It’s a shame no one has considered a more generous interpretation of the trip taken by Rod and Ekaterina Baker to the remote Northern community of Beaver Creek in Yukon, where the multimillionaire one-per-centers instantly became two-per-centers (that is, part of the 2 per cent of Canadians who have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine).
The assumption is that the now-former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming and his aspiring actress wife flew from their Vancouver home earlier this month to Whitehorse, and then to Beaver Creek, so that they could jump the vaccine queue and snag a couple of Moderna doses months before it would actually be their turn.
The Bakers are not health care workers, or people living in remote communities, or seniors living in long-term care homes, which means they would have had to wait a while before they could resume the practice of flying around the world and leaving one-star reviews of local Starbucks without fear of contracting COVID-19. Perhaps the discomfort of being exorbitantly wealthy and having a travel itch that can’t be scratched is comparable to the angst of languishing for months in an underserved long-term care home during a pandemic? Who’s to say, really?
Anyway, we ought to consider the possibility that the Bakers travelled to Beaver Creek for purely altruistic reasons – in order to bring some joy to a remote community that has become even more isolated throughout the course of this pandemic. Indeed, we’ve all come to appreciate that many people are feeling anxious and lonely after a very strange year, and perhaps out of a recognition of those mental health struggles, the Bakers made the selfless decision to travel to Beaver Creek to treat its residents to a live appearance by the actress who appeared in the movies Fatman and Chick Fight. What a treat!
Yes, the couple did break quarantine rules and risked the health of everyone in the community by showing up, but surely Beaver Creek’s elders would choose to endure a little deadly virus – even if the nearest hospital is hours away – if it meant seeing someone from a film rated 4.3 out of 10 on IMDB in the flesh. And since the pair are such powerful influencers – Mr. Baker, as the recent head of a company involved in a public inquiry over alleged money laundering, and Mrs. Baker, as the owner of a now-deleted Instagram account with 2,600 followers – it’s reasonable to posit that they were actually doing a public service by accepting vaccine doses to demonstrate their safety. (The one snag is that the efficacy of the Moderna vaccine was only tested on regular humans, and it remains unclear whether the vaccine will trigger an immune response in people with dried-up mulch where their souls are supposed to be.)
Yukon News reported that the couple is alleged to have lied to the mobile team that flew in to administer the vaccines by posing as motel workers so that they could get their shots. But surely that was just a necessary evil to throw off any paparazzi that might have been hiding in Beaver Creek and hoping to snap a few pictures of the actress in the wild. And what fun it must have been for the Bakers to dress up like commoners for a few hours, perhaps swapping overpriced, deliberately ripped jeans for genuinely ripped jeans and rehearsing lines about the struggle of living off a salary of ... what do the poor make these days? Ten thousand dollars a month?
Yet for all their charity and selflessness, the Bakers were thanked with a couple of charges each under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act, for failing to self-isolate upon entering the territory and for not abiding by their entry declarations. The couple faces a maximum penalty of six months in jail and fines totalling $2,300. Fortunately, though, the $45.9-million profit Mr. Baker made in stock options over the past 13 months and $4.3-million in severance cash he stands to gain for leaving Great Canadian Gaming should just about cover any fines related to their trip. The greater shame is that these penalties might serve to discourage other wealthy couples from travelling to remote communities to delight locals with their presence and maybe grab a couple of vaccines while they’re there.
Well, nevertheless, it is unfortunate that this obvious act of giving has been torqued in a way to make it seem as though the Bakers risked the welfare of an entire community just to skip the vaccine line. Perhaps they did so in order to join the chorus of people claiming “We are all in this together” without fear of being infected by that same chorus? Yes, that must be it. Forget front-line workers — these front-of-the-line jumpers, surely, are the real heroes of the pandemic.
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