On oil prices, poverty and the strong Canadian economy

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By Heather Sansom

While procrastinating really, just thinking that despite the trendy panic (peer pressure, group think, propaganda dare I say, maybe even social bullying) about the well-being of Canadians going down because the government is actually finally making social investment that should have been made 20 years ago…Actually, The Canadian dollar is 20 cents higher than it was early last fall, and the economy is strong and growing.

I am so relieved to know that it’s not true that our entire economy depends on the price of oil. Because that would be in complete conflict (or imply national schizophrenia) with everybody’s apparent concern for the environment and sustainable energy.

I always found that really funny, to see how the media and politics managed to turn something (lowered oil price) that is actually amazing relief and good news to most Canadians, into ‘bad news’ that had everyone concerned.  Really, I think Saudi Arabia should flood the market with all the oil it wants. There is an inherent conflict of interest in Canada when some people who stand to make a lot of money on a non renewable energy source, also hold the reins of decision about development of alternative energy and other economic marker points.

The unfortunate reality is that unless there’s money attached, will to goodness is fairly low. So unless we are forced by someone ‘moving the cheese’ (see Who Moved My Cheese) to finding a more sustainable and diverse, more resilient economy, we’ll cling to the old cash cow like it’s the Reality. When it’s not. It just seemed to be for a time.  Besides, you really shouldn’t trust what someone with a conflict of interest has to say about a topic. Like say, Harper. Who makes a lot of money on the oil industry personally.

It makes total sense to me: prick the oil price fake inflation bubble that drove the costs of living up by 40% in 12  years (I know, I kept Excel spreadsheets on utilities costs, fuel and other household expenses) and forced hard working households with lower incomes to choose between food and gas to get to work, or gas to get to work and paying the hydro bill…and we have widespread liberation of spending money.

For lower income, that means eating. For the privileged few (households with 80K or more in annual income), that means a lot of other things are possible, that weren’t.  And you know, when you can eat, a lot of other things are possible. Like concentrating at school or work, and thinking hopefully about the future, and having the courage to apply to a job or get some clothes so you can go to a job interview, or yelling less at your family so you don’t divorce and shatter the family into poverty.  Really, food and financial breathing room have widespread impact.

And businesses thrive. I may be all for social justice and social responsibility, but I’m not anti good business. It’s kind of a no-brainer: reduce the cost of one of the major expenses for farmers and everyone else who ships things down the highway, and they have more profits. More profits, more money. More money better salaries, more employees. More employed people, and more employed people with more spending margin…and the obvious impact to the economy and standard of living in general is a kid’s lesson for Sesame Street.

Seriously, one has to read/watch newscasts assuming everything is/was owned by Izzy Asper/Conrad Black/someone similar, and that really, it’s 50% true and 50% George Orwell’s 1984.  The sky is probably not falling.  Dependence on a single commodity is always bad. Freedom of speech is good. And the ship can only go as far as it’s weakest on board can row. So make sure they have what they need to thrive. We’ll all do better.

Besides, lots of good data keeps showing that social responsibility and customer/employee care IS good business.  So how we keep getting suckered into blind faith in short term financial statements, I really don’t know. I’m a person of faith, but I don’t believe in blind faith, especially not in things that are counter-ethical.  Like short term financial statements that ignore long term sustainability or social costs.

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