Joe Canadian or Joe Btfsplk*?

September 24th, 2007
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Unfortunately, I’m old enough to remember the last time the Canadian dollar was on par with the U.S. greenback. Old enough to remember all the cheesy pop culture items everyone has been talking about for the last week – ABBA and all.

One thing I don’t remember is all the whining. In fact I don’t remember any whining about our dollar buying more than its southern cousin.

As has been the case with Alberta’s boom, we seem to have lost the ability to find, let alone value the good in any thing that’s happening. Yes, Alberta’s booming but wages can’t keep up with rising rents, food and gas prices. Yes the province is attracting people but the infrastructure can’t handle it. If only things would slow down enough or we could “plan” for all eventualities.

So has gone the discussion of the high dollar. Sure we can buy foreign goods more cheaply, you can shop at the nearest outlet mall. But what about the stuff we make, how can we sell it? Why aren’t our retailers dropping their prices faster?

Or worse, retailers complain that they have all this inventory that they bought at higher prices; or Buzz Hargrove and the usual suspects gripe on national radio that we should “buy Canadian” rather than cross the line to lower prices and better selection. Then the tourist sector complains that it will be crushed by shrinking demand.

After all, the argument goes, the strong dollar is “only” driven by strong resource prices. Ostensibly this is less real, or legitimate than a strong manufacturing sector.

Fair enough, the high dollar has some downsides, some economic pain will be felt transitioning from a weak dollar, but on balance it must help Canadians. What are some manufacturers and retailers thinking anyway? A book hot off the presses like the Greenspan memoir is still listed 38% more expensive in Canadian dollars ($35 US vs. $43.50 Cdn).

Even is 26% dearer than ($21 US vs. $26.50 Cdn.) for the same book. When was the Canadian dollar last at 60 cents? Seems like someone has been skimming a few profits for quite a while.

A high dollar at least gives us the option of purchasing elsewhere. By contrast the devaluation of Australian currency has placed a lot of things, including overseas education, out of the reach of the average Aussie. Sure, the Buzz crowd would want to keep us in a closed shop, unable to afford to buy elsewhere or simply not allowed to.

As for me, I’m headed south with the geese. What was that 48-hour duty free limit?

* Check this link for this obscure reference.

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