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The Great Canadian Sell-Out

Steve Campbell

Steve Campbell

As a column writer, it never ceases to amaze me that people will read one sentence, or one word, and run off with it in a different direction. On the blog, I was under attack for a reference about shopping at Dollarama, from a blogger concerned that I was promoting buying cheap imported goods.
First: That was not my intent. I was using that as an example of the fiscal irresponsibility of the Ontario government, i.e. Don’t spend money you don’t have. To put it another way: Don’t buy a brand-new 2014 Cadillac if your budget says you should be driving a used 2000 Hyundai. This is Real Life.

    But the government has a different set of rules. Let’s look at the difference between County Steve and Dalton. Stevie goes crazy if he does not zero his Visa bill at the end of each month, because Stevie considers ‘interest’ to be money showered upon the Pharoahs of Easy Cash, whose sole job is to charge people for delivering no discernible product. Dalton looks only at the ‘Funds Available’ column, to see how many more boneheaded decisions could be made.
Yes, I know Dalton is gone, and I should stop picking on him. Let him collect his enormous pension in the peace of his own mansion. But he’s an example of the ongoing mentality of our governments. Sure, he blew away billions in cancelled gas plants, and a few more to relocate them to Napanee which – Thank God – is in Rural Ontario, which no-one cares about. Sure he blew away billions into Industrial Wind Turbine deals, chewing up valuable waterfront real estate all the way up to Georgian Bay (no kidding), without the slightest qualm about The Future, when it comes time to ‘pay the piper’, who apparently pipes in Korea.
    Really, the only difference between Dalton and Stevie is: Stevie doesn’t have billions to blow, or he would have a fleet of Cadillacs in different colours to match the days of the week. You can fix that.
On your next tax cheque, please write in the Memo slot: “I would like the total amount of this cheque to go to Poor Stevie in The County, so he can have a fleet of Cadillacs.” You’ll need to write really small. Also, I can supply a photo of me looking really pathetic. I actually do have a pair of sneakers that are wrapped in (Made in Canada) duct-tape.
Oddly enough – and you’ll never hear this again – I understand why Dalton likes to run his credit card to the limit, putting Ontario billions of dollars into debt. He is simply reflecting the trend of our times: Buy Now, Pay Later. This is the consumer motto of our times, when offers of Platinum Cards and Increased Credit Limits genuinely make you feel way richer than you can actually afford to be.
[Historical Note: The first Credit Plan was introduced in the U.S. in 1856. Isaac Singer’s sewing machines sold for $125 – out of reach of the average consumer. He was the first to offer a breakdown of the price into affordable installments. The concept spread quickly to other manufacturers of appliances, furniture and autos. Suddenly, you could raise your standard of living NOW, and pay for it later.]
Second: As another blogger pointed out, there is hardly any opportunity to buy Made in Canada products, no matter where you shop. And that’s what I would like to explore in this column.
Perhaps you can remember the Glory Days of 1967, when Canadian Nationalism was at its peak. We were not only pumped and proud, but the governments’ eyes were on Canada, from coast to coast. I was just hitting Political Awareness at the time, so please correct me if I’m wrong. The Prime Minister of the time set up legislation to protect us from the American invasion: In order to manufacture in Canada, American companies needed to allow more than 50% Canadian ownership. Americans, eager to expand their markets, said okay. Other legislation insisted that, in order to distribute product in Canada, the U.S. needed a Canadian subsidiary. Also good for Canadian business. Broad casting rules were changed to ensure that Canadian content was included in radio and television material, which boosted producers and artists fighting against the giant U.S. entertainment scene.
Hard to imagine, isn’t it? A time when Canadians were proud, wary of the U.S. and employed? But things started to change. Free Trade and Globalization took the place of Canadian jobs and Canadian product. The same thing happened in the U.S.A.
If you remember, I fought against Free Trade (Wow! How long have I been writing?!) because I thought it was a Deal with the Devil. And it was. As a history buff, I knew that Americans have an inherent protectionist mentality and, whenever the card game wasn’t going in their favour, they would abruptly change the rules. Tariffs continued to be applied to Canadian imports – everything from evergreen trees and lumber to beef and fish – when those sections of U.S. industry kicked up a fuss about Canadian imports hurting their markets.
Oddly enough – and you’ll never hear this again – I don’t completely blame Mulroney. His economists told him this was the way to go, and they would have been right if they weren’t so politically naïve as to believe the U.S. would be okay with Canada getting a hands up in the game every once in a while. The advisors were right too, in that Europe followed suit, and encountered the same problem. “I love this game, as long as my country wins!”
Free Trade was a forerunner to the next problem: Globalization. Not a bad concept, and probably inevitable as technology increased, and the world grew smaller, and China was opening up to the world, with cheap labour sweatshops that were so far away, they were not our concern.
Here’s where 1967 meets today. Canadians recently had to make the decision: Do we want Canadian-made, or do we want cheap?” Hmmmm. Let’s see what it costs for a unionized Canadian worker with a dental plan and pension to make a pair of jeans. Wow! Really? Okay let’s see what it costs to make a pair of jeans in a country where East Indians make the fabric, and Filipinos make 5¢ per unit to assemble them. Hmmmmm.
I don’t need to tell you what we chose. Our formerly-proud All-Canadian companies shrugged and said: “Why not take advantage of a country that is taking advantage of its workers? You have to understand, 5¢ is a big amount of money for them … equivalent to about $500 U.S.D. We’re actually helping them feed their families!”
“Excuse me a moment … What’s this? Oh, yes, the bill for our National TV Advertising Campaign. Yes, take that $4.5 million out of our promo budget.”
Bitch all you want, but we gave our government and corporations a Big Nod and Grin to sell out our home-grown workers, so we could wear a cheaper shirt. And there’s no turning back now.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Cheryl Anderson says:

    One of your best columns, Steve. Right up there with a Rick Mercer rant IMO.

  2. Wolf Braun says:

    True Chris. They no longer have pension plan. BUT, they do get compensation for their work. Those who serve more than eight years are given a payment equal to one-and-a-half times their annual salary when they leave. Locked in I believe. So the base salary for an MPP is approx $116,000. So after 8 years you can walk away with a nice sum.

  3. Chris Holder says:

    To the best of my knowledge mpp’s in Ontario do not get a pension. Courtesy of Mike Harris. cheers. Chris Holder

  4. Wolf Braun says:

    Enjoyed your column as always !

    “There’s no turning back now” implies that democracy belongs to government and corporations and not to the people. Don’t agree with you.

    A lot of citizens may not get off their duffs and do something (we can finds lots of excuses and reasons) but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

    Now that you’ve entertained and depressed the ‘double H’ out of us, how about a discussion on how we take back democracy?

  5. judy kennedy says:

    Part of my message was deleted–should have said: In the meantime, let the places you shop know your feelings.

  6. judy kennedy says:

    One thing we can all do is support the Union movement in North America and encourage its development everywhere else.
    Destroy unions and it will reduce us to the cheap labour and lack of health care “enjoyed” in those countries we feel sorry for, and whom we import massive tonnage from —–how about a column about the history of unions, Steve?
    places you shop know your feelings.

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