Saturday, July 01, 2006

139th Birthday Report


Barbara Yaffe - Vancouver Sun

Being 139 years old is nothing to sneeze at. So let’s mark the occasion by simply surveying, and savouring, the state of our realm.
Canada has been blessed with a peaceful history, obtaining independence from the United Kingdom in an orderly, gradual process between 1867 and 1982.
Since 1982, anyone whose toe has touched Canadian soil has been privy to a virtual waterfall of freedoms and personal protections, encompassed by the much-appreciated Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We have an incredibly long, undefended border with the U.S., a neighbour with which we continue to experience border quibbles in remote areas. The only other territorial dispute we have is with the good people of Denmark over a bit of rock known as Hans Island.
We don’t really have enemies and so, we spend a penny on the dollar for military stuff. The one government we cannot countenance is that of Iran, but few other peaceful countries get along with the zanies who run the show over there, either.
We are positively filthy rich relative to other countries, with the second-largest reserves of oil after the Saudis.
We’re the world’s No. 1 producer of zinc and uranium, and one of the world’s most important suppliers of agricultural products. We produce so much hydro power and natural gas we have loads left over to sell to the Yanks.
Since the Second World War our economy has modernized and transformed itself from a largely rural to a primarily industrial urban one. The jobless rate is just over per six percent — lowest since 1974.
In fact, we boast the best economic performance of the G-8 nations and have been enjoying budget surpluses for years. We to happen to live alongside the world’s most well off nation, which conveniently buys up 85 percent of our exports.
Our per capita GDP is $34,000, our growth rate nearly three per cent. By our own unique measure — “the low income cutoff” — Canada considers 16 per cent of our residents poor. That figure would be less if we used other countries’ measures.
Importantly, if you’re born into a poor family in Canada, that doesn’t mean you’ always be poor.
A 2001 paper by Canadian statistician Miles Corak showed our labour market boasts lots of “intergenerational income mobility.” Translation: Adult earnings incomes of children are only loosely tied to parental incomes.
In this regard, Canada falls in the same fortunate category as generationally mobile countries like Sweden and Finland, faring much better than, say, the U.S. or U.K.
And we share. While in the U.S. the richest one per cent of households owns 38 per of all wealth, in Canada the top 10 per cent own 24 per cent.
We have room to grow, with a population density — 3.5 people — per square kilometer that’s among the lowest on Earth.
We have the most lakes in the world, by far, and a relatively large amount of fresh water. We boast more than 1,000 airports.
Canada’s adult literacy rate is 99 per cent — same for males and females — and, among 25- to 34-year-olds, more than half are university educated. Two-thirds of us use the Internet.
In accordance with personal preference, women can wear burkas and hijabs, or alternatively sunbathe nude on Wreck Beach.
Other countries are aware of how good we have it here. In a 35-nation survey last year of 26,000 people — known as the Anholt Brand Index — Canada ranked behind Switzerland and the U.K. as best in show, based on global perceptions.
The UN in 2005 ranked Canada fifth-best place to live, of 177 countries on the planet, in terms of indicators such as life expectancy, education and income. We’re behind Norway, Iceland, Australia and Luxembourg
And get this — we’re rather modest. In a 2004 international poll of national pride, Canadians ranked sixth of 34 countries.
None of the above is to deny that Canada has its problems. Our health care system is not living up to expectations; we do not have a handle on our environmental problems; child and aboriginal poverty is deplorable in a nation so well endowed; thousands live on the streets; Canada doesn’t pull its weight in terms of foreign aid, and recent events have shown that our public service is not as corruption-free as it ought to be.
But, at 139, Canada is more diverse, peaceful, healthy and wealthy than ever. May this glorious country continue to just get better with age.

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