Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Iggy's Small Town Bringdown

Can't live to die-too easy
Why stick around?
I want my life to please me
Not another small town hometown bringdown

- Tragically Hip, Small Town Bringdown

I was thinking of that song when Iggy spoke during Question Period yesterday. Here’s what he said:

“Mr. Speaker, let us bring this crisis down to a single community: Mackenzie, British Columbia,” he began. “Four thousand people. Four sawmills, all shut. Nearly 100 per cent unemployment. Not just pulp mill workers, but loggers, truckers and everyone down the line. Everybody there are single-industry towns like this all across Canada. Federal help was promised to Mackenzie last year but it did not work. So what now? Is this government going to let Mackenzie die?”
Seriously, what the hell kind of question is this? New home building is frozen during this economy, therefore the saw mills are closing. It’s a single industry town. Darn shame, looks like the people will have to pick up and move somewhere else for work. Is that so horrible? In the early 90’s, when the Ontario economy was ravaged, I couldn’t find work in Ottawa. (Haven’t heard about those tough times? Ask the white haired gentleman sitting near Iggy named Bob, he’ll fill you in.) So I moved to Vancouver. In fact, all my friends from Ottawa moved away. When we go to visit family, I don’t have anybody from the old crew to hit the pub with. Similarly, most people I know in Vancouver are from somewhere else.

We see this theme all the time in movies. The main character lives in a dreary one industry town, say, a steel town in Pennsylvania. With the factory belching smoke in the background we get a confessional about if only that one talent the person has (football/ basketball for boys, dancing/singing for girls) is recognized, only then can they escape. Otherwise, they are stuck in this bleak town for the rest of their lives. They usually consult an older, haggard townie broken from a lifetime of waitressing at the diner or punching a clock at the mill. It’s at this point, you scream at the screen and say: “ Just move for chrissakes! America is a big country. Go to California, it’s a nice climate!”

Back to Iggy: What would he suggest we do for Mackenzie, BC? The people can collect UI like everybody else. They can hope for a better economy to get the mills back going or move on. Other than that, what else? Get the government to pay the mills to re-open, even with no customers?

And how phony is it that the international academic is the champion of these people? Ask an international academic what they think of uneducated, small town hicks, off the record. For that person, the thought of sitting down with them for a few hours at a Tim Horton's would be as palatable as being thrown into a tank full of aligators.

Let Mackenzie die. The townspeople can do what everybody else does and move somewhere to find work. Let’s stop subsidizing failure.

1 comment:

  1. That is funny to think about a Harvard guy out in a bush town.
    Lumber has always been a provincial jurisdiction. The provinces were more then happy to collect taxes from forest products. Why should federal money come to the rescue? A lot of these mills are over a hundred years old, and have never been upgraded. They were allowed to rot on the vine, while the provinces collected tax money.
    This industry is dead and there is nothing the government can do to change this fact.