By: George Brookman
March 2016 – Business in Calgary
Even though Europe appears to be nothing more than a bunch of borders drawn on a page, we have all seen over many years just how fiercely Europeans defend the country of their birth. In fact, most of the time this inward focus on their own nationalism is likely not a good thing, but there are times when I wonder if Canadians couldn’t use a bit more pride in what and who we are.
Take cars for example. In Sweden the Swedes drive Volvos and Saabs – neither one of which are owned by Swedes any longer but they are still symbolic of their nation. In Germany everyone drives an Audi or a BMW or a Mercedes or, of course, a Volkswagen. While in France virtually every vehicle you see is a Renault or a Citroen. I know this is not a true test of supporting industry, but it is an indication that people have pride in what their own country produces. The people who created Ikea are almost revered as heroes in Sweden while the Israelis have taken that tiny nation and turned it into a technological giant.
Are Canadians as concerned about their purchases? Do we ever ask the question, “Where was this made?” and allow that to be part of our decision. Why not a Ford or a Chev or a Toyota built in Ontario over vehicles built in some other part of the world? Don’t worry, I am as guilty of this as anyone, but when was the last time you saw a Canadian prime minister or the premier of Ontario standing beside a car as it came off the line in Oshawa or Oakville saying, “Here is one of the finest vehicles in the world and I urge you to consider buying this car.” It just doesn’t happen.
The Canadian wine that comes from vineyards in British Columbia and Ontario are now outstanding and world class – yet we continue to buy wines from California, France and Italy as if Canadian wineries do not know what they are doing. Can you imagine buying American wine in France or Italy? And you surely cannot buy any Canadian wine in California, no possible way. Just doesn’t happen. Canadian beef, Canadian pork, Canadian fish and Canadian poultry set the standards for the world but we as shoppers need to make sure that we insist on those products when we buy. Every purchase of a “Produced in Canada” product helps every single Canadian at some point along the line.
Then there is oil. The truth is that Canadian oil is produced more cleanly, more efficiently and with more regard to the environment than producers in any other country. Do you think that the Russians or the Arabs become apoplectic over an oil spill? Of course not. In California a gas line has been spewing natural gas into the atmosphere for weeks and it hardly makes the CNN news reports. Yet in Canada, where our people rely on coal, oil and natural gas just to survive in our climate, it has almost become an insult to say that you are “in the oil business.” Have we lost our minds? When Saudi Arabia is shipping their oil to New Brunswick so that Irving can refine and sell it to Canadians, we have to ask ourselves, “Has somebody got a thing going here?” When Quebec mayors, who have enjoyed the financial support of the Alberta energy industry for many years, come out against a pipeline that will allow them to return some of that support to fellow Canadians, one cannot help but ask, “What are they thinking?” Where is the leadership that speaks out against this nonsense? Why is the prime minister not appearing on every newscast to declare that he will defend all Canadian industries and sell their products to the world… not just aircrafts and light-rail cars?
This country has an economy based on the oil and gas industry, then the agricultural industry, followed by manufacturing, tourism, technology and so on down the line. The energy industry is so far ahead of the rest that it is ridiculous and when someone recently asked me, “When did oil become so important to our world?” I replied, “I think it started when people began hunting whales for their oil.” The world runs on energy and while renewables may be coming along nicely, the fact is the oil and gas are still the most important sources of energy we have today and Canada has it in abundance.
So, Canadians, let’s tweak our attitudes. Let’s not buy our oil from countries that take our dollars, turn them into guns and then try to kill us with them. How ridiculous is that? Let’s think about where our cars and our appliances are made and try to buy Canadian. Let’s think about what we put on our table and take pride that if it is produced in Canada, it is likely the best the world has to offer.
I have often said that Canada is the closest thing to “Camelot” that the world has ever seen. Just like the Knights of the Round Table, we have the choice either to preserve the greatest country in the history of the earth, or to just let it slip away from us one silly decision at a time.