public restrooms. Facilities for the homeless were set up at the Edmonton EXPO Center, an hour’s walk northeast, but they didn’t do everyone’s business.
I’ve always found the comforting trails. In winter, when the temperature drops below -30 C, I like to imagine them as a space station, sheltering us from the inhospitable outside world. Perhaps there is something comforting in their emptiness, an acknowledgment that COVID-19, like a winter in Edmonton, is a common problem.
– Jonny Wakefield, Edmonton Journal
At 8:30 a.m., a snowblower finally breaks the silence.
It’s the beginning of April, but in Calgary, winter didn’t go too far.
Feeling like -23 C with the wind chill, there are few visitors to the Peace Bridge, one of the city’s most recognizable places for its bright red aesthetic, like a finger trap.
Below, chunks of ice gently float along the Bow River, while the geese inhabiting adjacent Prince’s Island Park each rest in the same place, sometimes calling each other.
Like so many others in the city, even they seem to be bored; restless too, as they sit lazily in isolation.
For the lonely pedestrian bridge, this calm is not like things were supposed to be.
No tourists taking selfies in sight. No commuters crossing to the city center from the neighboring Sunnyside area. No e-scooter zips back and forth.
Instead, calm down.
Until the snowblower takes its place, that is, it zooms in and out three times to clear the walkways on each side, as well as the central cycle path.
The noise from the machine almost disrupts the tranquility – the peace – that has swept across much of Calgary in recent weeks.
It is a reminder of the normal “old” before the days of social distancing and the mantra “stay at home” that now resonates in empty downtown office towers.
Not so long ago.
And it’s a reminder that although no one can predict exactly when, there will come a day when the sounds of spring return to Peace Bridge; when it is overcrowded again with joggers and cyclists and yes, people who just want this artistic setting for their photo.
Maybe by then the snow will have cleared.
– Sammy Hudes, Calgary Herald
A cold gust drags a folder full of documents on 11th Avenue.
Its content may have been valuable a few weeks ago, but today no one is chasing it.
Dressed in a thick green parka, an old man vacantly watches the file open and the papers it contained swirling on the sidewalk in front of him.
He pays as much wit as he pays at the nearby Cornwall Center.
Pedestrian traffic inside and outside the normally busy shopping center is lethargic. And as the breeze rises and falls, it’s almost as if the building itself is hissing.
Many people just take a quick look at the doors and pass by. Most walk alone.
As the sun works to drill a hole in the low slate, the collar of the jacket is kept closed to the weather.
A woman holds her hand over her mouth. It is unclear whether this is a defense against illness or disease.
At the bus stop, those waiting for an elevator watch the passing pedestrians. The look is part of curiosity, part of suspicion, and suggests that to be here today, you have to have business.
But then it’s not the intersection that is of great interest. It’s not.
No one is wondering why these teens are not in school. They wonder where the teens are because they are not in school.
The backpacks take it over the briefcases. The white-collar worker must have abandoned the nearby office towers.
And as for the place where the beggars left, it’s up to everyone to guess. But their absence is not really a mystery.
Today even the most generous can justify choosing to cross the street.
– Brandon Harder, Regina Leader-Post
Bay Street. This is all that most Canadian journalists have to say in order to invoke images of the turmoil at the epicenter of business in the country.
The intersection of Bay and King in downtown Toronto is home to four of Canada’s major banks, CIBC, Scotiabank, BMO and TD all occupying massive towers in their respective corners. Royal and National are just on the other side of these towers, the Toronto Stock Exchange is there and the big law and accounting firms do the rest.
We like it or we hate it, Bay Street and this intersection in particular is the symbol of the Canadian economy. So maybe it’s appropriate that an area full of people, buzzing with activity, is so calm now.
The office workers are not here, the cafes that normally serve them double-doubles and slats to feed the day are mostly closed. There is discomfort in the streets because the few remaining pedestrians give themselves a large place when crossing.
This intersection is Canada’s economy at a glance. There is a lack of unhealthy activity, there is mistrust and discomfort. There is the fear of the unknown.
There is also an incredible potential, if we can harness it, get things back to normal. When and if it can happen will determine what this intersection will look like and the Canadian economy in the future.
– Brian Lilley, Toronto Sun
Springer Market Square is arguably the heart of the Kingston community. This is where residents skate in the winter and where they gather, shop or just watch people for the rest of the year. If there is a major event in Kingston, it is usually held at or within walking distance of the square.
As of April, the square is expected to house vendors – a rainbow of tents filled with a variety of vegetables, baked goods, art, and even old records and books. Thousands of visitors take part in the activity over the weekend.
The wind from Lake Ontario rushes into the square. There is always at least a little breeze in Kingston.
The wind slams Darwin Joseph Russell’s large blue tarpaulin as he deconstructs his home and that of Debra Kimberly Findlay. They slept on two benches nestled in a corner near the newly installed portable toilets. Russell is quick to pack his bedding but Findlay leaves his sleeping bag unrolled. She is sitting on it, wearing bright pink glasses and enjoying the sun. Findlay is warm, wearing her black winter coat, black tights and black flip-flops.
They light two homemade cigarettes.
“This is where they told us to come,” said Findlay. “They closed the warming center by opening the quarantine center…. It was dangerous anyway; a girl was attacked there. I had a knife against my back. “
The City of Kingston is opening a “physical distance center for the vulnerable,” but it is more than four kilometers along a busy road with a steep slope at Fort Henry Hill. All Findlay and Russell filled three green Food Basics baskets.
“I’m going to stay here,” said Findlay. “There is a sink in the toilet where I can wash my hair. “
– Steph Crosier, Kingston Whig-Standard
A window cleaner scrapes the windows of the cheese house in the ByWard Market. He typically cleans the windows of about 160 companies each week, he says. These days, however, due to COVID-19, it has dropped to 40. “It’s bad,” he says.
The House of Cheese is one of the few or two ByWard Market stores still open, and most of their business is done by phone, consumed by home delivery or curbside pickup. A few doors away, the Saslove meat market, a market staple since 1954, is also open, but not open to traffic. Down the street, La Bottega’s display of brightly wrapped Easter chocolates can only tease passers-by; the store is closed until further notice.
Normally in the heart of this city, the Byward Market is where people go for shopping, eating, drinking and socializing. Tourists and residents alike seek the OTTAWA sign on York Street, where they pose for selfies. From the stalls set up along the streets, sellers sell fresh produce, flowers, clothing, jewelry and unofficial items – or is it official? – the Ottawa pastry shop, the BeaverTail. Musicians, jugglers and chalk artists put their skills at the service of benevolent strollers.
This circus has disappeared, just like the one at night, this evening parade of lovers, swaggers, fighters and clowns. Today, the buzzing hive of activity that has characterized the market for almost 200 years has been reduced to an almost inaudible rate. Few buyers are on the verge, while some Lowertown residents pass their way to the LRT station or buses on Rideau Street. A few delivery vans and tradespeople are there – an ATM repairman, seeing me photographing the OTTAWA sign, rushes over and strikes a pose.
And the homeless, always the homeless, incapacitated or disinterested in “physical distance,” as if they didn’t have enough already, sat on cold sidewalks or wandered around.
It’s almost the opposite of a cacophonous painting by Bruegel. The owner of the Byward Café sums it up perfectly when he arrives at his closed restaurant to pick up the mail, calling the woman at the nearby maple syrup stall, “It’s a ghost town! “
She nods in favor of setting up her homemade maple fudge display, hoping things will get better soon.
– Bruce Deachman, Ottawa Citizen
Stillness hangs over the city like a cold mist, sprawling across empty streets and over Mount Royal.
Normally, the summit overlooking Montreal is an ideal place to sit at peak times: from the gazebo, you can bathe in the sun and smile while watching the traffic invade distant bridges and highways.
But on Wednesday, amidst a deadly pandemic that has forced millions of people across the country to hide, rush hour is a distant, almost picturesque memory. There is movement in the city below: an empty bus crossing Sherbrooke Street in record time, a garbage truck that winds along storefronts and closed cafes, a jogger whose steps echo on the hard sidewalk.
But above all, there is stillness.
Stillness punctuated by gusts of wind that shake the maple trees and shake the flagpoles dominating the city center. Stillness which carries the sound of howling geese and invites a rabbit from its burrow to feed through the tall grass.
Normally there are joggers, tourists who catch the sunrise and cyclists who jump in early spring.
Today, there is only one woman, walking to the edge of the platform and taking out her phone before hesitating. What exactly is she trying to capture on the device’s camera? Nothingness? The way sunlight bounces off empty sidewalks and skyscrapers like tombstones? The newly confident rabbit, suddenly free to roam without human interference?
She takes a quick photo and begins her workout: push-ups, squats, lunges, and everything else she could dream of on this beautiful April morning.
The city is not dead.
There is still life that pulsates slightly along the mountain, along the gravel paths, in the streets of the city still strewn with potholes and in the houses where hundreds of thousands of people – to through this stillness – wage a war against the deadly pandemic.
– Christopher Curtis, The Gazette