9.07.2005

observation

This is something I've noticed throughout my Canadian odyssey, from our earliest trips to Toronto to today. I've waited a long time to mention it, to make sure I wasn't drawing a hasty generalization.

Canadians seem very careful with money. Frugal. Cheap.

Of course no generalization is absolute. But on the whole, people here seem very concerned with how much things cost, and with saving money. I'm not talking about people who simply can't afford things. I've been poor. I know what it is when your basic expenses outstrip your income, how wearing that is, the stress it puts you under. So we'll leave that aside.

I'm talking about an attitude. A concern with spending the least amount of money possible, about avoiding or reducing costs if at all possible. An unwillingness to part with money. Phone bills. Parking. Cable TV. The garbage tags I blogged about yesterday. In the US, charging an extra dollar for garbage tags would not create an incentive to put out less garbage. People would just buy more tags. Here, our neighbour says no one ever buys extra tags.

To some of you, this may seem a clear virtue. Others may take offense. I mean it only as an observation.

I have a very specific reaction to this, because of my own background. In a family dominated by Control Freak Father who was also the World's Cheapest Man, the goal in life was not to spend money. Any money spent had to be justified a million times over. Endless amounts of time and energy were spent searching for The Holy Grail called The Best Deal. (No matter that this becomes counterproductive. It had to be done.) And Control Freak Father used money as a way of controlling our lives.

As adults, my siblings and I all became very generous. We are check-grabbers. We are excellent tippers. For my own part, I don't care about the Best Deal. I don't buy foolishly - I don't pay more for the exact same product based on packaging or a faddish brand name - but I decided long ago that my time is worth more than my money. I often pay more for convenience. I will hire someone to do something for me, in order to make my life a bit easier, and I will pay them as generously as I can. If I need, for example, a new vitamin supplement, I don't check the price in four places before I buy it. I just buy it. I feel Allan and I both work hard for our income, and we can spend it without justification. I haven't seen how getting The Best Deal improves anyone's life. I haven't seen how my life is diminished by spending a little more and worrying about money a little less.

I've been very surprised by how often Canadians mention the cost of long-distance phone bills, or the price of cable TV, or high-speed internet access, or parking, or the countless things I would put under the category of regular life expenses. To me, the price of these regular life expenses are not even worth mentioning. It costs money to live. Period. Again, I'm not talking about people who are truly struggling financially. I'm talking about people with decent jobs and decent incomes, for whom frugality is just a part of life.

Your thoughts?

82 comments:

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

I'd say that compared to Americans, Canadians are a little more frugal.

As an example, the arrival of Wal-Mart almost killed the traditional department store in Canada. Only Sears and the Bay are left, and they're both on somewhat shaky ground. In the U.S. though, the traditional department store suffered, but wasn't put on its death bed by Wal-Mart.

It's all relative though. Other (developed) parts of the world make Canadians look like they spend money like druken sailors. It's only in comparison to the most spend-happy neighbours to the south that we look frugal.

L-girl said...

It's only in comparison to the most spend-happy neighbours to the south that we look frugal.

Well, that's my only comparison here.

melusina said...

Greeks seem to be of both extremes. Many seem ultra frugal, and others seem to overspend generously. You almost never find someone in the middle.

The irony is, a lot of Greeks will bitch about a medicine that costs them 2 euros, but the same Greeks will easily spend hundreds of dollars on electronic equipment or other things they don't *really* need. Prices are only too high to them if it is a necessary purchase, I guess.

Greeks are also really big about sharing how much money they make, how much they pay for things, etc. It is quite different from the American reticence in financial matters.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...


The irony is, a lot of Greeks will bitch about a medicine that costs them 2 euros, but the same Greeks will easily spend hundreds of dollars on electronic equipment or other things they don't *really* need


Actually, that sounds like us Canadians too.

Lone Primate said...

What can we say? I can't speak for the whole country, but around here, guilty as charged. With the way gas has been yo-yoing, I've found myself sneering cynically at people who drove past the gas station when gas was 97.9¢/L at 6 PM, lining up four deep when it was 95.3¢/L at 10 PM. In the average tank, that doesn't even amount to an extra litre for the same amount of money. In other words, you're pissing away 15-20 minutes for about 50¢ (how much gas did you waste idling?). Come on, guys, show a little pride. All they're doing is training you like Pavlov's dog, and you're drooling already. I agree with saving money, but this is just a conditioning game, not competition. Choose your battles.

Still, it's not an entirely unvarnished virtue. Canadians, while nowhere near as thrifty as many Asians and Europeans, put more of their earnings aside than Americans. The huge, perilous trend in the US of mortgaging homes against their anticipated increase in value and blowing the difference is not that prevalent here. And since 1995, the federal government has been using the budget surplus to pay down the national debt (cue Rob with military advocacy screed here), which, even if it isn't completely paid off, could prove to be of enormous advantage to us in giving us some leeway with interest we won't have to pay if and when the US-dollar crunch comes in the next few years. If keeping an eye on the bottom line is indeed a typical Canadian trait, it's likely to save us a lot of grief in the long run.

RobfromAlberta said...

Come on lp, I'm first and foremost, a fiscal conservative. I fully applaud any effort to reduce our debt. Debt reduction, tax relief and defense spending are my three favourite things.

I agree with your observation, L. Canadians are notoriously lousy tippers when travelling abroad, although to be fair, Americans get to tip in their own currency most everywhere they go. We Canucks have an unfavourable exchange rate to account for when deciding how much to tip.

I think Canadians are also less optimistic about the future compared to Americans. We generally believe no matter how well we're doing now, there's a chance the good times will end in the future. There's both good and bad in that. We may be more cautious and, therefore, more prepared for bumps in the road of life, but we're also less likely to take risks and less entrepreneurial.

James said...

Keep in mind -- Canada was founded by Scots, who could pinch a penny 'til it screamed for mercy!

'twas the Scots that built this country
It should never be forgot.
In each Canadian family,
Somewhere there's a Scot

When Sir John A. MacDonald
Looked out across this land,
What he saw before him,
A Scot would understand.
Those first few encounters
with the savages were hot.
(It's Indians, not savages.)
I'm referring to the Scots!

Oh, aye.

St. Andrew's ball is lavish,
Each year in Montreal.
All around the world,
The Scots are famous for their balls.
Where-ever Scotsmen travelled,
There were two things that they brought:
Whiskey, and containers -
The containers were the Scots.

Oho, aye.

Twas the Scots that built this country,
By the Scots this land was built.
Not by pea soup or Yorkshire pudding,
But by porridge, pipe and kilt.

While politicians argue
What is right and what is not,
They do it in the comfort
Of buildings made by Scots.
In every corporation,
They've always saved a spot
For a portrait of their founder:
A penny-pinching, glowering, red-faced, whiskey-drinking, Presbyterian, anhedonic, bagpipe-squeezing, caber-tossing, apoplectic, haggis-eating Scot.

Twas the Scots that built this country
With great big hairy knees.
We owe a debt of gratitude.
Two more whiskeys, please!


- Bowser and Blue

Kyahgirl said...

Hi L, I must say I'm giggling and smirking as I read this post. You're bang on in your observations as usual.

General frugality with an entire spectrum of frugalness would be a good way to describe the Canadians I know.

I won't defend it, I won't deny it. It just is.

Anonymous said...

LOL funny song!

I wouldn't necessarily say that Canadian's are cheap when they travel abroad, I certainly am not... but then again I like good service at hotels and restaurants so tip well and get the good service.

But yes the way mortgages are going down south is getting crazy and I think ultimately the US is in for a banking crisis similar to what Japan went through in the 80's and early 90's. The price of real estate is not necessarily going to be going up forever so these mortgages on percieved value will eventually be called in. When that happens it will be a huge problem for the US economy.

I read a story not too long ago about how little the average american household is saving now. I can't find it anymore but it was quite scary when compared to the levels of saving that was going on in the 50's and 60's.

You can only finance your economy on credit for so long.

But I do agree with you L-girl... we Canadians do like to bitch about the price of the little things. Maybe it is a good thing that that is the worst thing we have to complain about.

Peter

L-girl said...

There's both good and bad in that.

I won't defend it, I won't deny it. It just is.


This is exactly how I intended this observation: it just is. It can be either a positive or negative, depending on one's perspective.

Keep in mind -- Canada was founded by Scots

I have often thought of this! However, since I only know the stereotype of the cheap Scotsman, and have never had the stereotype confirmed or denied by my own experience, I didn't want to bring it up. But more than once I have wondered about the Scottish connection.

Oh, hiya Kyahgirl! Nice to see you here.

L-girl said...

we Canadians do like to bitch about the price of the little things. Maybe it is a good thing that that is the worst thing we have to complain about.

Good point, Anonymous Peter. :)

Lone Primate said...

Debt reduction, tax relief and defense spending are my three favourite things.

Pick one. By their very nature, they're mutually exclusive.

Mine? Eliminate the debt. Opens up options for the other two later.

Second choice: spend on the military.

Third: tax "relief". Very suspicious of this one. Most of the time it's French for "transferring huge amounts of capital to the already wealthy by cutting services and requiring the middle class and disadvantaged to actually pay far, far more than the paltry savings in income tax that actually accrues to them in order to secure those same services which were less expensive for the government to finance due to the volumes of scale". My, those French can certainly be succinct, can't they?

RobfromAlberta said...

They're not mutually exclusive because all three are dominated by the elephant in the room, social spending.

Lone Primate said...

LOL, I just received confirmation of a business course my company's sending me to across town. I looked it over and found myself thinking, "Hmm, $14 a day to park... wonder if there are residential streets close by where I can park for free instead..."

Heh, we sure are cheap. :)

...Though I'll still be looking into that.

RobfromAlberta said...

Oh and my idea of tax relief actually means less taxes. I don't speak French.

tijo said...

I think you'll notice this might be related to Canada having a less-commercialized culture to some extent. In Canada (not just economic) conservation is more pronounced, and because Canadians pay more and higher taxes they don't think they should have to spend more for basic utilities and services. Economic waste means a long-term loss of basic creature-comforts, and I think basic comfort is something Canadians appreciate and strive to uphold.

As for tipping, I worked as a waitress for several years in Canada and made great tips overall. In NYC big tippers would be more common than in, say, Cincinnati or 'average' cities in the US. And in urban Toronto I'm sure you'd find tipping on par with NYC. There's certainly a different economic culture in suburbs and smaller towns anywhere you go.

Lone Primate said...

They're not mutually exclusive because all three are dominated by the elephant in the room, social spending.

"The military" is also "social" spending, Rob. Anything the government spends money on is social spending. You just want to blow more money on that particular branch of it than most of the rest of us.

And thanks for coming in on cue, BTW; it's nice you found your mark so quickly. :)

Lone Primate said...

Oh and my idea of tax relief actually means less taxes. I don't speak French.

So the government generates less income, yet spends more money on atomic popguns that make you go "geeeeee!" Where's this money come from?

RobfromAlberta said...

Where's this money come from?

I'm assuming that's a rhetorical question.

Amateur said...

I recently moved from Ottawa to the maritimes and I have noticed something else along the same lines. Several times strangers (always men) have struck up a conversation with me to tell me that I could have paid less for something I just bought.

A very odd way to try to make friends!

Lone Primate said...

Where's this money come from?

I'm assuming that's a rhetorical question.


Yes, I think that's at the very heart of the problem here. In other words, you know it means cuts to other programs, but you don't want to come out and say it. You'd rather it just be assumed to magically appear out of some bag so no one thinks too hard about the real ramifications of what you're suggesting.

Folks, anyone who wants to see the kind of fun people like Rob are greasing us up for would do well to glance over the following, presented in the form a short, one-act play:

The Waitress and the Lawyer: A One-Act Play

RobfromAlberta said...

Lp, you don't even know what my idea of tax relief is and you smear me with some spoof of Bush's tax policy. Pretty low, buddy. I expected more.

Lone Primate said...

Lp, you don't even know what my idea of tax relief is...

Oh, I'm sorry... I thought your "idea" of tax relief was to ask my if my question was "rhetorical". Forgive me for missing your vast, well-laid-out explanation.

RobfromAlberta said...

Two different things, you asked, in effect, where I thought the axe should fall and I know you already knew the answer to that.

As for tax relief, we should reduce (and eventually eliminate) the GST, increase the maximum allowance and reduce EI payments. All three will benefit low- and middle-class tax payers far more than the wealthy. Quite frankly, rich people don't pay taxes anyway, so tax relief for the rich is pointless.

lmcatl said...

I just got back from my vacation in Toronto visiting my family. My Mum commented on some jeans that I was wearing and I was compelled to tell her the great deal that I got on them. Her response; 'You're still so Canadian.' hahahaha

L-girl said...

There's certainly a different economic culture in suburbs and smaller towns anywhere you go.

Very good point, Tijo. Although my US perspective is based on having traveled over much of the country, too, not only on New York. But I do take your point.

Several times strangers (always men) have struck up a conversation with me to tell me that I could have paid less for something I just bought.

A very odd way to try to make friends!


Amateur, I know exactly what you mean - and I agree!

My Mum commented on some jeans that I was wearing and I was compelled to tell her the great deal that I got on them. Her response; 'You're still so Canadian.' hahahaha

Love it. :)

And I see Rob and Lone Primate are at it again. Do you notice how much less controlling I am now about these on-blog debates? I've decided I'm happy the wmtc community uses this as a place for ongoing discussion, and I needn't try to channel it, as long as it stays polite. Which, being Canadian, it usually does.

Lone Primate said...

you asked, in effect, where I thought the axe should fall and I know you already knew the answer to that.

No, I don't, actually. You haven't said. You just blew off "social spending", which is typical when stuff like this comes up. But I want to know precisely whose lives you intend to affect when you say this. What it actually means when the high-flying abstraction crashes on somebody's house.

we should reduce (and eventually eliminate) the GST

Once the debt's paid off and we can meet our obligations without borrowing money, I wholehearted agree, believe me.

All three will benefit low- and middle-class tax payers far more than the wealthy.

Assuming we retain sufficient income to maintain the programs, visible and not-so-visible, upon which the standard of living of such people is predicated, that would be true. Otherwise, it's a blind alley, and you really need to read that play and consider what it's saying instead of just scoffing at it.

Quite frankly, rich people don't pay taxes anyway, so tax relief for the rich is pointless.

This sounds to me like a point in favour of raising taxes (in other words, eliminating targeted loopholes), rather than one for tax "relief".

Lone Primate said...

Just for fun, let's examine the practicalities of cutting taxation while simultaneously increasing defense spending.

Let's say I'm the typical Canadian, and I make about $35,000 a year... thereabouts. And one day after listening to FOX News, I get this neo-con bee in my bonnet and I march into the boss's office and say, "You know, I don't think those hard-working guys on the board are pulling down enough bonuses. I want you to cut my salary by $5000 effective immediately." So the boss shrugs, and cuts my salary.

Then, feeling good about myself, I go out in the parking lot, and hop into my workable Civic, paid for and now costing me maintenace costs only (call it $100 a month), and roar off to the dealership where I turn it in and buy a new Acura, which will cost me, say, $350 a month.

Imagine that after expenses, I used to be able to put aside about a tenth of my income: $3500. That was used to pay down my debts and put something aside for retirement. Well, that's gone. I can no longer pay down my credit card debt or put anything aside. I can only scramble to pay the interest so the principle holders don't come for blood.

So now I'm making $5000 a year less, but I've increased my spending by $250 a month (Acura payments less the maintence costs of the old Civic... at least for a couple of years), and I'm still on the hook for interest on my debt. That's over three thousand dollars a year I wasn't paying before these great ideas. Moreover, it's money I don't have. It has to come from somewhere.

Where?

I can either go deeper into debt, or I can start economizing. Hey, economizing sounds good! But what does "economizing" really mean?

Do I buy less nourishing food? Take a chance on things on the cusp of expiry?

What about education? Been sending the kids to a good private school in hopes a better education and brighter future in the long run. Cut that and send them back to public school?

Cancel the contract with the security firm and take my chances with break-ins?

Stop taking vacations, work more overtime? Stop taking my expensive heart medication?

Suppose all this doesn't add up to the difference in my pay cut and my flashy new car? More credit card spending? My debt going up, each and every month, the interest payment slow rising so I have to cut back even more just to meet those payments that never lower my obligation by one thin dime?

Was this a good idea?

I'm sure the CEOs loved it.

RobfromAlberta said...

Once the debt's paid off and we can meet our obligations without borrowing money, I wholehearted agree, believe me.

Let's be realistic, debt reduction is a long-term project. At the rate we're paying it off, we're talking about a century or more. If you are serious about debt reduction, you have to cut everything, health care, welfare, defense, education. You have to drop all the expensive pet projects like national day care and the gun registry and multiculturalism. If you really want to pay off all our debt and are willing to give ground on all your warm and fuzzy social programs, then I will give ground on defense spending and tax cuts. But it never works that way, it's always more taxes and defense cuts. We can't ever give ground on our precious social programs.

RobfromAlberta said...

And I see Rob and Lone Primate are at it again. Do you notice how much less controlling I am now about these on-blog debates?

You have the patience of a saint, L-g.

Wrye said...

Ah, saving money on the nickel and dime stuff means more money for beer. Can't deny it.

Rob and the LP are gold. don't change a thing, fellas.

James said...

However, since I only know the stereotype of the cheap Scotsman, and have never had the stereotype confirmed or denied by my own experience, I didn't want to bring it up.

It's like most stereotypes: Scots aren't really that different from anyone else, but there are a few famous examples that shore it up (Ebineezer Scrooge was a Scot). But Scots (that I know, anyway) think it's great fun and don't mind it much at all.

It's like the Irish & drinking, the English & bad teeth, or the Welsh & not really being known for much of anything. :)

I looked it over and found myself thinking, "Hmm, $14 a day to park... wonder if there are residential streets close by where I can park for free instead..."

If there aren't, you can get temporary parking passes for many residential streets in Toronto at City Hall for $15/week. Of course, that's only within Toronto itself (dunno if your "across town" was into TO, LP).

Lone Primate said...

Let's be realistic, debt reduction is a long-term project. At the rate we're paying it off, we're talking about a century or more.

Figures I saw summer last year put the amount at roughly $60 million a day. If we can keep that up, you're looking at about thirty years ($657 billion, which covers the principal and nicely meets the interest too, with change to spare). So you cut just sixty million dollars a day out of federal revenues, either in tax cuts or new obligations, and you can kiss that good-bye. There may be ways to spend money better, but I want to hear them first, and I want to know exactly what we're proposing spending the difference on. New rescue helicopters? Fine. Supersonic stealth GPS potato peelers? No.

If you are serious about debt reduction, you have to cut everything

If we're serious about debt reduction, we have to keep doing what we're doing right now, Rob. And that means thinking through things like kissing off revenue or spending money on testostone-tech we really don't need. And speaking of testosterone, I notice you still haven't summoned up enough to actually specify which "warm and fuzzy social programs" you'd cut, and the lives of which Canadians you so blithely propose to affect so we can impress foreigners when we march in parades.

Lone Primate said...

It's like the Irish & drinking, the English & bad teeth, or the Welsh & not really being known for much of anything.

What about a phlegm-based language?

If there aren't, you can get temporary parking passes for many residential streets in Toronto at City Hall for $15/week.

Duly noted. That said, I'm still hoping to get a $15 discount on that figure. ;)

RobfromAlberta said...

Lp, not once have I ever, here or in my blog, proposed buying the crazy, foolish things you keep accusing me of. We don't need mutant sharks with frikkin' lasers on their heads, we need helicopters that fly, we need combat fatigues that are the same colour as the terrain we send our troops to fight in and we need planes to carry our soldiers so we don't have to rent them from the Ukraine. We ask our soldiers to do a lot and we flatly refuse to give them the tools they need to to the job. So what say you keep your feverish hyperbole to a more manageable level?

As for what I would cut, I'd cut the gun registry. It has cost almost $2 billion, enough already. I'd cut from the IE program. It is building up an enormous surplus for no reason. I'd cut HRDC, as far as I can tell, it does nothing but lose money. I'd reign in the civil service, too much money, not enough work. Hell, just read any of the auditor-general's reports from the last ten years. You'll find a hundred places where money has been pissed away. There's plenty of fat.

Lone Primate said...

We don't need mutant sharks with frikkin' lasers on their heads... I'd cut the gun registry. It has cost almost $2 billion, enough already. I'd cut from the IE program...

Well, now we're getting somewhere. That only took about, what, eight back-and-forths?

Gun registry: frustratingly overpriced; I'd like to know why, and I'd like them to reform it, but I wouldn't end it. I see no reason why, when we consider it requisite to register every vehicle right down to motorscooters, we should not do the same with instruments of singular lethality (knives spread butter, axes cut wood; guns are for killing, period. Unless you're Elvis and you can't find the remote).

IE: inflated now, when times are good. Suppose the US dollar does, indeed, plunge -- hardly out of the question with the war, the hurricane, and vast deficit spending -- and our southern neighbours can no longer afford to keep us in the Mulroneyesque style to which we've grown so dangerously accustomed? I have a feeling that "enormous surplus" won't be all the enormous for very long.

Civil service: this is an old saw. You'll have to tell it my buddy Paul, who's been working till six, seven PM (in spite of being in a union) since Mike Harris cut all the "fat" out of his branch of the provincial civil service. This is one of my points. You accuse me of hyperbole, but with you conservatives, it's always about reacting to dim memories of grampa's crotchety lectures by the fireside... so rarely is it actually about the reality of human lives and the implications of kicking the chairs out from under them.

No doubt there's fat out there. But there's bone, too. Too often, no one gives enough of a damn to figure out which is which when they're carving out their own personal pound of flesh.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Gun registry: frustratingly overpriced; I'd like to know why, and I'd like them to reform it, but I wouldn't end it. I see no reason why, when we consider it requisite to register every vehicle right down to motorscooters, we should not do the same with instruments of singular lethality

I used to agree with this. You know what changed my mind? Nothing that Charsleton Heston says, but Bowling for Columbine. What Michael Moore seemed to discover, though not really realize was that there was some truth to the old "guns don't kill people, people kill people". When he compared Canada to the U.S., he couldn't figure out why Canadians seemed to have almost as many guns per capita, yet aren't using them to kill each other at anywhere near an equivalent rate.

This was a profound shift for me, now I've come to the view that the whole gun registry was an overreaction much like the pit bull ban. There was a spike in high profile gun crimes, people demanded that the government "do something", and a poorly thought out process was implemented. There's been no significant change in gun crime after the registry came into effect.

What seems to make guns dangerous is not that they exist, but the cultural attitude toward them. Canadian gun owners seem to think of them as a tool for hunting and for protecting farm animals from predators, whereas American gun owners buy them for "protection" of themselves. In other words, Canadians buy guns to use against bears, but even law-abiding Americans buy them in the intention of using them against people.

Dave S said...

"Well, now we're getting somewhere. That only took about, what, eight back-and-forth"

Im lovin this

Politics in Canada is & should be a blood sport
Great debat guys.

$280 for every person in QC a mounth
for $5.00 a day daycare & they want to put it across the contry..
we could not get our son in, they put us on a 2year waiting list.
He never did get in.. cut that.

As 4 that L girl
shiny happy people.....
reaction....

& now observation
There learning to much to fast people..
The monkey eats the butter tart on the red lake The monkey eats the butter tart on the red lake

Kyahgirl said...

I love the way you guys debate. Its interesting and educational. (There I go, being a polite, frugal Canadian, grateful for a free education).

Kyle from Ottawa, I totally agree with you about the gun registry. What a frickin' waste of billions of dollars. ARGH!

RobfromAlberta said...

There's always some compelling emotional reason why this or that program shouldn't be cut. People depend on it to get by. It would be wonderful if we had so much money that no one ever has to do anything they don't want to do. The government could pay for everything. But it doesn't work that way. We should have a social safety net for the truly needy, but I grew up in the Maritimes and I know how much abuse of the EI system goes on. I went to university in Quebec and paid $850 a year for tuition (thanks to Ontario/Alberta tax payers). You develop a culture of entitlement. You do no one a favour by condemning them to a life of dependency.

Lone Primate said...

What seems to make guns dangerous is not that they exist, but the cultural attitude toward them.

True -- and we're living in a society that projects the attitude that "this is a big enough deal that we want to register these instruments officially", and I agree with the message that sends, and what it says about our society and the role of implied violence within it. I'm not overly pleased by how it's being handled, I'll grant you that. But I don't agree you through the baby out with the bathwater.

Lone Primate said...

There's always some compelling emotional reason why this or that program shouldn't be cut.

By definition, a "compelling" reason is one that warrants allegiance. And I think this is the point. You're sitting there, waving your arms expansively about oh, social this, ah, fat that, without really thinking about what it means in concrete terms. They're just words to you. But these aren't just figures, they're faces. The dollars represent, for the most part, real differences in human lives. You just want to swing an axe because it feels good. Then you'll see some guy bleeding with his arm cut off and it'll be, "Damn, look at that poor bastard, that shouldn't happen in a society like this, why isn't someone doing something about that, blah blah blah..." Well, odds are, they were. Everyone here thought Mike Harris was great till suddenly we didn't have enough nurses and we were hiring them away for other countries at obscene cost -- far more than we saved in firing the ones we used to have. So you'll forgive me if, having lived for a decade through this very sort of blind quest, I'm a little wary of thoughtless prescriptions about cutting off noses faces supposedly don't need. I notice, too, it's always someone else's nose... never the speaker's.

I went to university in Quebec and paid $850 a year for tuition (thanks to Ontario/Alberta tax payers). You develop a culture of entitlement. You do no one a favour by condemning them to a life of dependency.

What, like the life of dependency you're living in Alberta thanks to that inexpensive eduction you were entitled to? Fine, pony up the $10-12K you short-changed the rest of the country before you climb on your soapbox about how useless we've all become. Either that, or please return your education and quit the job you have and the lifestyle it affords you. Face, give back that nose.

Lone Primate said...

I forgot... Laura, do we still seem cheap to you? :D

RobfromAlberta said...

Fine, pony up the $10-12K you short-changed the rest of the country before you climb on your soapbox about how useless we've all become.

Already did. I've been here about five years. As an Albertan, I contribute about $2000 per year to the rest of the country, so I've contributed $10,000. The bill is paid.

L-girl said...

You have the patience of a saint, L-g.

Nah, I just stopped worrying about it. When I don't feel like reading the argument anymore, I stop reading, but leave it for others to enjoy. I suppose that's what I should have been doing all along. It took me a while to get the hang of it.

or the Welsh & not really being known for much of anything.

What about a phlegm-based language?


There's a great Blackadder line about that... can't ask for directions without wiping a gallon of phlegm from your face, or something to that effect.

L-girl said...

I love the way you guys debate. Its interesting and educational. (There I go, being a polite, frugal Canadian, grateful for a free education).

LOL

Laura, do we still seem cheap to you? :D

LOL... yes. :D

L-girl said...

Canadians are notoriously lousy tippers when travelling abroad, although to be fair, Americans get to tip in their own currency most everywhere they go. We Canucks have an unfavourable exchange rate to account for when deciding how much to tip.

By the way, I have never used US currency outside of the US. I never even heard of tipping in US currency.

I tip well because it's what I feel I should do. If Canadians calculate an unfavourable exchange rate into the amount of the tip, they are not cheap - they are stingy! It's not the server's fault what kind of exchange rate you get.

RobfromAlberta said...

If Canadians calculate an unfavourable exchange rate into the amount of the tip, they are not cheap - they are stingy! It's not the server's fault what kind of exchange rate you get.

I don't think it's quite as formalized as that. Let's just say you're in Mexico and the table of Americans just dropped a $20 tip on a $50 bar tab. They're showing off a bit, but it's still not a big deal to them. It is a lot of money to the Mexican waiter and to the poor Canucks who look at that and see $100 Canadian. By the way, it's not just Canadians. Americans make everyone look bad.

L-girl said...

They're showing off a bit, but it's still not a big deal to them. . . . Americans make everyone look bad.

I guess that's an American stereotype that I haven't seen much in person. If I am tipping in Mexico, I tip in pesos, and I don't do it show off, I do it to appreciate the work that was done for my enjoyment.

I guess the Cheap Canadian can meet the Ugly American, over there by the Sneaky Mexican. ;-)

RobfromAlberta said...

By the way, I have never used US currency outside of the US. I never even heard of tipping in US currency.

I always take US dollars when I travel in the Americas. Of course, I use Euros in Europe.

Lone Primate said...

Already did. I've been here about five years. As an Albertan, I contribute about $2000 per year to the rest of the country

No, Rob, everyone pays taxes, regardless of where Ottawa sends the little bills a-winging. We're talking about above and beyond what an Albertan who doesn't have issues about his dependency on entitlements would have paid. The money that you, me, anyone else benefitted from to climb to the next level. You know, all that "fat". All that "social spending". Well, here's YOUR nose, Mr. Axeman... get swinging. Or at least stop aiming at everyone else.

Or is it, you know, everyone else is a lazy slob abusing the system, whereas you're an upstanding guy making use of societal resources to better his circumstances to the greater benefit of all, or some other such equivocation?

Lone Primate said...

What about a phlegm-based language?

There's a great Blackadder line about that...


I guess I should have footnoted that one... that's where I lifted it from, yes. :)

RobfromAlberta said...

Or is it, you know, everyone else is a lazy slob abusing the system, whereas you're an upstanding guy making use of societal resources to better his circumstances to the greater benefit of all, or some other such equivocation?

I don't know, I suppose I've put society's investment in me to better use than some, less than others. I just think if a person can work, he or she should work. It's really no more complicated than that.

L-girl said...

I always take US dollars when I travel in the Americas.

I guess you're an uglier American than I. ;-) I pay with the currency of the country I'm in.

I just think if a person can work, he or she should work.

If there's work to be had, sure. What happens when there's no work? Or when work doesn't pay enough to live on?

Lone Primate said...

Well, I'm gonna drop this. All I'm doing is repeating myself, getting strident, and badgering Rob, and my "you're being a jerk" alarm is going off again.

L-girl said...

No, Rob, everyone pays taxes, regardless of where Ottawa sends the little bills a-winging.

From the comments I've gotten from Albertans (with the notable exception of Anonymous Peter), you'd think that only Albertans paid taxes. A snide commenter - someone who accused me of expecting Canadians to thank me for choosing them - said she'd be paying for all my services. I realize I don't understand the whole system, but if that's true, where do my own taxes go?

Lone Primate said...

From the comments I've gotten from Albertans... you'd think that only Albertans paid taxes.

[trembling with effort] Must... keep... mouth... shut...! Made... promise... to... to... AHHHHGGGHHHH!!!

James said...

There's a great Blackadder line about that... can't ask for directions without wiping a gallon of phlegm from your face, or something to that effect.

Here it is:

Blackadder: Have you ever been to Wales, Baldrick?

Baldrick: No, but I've often thought I'd like to.

Blackadder: Well don't. It's a ghastly place. Gangs of rough, tough, sinewy men roam the Valleys, terrorizing people with their close-harmony singing and you need half a pint of phlegm in your throat just to pronounce the place names. Never ask for directions in Wales, Baldrick. You'll be washing spit out of your hair for a fortnight.


There was an entire scene -- called "King Brian the Wild" -- about Welsh close-harmony singing that was cut from the script for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as well.

L-girl said...

All I'm doing is repeating myself, getting strident, and badgering Rob, and my "you're being a jerk" alarm is going off again.

I commend you, LP. Too many people don't even have that alarm, let alone listen to it when it rings.

(with the notable exception of Anonymous Peter),

I meant besides Rob. Sorry about that!

L-girl said...

Thanks James! If I recall correctly, "Have you ever been to Wales, Baldrick?" was in response to Balders saying something about the Prince of Wales. Excellent episode. Miranda Richardson as The Shadow. "What squirrel?"

[trembling with effort] Must... keep... mouth... shut...! Made... promise... to... to... AHHHHGGGHHHH!!!

ROFL :)

Lone Primate said...

Thanks James! If I recall correctly, "Have you ever been to Wales, Baldrick?" was in response to Balders saying something about the Prince of Wales. Excellent episode. Miranda Richardson as The Shadow. "What squirrel?"

My two favourite episodes were ones where Stephen Frey made cameo appearances... one, the last episode of the third series, in which he portrayed a loud, rather oblivious version of the Duke of Wellington, and an "un-episode", a single knock-off episode called "The Cavalier Years" set in the English Civil War, where Frey played King Charles I. What made it so hilarious was that he played him as an obvious send-up of Prince Charles, the current Prince of Wales (and likely King Charles III sooner or later). For me, this is the funniest exchange in the entire Blackadder canon:

EDMUND
They will never find a man to behead you. They'd have hundreds of volunteers to cut Cromwell's head off -- he's such an ugly devil. He's got so many warts on his face that it's only when he sneezes that you find out which one is his nose. But they will never find a man to execute you.

KING
(stands)
Well, you see, I find that absolutely tragic! You know, there are so many young people who would leap at a chance like this. Oh, I don't know ... all they need is the initiative, somehow. I suppose, in a sense, that's what my [Wolf?] Scheme is all about.

EDMUND
Really...

KING
Yes. On the other hand, of course, I don't want my head cut off... Er, it's a question of balance, isn't it? like with so many things.

EDMUND
Shut up -- with the greatest respect -- Your Majesty.

KING
Thank you.

dogsled_stacie said...

Whoa, you guys move too fast for me to keep up! Back to L's original post... can't say I've noticed Cdns being cheap. Though, we have our share of cheap-asses up here. I am like you L, I'd rather pay a bit more for something, rather than look all over the place for a better deal. I just friggin' can't be bothered. I use to think it was just laziness or lack of caring, but I like the way you put it - I'm just not cheap!

Here's the ultimate proof: A few days ago gas was up around 1.17 and one gas station was having a one-day sale of 1.09. Woohoo! So I drove by, noticed a bit of a lineup, and drove right down the street to the next gas station.... which had gas at 1.17. Surprisingly enough, no one was there but me! Now that I think about it, Canadians are cheap!!

James said...

Stephen Frey

Stephen Fry, actually. A tremendously funny fellow.

RobfromAlberta said...

I guess you're an uglier American than I. ;-) I pay with the currency of the country I'm in.

I don't think anyone has ever been insulted by getting American currency. Certainly in Mexico, most of the places tourists frequent have their merchandise priced in $US as well as pesos. You could say I'm doing them a favour by providing a source of foreign capital, always useful for a developing economy.

If there's work to be had, sure. What happens when there's no work? Or when work doesn't pay enough to live on?

You do what I did, you relocate. Nova Scotia has a job shortage, Alberta has a labour shortage, so Nova Scotians relocate to Alberta. Now, I just know someone is going to say it's unfair that Alberta should be poaching labour from other parts of Canada, but Ontario has been doing that virtually since Confederation and no one complained then.

RobfromAlberta said...

From the comments I've gotten from Albertans (with the notable exception of Anonymous Peter), you'd think that only Albertans paid taxes.

Of course, everyone in Canada pays taxes. In fact, everyone pays more tax than Albertans. The difference is, Alberta taxes don't benefit Albertans very much. The same is true of Ontario and BC, but to a far lesser extent. Now Albertans do grumble about this somewhat, but for the most part, they are resigned to it. However, there is a steady drumbeat coming from the East that Alberta should contribute still more and most Albertans already feel they paying their fair share.

Anonymous said...

Well i guess i am one of the few socialist Albertans... and proud of it!

Rob, I agree that we do do our fair share for the rest of Canada. However, I don't have a problem with the current transfer system. We are all Canadians and we should help each other out.

The problem I have is people like our fearless leader (King Klein) thinking that the best thing we can do is take our massive amount of oil wealth and eliminate corporate income tax!

Alberta already has the lowest personal, corporate, and sales tax in the country. We have so low unemployment that companies (mine included) can't hire enough staff. I am the IT Manager for my company and I have had to pull shifts working on our manufacturing floor just to help keep the product rolling out the door! There is too much work in southern Alberta right now. We don't need to cut corporate tax, we need to reinvest in services, like Education and Health care. Maybe some aid to food banks, etc. Those are my biggest priorities.

Peter

ps. One of these days I am going to have sign up to this thing, can't be Anonymous Peter forever... ;)

RobfromAlberta said...

However, I don't have a problem with the current transfer system. We are all Canadians and we should help each other out.

I agree. Wouldn't it be refreshing though, to actually get some recognition of our enormous contribution to the country once in awhile.

There is too much work in southern Alberta right now.

Nice problem to have, eh?

Lone Primate said...

However, there is a steady drumbeat coming from the East that Alberta should contribute still more and most Albertans already feel they paying their fair share.

Let's put that in some perspective. They're talking about contributing to the betterment of the whole country while there's an opportunity to do so. Let's not be to twee about it... nearly all of Alberta's modern prosperity comes from just one thing: the fact that it happens to sit on a dwindling, non-renewable resource. Fine, it has to be somewhere. And it's in Alberta. No reason Alberta shouldn't benefit first and foremost; and as you point out, people who want to badly enough can pick up and move there.

But not all 32 million of us want to move there. Not all 32 million of us CAN move there. Alberta has not the infrastructure to support that many people. What would we do there? The same thinking holds true for Ontario, BC, Quebec, anyplace in the country with an economic advantage that's geographically particular. This is the basis for the transfer payment system. You can't really spread the advantages evenly across the country, but you can try to spread the benefits that accrue from them.

At the moment, we're living in a time when commodity and even currency speculation has hugely and, to some extent, artificially inflated the cost of a barrel of oil. The price of everything made of oil or transported using oil rises accordingly. That's a hardship on everyone, and it can be offset by a corresponding and proportionate rise in Alberta's contributions. No one's out to impoverish the place or leave Alberta with even a dollar less than it had yesterday. The rest of the country would simply like to benefit as well -- or if not benefit, at least suffer less at the hands of speculation over which we have no control. This is to the benefit, not the detriment, of the average Albertan. And yet, while Alberta muses gleefully about what to do with the huge surpluses... literally more money than it knows what to do with... Ontario is forced deeper into debt each year by the obligations set upon it by Ottawa (among them, the settlement costs of fully half the new immigrants, who settle in Ontario, a matter over which it, unlike Quebec, is given no say whatsoever)... And for all this, it's Alberta who squeals like a pig and makes noises about bolting from the pasture. Astounding.

To put it in terms of self-interest for Albertans -- if, at last, that's all that can be appealed to -- one might remind them that oil is finite resource. It's going to be hugely, and increasingly, valuable in the short term. But if society survives, it will be because we turn to other, renewable forms of energy that likely will not be tied to geography and will leave Alberta with no more particular advantage than anyone else, and again, the economic dynamics of the country will shift. This is all likely to be played out over the next 50 years or so. And I'm wondering how the Calgarians of today want their grandchildren to be regarded: as the inheritors of fortunate sons who made hay while the sun shone and helped keep the horses of others pulling their own particular plows... or as the humbled princes of latterday Spanish kings who acted like the gold ships would never stop sailing in and spent their time pondering what monuments to build to their own favour in the eyes of God?

RobfromAlberta said...

Albertans know the oil won't last. They also know that oil can't be counted on because of price fluctuations and covetous federal politicians. That is precisely why they don't want still more money taken away. They want to use our current wealth as a foundation for the future. We need to attract other industries with tax incentives. We need to put our surplus into the Heritage Fund. Albertans don't want to become a have-not province when the oil runs out.

Lone Primate said...

They want to use our current wealth as a foundation for the future. We need to put our surplus into the Heritage Fund.

That's a laudable goal, but one that I don't see as inconsistent with sharing the momentary windfall with the rest of Canada. And not to put too fine a point on it; the best foundation upon which Alberta (or any other province) can base its future is to strengthen the federation of tens of millions of people -- with their attendant particular regional strengths and advantages (both current and as yet unrealized or even unimagined... Arctic diamonds? Who knew?), rather than focusing on a much smaller, landlocked region, distant from the oceans and large consumer population centres. It doesn't have to be all one thing or the other, and as Peter pointed out, all of that money is not currently needed to build Alberta... market forces are handling the job nicely. To my mind, it makes sense to give a little more when oil's high, and give a little less when it's low. It ought to pegged to a fair percentage or something, so the peaks and troughs even out. And one day, when the oil's gone, Albertans will be the beneficiaries of some other region's momentary advantage, just like every other Canadian.

RobfromAlberta said...

all of that money is not currently needed to build Alberta.

Currently? No. But that's my point, it will be in the future. I'm still pretty new here, but the impression I get is that Alberta is already half way out the door. They don't feel the country as it currently exists will ever allow them to be anything more than Ontario's vassal. Rightly or wrongly, that is the way they feel. Your optimistic vision of a future where everyone shares is not going to convince them otherwise. They know central Canada calls the shots and always will.

L-girl said...

My two favourite episodes were ones where Stephen Frey made cameo appearances...

I love Stephen Fry! My favorite Blackadder cameo is Geoffrey Palmer as Field Marshal Haig, sweeping the toy soldiers into the dustbin. The WWI episodes are so poignant and politically biting, besides being hilarious.

L-girl said...

can't say I've noticed Cdns being cheap. Though, we have our share of cheap-asses up here. I am like you L, I'd rather pay a bit more for something, rather than look all over the place for a better deal.

That's good to hear. Stereotypes only go so far, and sometimes barely a step or two before falling over in a heap.

Now that I think about it, Canadians are cheap!!

Then again... ;-)

L-girl said...

If there's work to be had, sure. What happens when there's no work? Or when work doesn't pay enough to live on?

You do what I did, you relocate.


Rob, you sound like Ronald Reagan. I'm not talking about educated professionals with credit and money in the bank. People of limited means cannot just pick up and relocate, or if they can manage it, it often puts them further behind then where they started.

Well, I didn't want to get into this discussion in the first place. Anonymous Peter's comments show me another perspective on this whole debate - and this

Wouldn't it be refreshing though, to actually get some recognition of our enormous contribution to the country once in awhile.

is just too whiny! Recognition? What does that even mean? I come from one of the most important cities in the US, and the whole country hates it, and New Yorkers don't give a shit (in fact they like it). [Hard to write that sentence in with "they"!!] Who needs recognition? Why care about that?

ps. One of these days I am going to have sign up to this thing, can't be Anonymous Peter forever... ;)

Sure you can.

RobfromAlberta said...

I'm not talking about educated professionals with credit and money in the bank. People of limited means cannot just pick up and relocate, or if they can manage it, it often puts them further behind then where they started.

Where I come from, people do it all the time. It's called "going down the road". Usually that road ends in TO, but more recently, it goes to Calgary. I know the very poorest don't have the resources to move, but most of those people are homeless and probably not receiving social assistance anyway.

Recognition? What does that even mean?

Well, it doesn't mean gratitude. I don't think we could stomach that. But I suppose you're right, truth is, we don't really give a damn. If anything, we wear our angst proudly.

dogsled_stacie said...

There's more to life than "moving where the money is" - hell, I got out of Alberta because of the general attitude of most people there. I had a decent job in my field and no doubt would have had work there for years to come.

And maybe this *attitude* is predominant in bigger cities (god knows what New York would be like!!), but not one I could deal with any longer. I've moved where people value quality of life over work. It makes for a much more peaceful existence.

Sure, I may not have as much money in the long run as I would have had in Alberta, but you can modify your life to live within your means. Whatever that may be.

Lone Primate said...

the impression I get is that Alberta is already half way out the door... Your optimistic vision of a future where everyone shares is not going to convince them otherwise.

My own perception of it is that that's of limited importance. The Catch-22 for Alberta is that its own economic success creates the same antidote to secessionism that we've seen in Quebec: immigration (internal and external). People who've made the trek from elsewhere, drawn by economic advantage, are less likely to support political upheaval. They opt for the status quo, security, and the assurances to the established norm. The more of them drawn to Calgary, Edmonton, and elsewhere in Alberta, the less likely the drive to become independent will become (and, relatedly, the more liberal the place is likely to become as well, though it may always be on the right of the Canadian spectrum). Few of these people will elect to abandon the certainties of Canadian citizenship for the pig-in-a-poke of an untested "Republic of Alberta", particularly one quietly based on conservative, quasi-Christian precepts they won't necessarily share. This is borne out by the experience in Quebec. Such people may, in fact, in time, bring the West into more harmony with Central Canada, since they represent, in the long run, a closing of the gap in perceptions -- since their presense in Central Canada was largely the cultural catalyst for that initial opening of that gap in the first place. Immigration founded on economic success can profoundly, and quite swiftly, alter the character of a place. Right up to the 1950s, Toronto was known (as I've said elsewhere) as "the Belfast of America", due to the prevalence of the Orange Lodge in government, the legal system, and business. It is certainly nothing of the kind today.

RobfromAlberta said...

Lp, I believe you are partially right. For the sanity of everyone else here, however, I will explain why I think you are also partially wrong on my own blog. I believe I am wearing out my welcome a bit here.

L-girl said...

I believe I am wearing out my welcome a bit here.

Never.

Although taking this discussion to your own blog is not a bad idea. :)

L-girl said...

And maybe this *attitude* is predominant in bigger cities (god knows what New York would be like!!),

I find that places are what you make them, to a certain extent. The attitude you refer to is rampant in NYC, no doubt about it - but one needn't be sucked into it. In a big city - in New York, anyway - there are as many lifestyles as there are people, and you can make the balance between work, money, relaxation, and whatever else, however it suits you. That was my experience.

Lone Primate said...

In a big city - in New York, anyway - there are as many lifestyles as there are people...

My mind is suddenly filled with images of Joe Buck hitting on middle aged women as he tries to "get to the Statue of Liberty" in Midnight Cowboy... :)

Cara said...

Hi

Recently I heard a business news item about differences between Canadian and American consumers. Canadian consumers prioritize value when they shop whereas Americans prioritize novelty. Perhaps this will explain some of the differences.