The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
Get our free newsletter
Sign Up

Please Advise! What Have We Learned in Our Year of the Plague?

We’ve learned a lot about loss, stupidity, hope and community, says Dr. Steve.

Steve Burgess 12 Mar 2021 |

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

We have now completed one Pandemic Year. Have we learned anything as a society?



Dear UV,

It’s been a Simpsons year, really. The Simpson family has been on the living room couch for over 30 years, but Bart and Lisa are still in grade school. Endless yet static — that is our pandemic era.

This is the month of strange COVID anniversaries, a surreal form of nostalgia in which looking back 12 months seems comparable to digging up Viking artifacts. Group photographs are now displayed in museums beside butter churns and artificial leeches. (Look them up.)

We find ourselves asking questions about the strange Before Time that was 2019. For example: How did we tell who the assholes were before they started showing up in stores without masks, shouting about tyranny? There must have been some way to spot them. Truck nuts, perhaps.

It’s been a year since the Great Toilet Paper Panic. That was perhaps the first indication that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to offer up a series of impromptu public IQ tests with frequently dismal results.

Those tests have continued, right up until this week when a B.C. government phone line set up to make vaccination appointments for residents 90 and over was deluged with 1.7 million calls in the first three hours. Either B.C. has more nonagenarians than anyone realized, or more likely people took the opportunity to call up and report squirrels in the attic, ask if their DoorDash order is going to arrive sometime this month, or complain about how the Royal Family treated Meghan and Harry.

If the government is going to set up a phone line and warn them not to call, people are going to call. It’s like those little “Do Not Remove” tags on mattresses.

It may be unduly pessimistic to say that the pandemic has shown us in an unflattering light. In fact, most people have behaved admirably and responsibly. It’s perhaps more accurate to say that the pandemic has been a stress test that has revealed the cracks — or crackpots — in our society. There are plenty.

A recent online Research Co. survey found that 15 per cent of British Columbians do not consider the virus to be a threat. That may be a relative few, but when it includes one of your relatives it’s still awkward. And it’s a lot of people — more than enough to fill stadiums with juicy, delectable victims, conveniently laid out for the coronavirus like so many rashers of bacon at a cruise ship buffet.

For us, COVID-19 has served the same purpose Donald Trump served in the U.S. — it has shed revealing light on the true nature of the citizenry. Again, this has been somewhat encouraging for Canadians — we simply do not seem to exhibit the same levels of bat-shittery found south of the border. When combined with the mythic American self-image of rugged, maverick individualism, COVID-19 has proven to be a truly lethal co-morbidity.

Canada cannot exactly boast though. We have suffered over 22,000 COVID-19 deaths, a national tragedy that does not rank us as one of the more successful countries worldwide. But with over half a million deaths and counting, the U.S. has well over twice our per-capita death rate, undoubtably because of a president who made COVID denial a mark of political obedience. Who could have predicted that a deadly virus could become a partisan political issue? Science fiction never gets it quite right.

So to answer your question, UV, have we learned anything in our plague year? Dr. Steve would say we have learned plenty. Much of it has been good, some of it has been unbearably sad, some of it has been decidedly trivial. For instance, Dr. Steve has learned that toilet paper packages stacked four high make a useful hallway table. The Vancouver Canucks can still disappoint when you’re not there to watch in person. Also, it’s possible to eat back-of-the-fridge mayo with a best-before date of mid-2017 and survive.

But to be honest, Dr. Steve already knew that. As a bachelor, he was pandemic-ready long before his time.  [Tyee]

Read more: Coronavirus

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: What Coverage Would You Like to See More of This Year?

Take this week's poll