Monday, December 10, 2007

Preparing for Christmas - What comes around goes around . . .

Last year around this time, I remember reflecting on the cost of all the "stuff" we north Americans go out and buy in the name of Christmas. My immediate conclusion was that this very self indulgent practice would be much better directed towards people in need through donations to organizations specializing in fund raising for developing countries. On further reflection though, I came to the realization that buying "stuff" creates the economic activity that creates wealth and puts it into the hands of people who need the jobs that are created as a result of our buying. This weekend I took my mom and David to the Oshawa mall on Sunday afternoon. More than anything I was thinking it would make for a nice drive, although I use almost any excuse to visit the Telus store, where I am always greeted with a big smile and an abundance of help with my telecommunications challenges. While on the 401 we listened to yet another news story about the number of Canadians - (apparently now 1 in 5) who are hustling off to the U.S. to save money as they exercise the new found strength of the loonie. The latest angle is that Canadians are not good tippers! Although the Oshawa mall was busy, given the proximity to Christmas, it certainly could have been busier. Our first stop was at Canadian Tire where I picked up a squirrel proof bird feeder for my mom's back yard. It's quite ingenius, and it's already brought a steady stream of colourful customers, much to my mother's delight. A spring loaded device closes off the supply of food if anything heavier than a bird steps on it. There are a few chubby Bluejays that might have a problem with this feeder, but the squirrels are definatley out of luck with this one. Next we stopped in for a visit with the ever friendly staff at Telus where we were treated like royalty, as per usual. As it turns out, the VP for the Oshawa region, who's wife comes to the spa, read my blog (Tuesday September 11th, 2007) telling about the great service we always get at this store, and took all the staff out for breakfast. No wonder the staff are so nice - they are appreciated by management! Next we spent some time at Chapters reading and picking out gifts (OK, most of the gifts were from me, to me), another favourite pastime, before heading home. Although there were crowds, there were no line ups or delays at any of these stores. My message is this. Those Canadians who are rushing the border intoxicated by their zeal to save money by travelling to the U.S. should really pause and reflect on the long term impact of this kind of short term thinking. If the Canadian dollar continues to trade at par, (which it probably will as long as we are willing to compromise our environment to sell oil and other natural resources and as long as interest rates are low) there will be adjustments to retail prices once old inventory and old currency works its way out of the system. However, expecting these changes over night is not realistic. The impact on manufacturing jobs, (which by the way started long before the dollar hit par), is just the tip of the potential economic iceberg. There will be a domino/vicious circle effect as lost jobs in manufacturing, shopping and travelling abroad start to impact on each other. First the loss of these jobs will result in reduced spending and investment by these people without or between jobs. Ultimately the burden of these lost jobs will multiply across sectors and then be passed down to the taxpayer as our costs of an economic slowdown start to be noticed and responded to by government through our already strained and expensive social safety net. Irony is, all of this will ultimately weaken the dollar. So the old adage - what comes around, goes around comes to mind. Do yourself and your fellow Canadians a favour - shop at home and travel at home this holiday season - buy Canadian, give to the poor, and save yourself some long term pain.

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