Go west, young Canadians – by Margaret Wente (Globe and Mail – February 9, 2012)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

“Like it or not, Canada’s stupendous natural resources are
our future. They are the envy of the world, and will ensure
our prosperity for many years to come….The question is not
whether we should develop these resources, but how wisely and
how well.” (Margaret Wente – Globe and Mail)

When Caterpillar closed a plant in Southern Ontario last week and threw 450 people out of work, some commentators treated it like a national catastrophe. Caterpillar, which is notorious for its hardball labour tactics, plans to relocate the jobs in Indiana, where people are willing to work for half of what the unionized workers in Ontario got.

I felt awful for the workers. Who wouldn’t? But Ontario has to compete with the entire world. And even if those jobs don’t move away, many are being swept away by new technology. The mighty engine of Confederation has turned into its rust belt. But nobody in the rest of Canada is feeling particularly sorry for us. We squandered the fat years on a vast expansion of our government and threw away our money on foolish green energy schemes. Now we face a gloomy decade of tax increases, deteriorating health care and deep cuts to everything. Did I mention that the average detached house in Toronto costs $606,000?

No wonder Ontarians are so depressed. No wonder so many of my friends’ kids are moving away to Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. These are the same places their parents were eager to escape 30 or 40 years ago. Back then, Toronto was the place to be if you wanted to make something of yourself. Today, it’s the West.

The country’s economic, demographic and political power are all shifting. Western power has already begun to change our national values. Stephen Harper’s majority was no fluke. He was elected by a new coalition of westerners and voters in the suburbs of Toronto. These people prefer CTV to the CBC. They think Ottawa and government should matter less, and they seldom think about Quebec at all. This is an epochal shift. Quebec’s threats and aspirations dominated (and paralyzed) national affairs for the better part of a generation. Today, people no longer ask what it will take to keep Quebec happy. Instead, they ask why Quebec is getting billions in equalization payments so it can subsidize $7-a-day daycare.

Quebec is hurtling toward the bottom of the country in income and standard of living. Alberta and Saskatchewan are at the other end. Natural resources play a part in that, but so do values. Quebeckers work fewer hours and make less money than other Canadians, but pay far higher taxes.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/margaret-wente/go-west-young-canadians/article2331573/

Comments are closed.