Monday, July 12, 2010

The Tim Hortons Dominion

Greetings Friends,

I have to give a shout-out to my friend J.M. Brown, who provided inspiration for this post. He, and this article I found last week on The Huffington Post.

Everyone knows the economy is way better here in Canada than in the U.S. Unfortunately, those numbers are skewed because of the types of jobs that are out there; same as it was in the U.S. when employment was booming. The majority of positions for hire were in the retail and service sectors, just as they are here, right now.

I make no secret of how much I love Tim Hortons coffee. If it were possible, I'd have an I.V. drip of double-double (that's light and sweet) flowing into my body 24/7. Forget Starbucks and Second Cup, and even the very popular Canadian brand, Kick Ass Fair Trade coffee. Give me an extra large Tim Hortons double-double, and I'm happy as the proverbial clam.

J.M. and The Huffington Post got me thinking; the area I live in has become saturated with Tim Hortons locations. Within about a 5 km radius, there are three free-standing stores, one Petro Canada gas station abbreviated drive-thru, and one full service drive-thru location inside an Esso gas station "On the Run" convenience store. That's plenty of places where I can get a coffee, a yummy sandwich and an even yummier chocolate danish, any time the mood strikes. Are five Tim Hortons locations in such a concentrated vicinity really necessary? No, but they're there, and from what I can tell, they are unequivocal gold mines.

Despite the geographic saturation, those Tim Hortons stores employ lots of people, make money for their franchisees, and of course, the corporation. But are they really helping the Canadian economy? Maybe I should call that prof from the University of Ottawa, the one who weighed in on the Why Not Canada? NHL issue I wrote about last week. I'm sure he'd be happy to provide all kinds of economic jargon and statistical data that would send me racing for the nearest bottle of Advil.

Do minimum wage retail jobs provide the economic "goose" we need, or are they just a "patch" to make everyone think things are good when they really aren't? I'm guessing patch, rather than goose. Why? Because I witnessed the demise of Grumman Aerospace (the US firm that built fighter jets and the famous Lunar Exploration Module, or L.E.M.), on Long Island, and the economic fall-out it caused. Most of the Grumman engineers and ancillary staff wound up jobless, and the only sector that stepped up to re-employ these people was the retail sector. After its demise, the best the powers that be in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, in New York, could come up with to replace Grumman, was to build more shopping malls. So, not only were these people not performing jobs commensurate with their capabilities, they were getting paid significantly less. But, they HAD jobs, and that's all that mattered. After all, a statistic is a statistic is a statistic.

Today, Long Island is an even bigger wasteland than it was when I lived there. Exorbitant property taxes combined with the skyrocketing cost of living make it virtually impossible for anyone to live there; anyone who still believes there is such a thing as an American Middle Class. Are Canadians making the same mistakes? I think they very well may be.

Skyrocketing property values combined with underemployment can be a pretty combustible combination. Even a well-educated person such as myself, doing a job I absolutely love, is technically underemployed. But, for the time being, I am thankful to at least be gainfully employed.

My blog is not a place where I've ever minced words, so I will say, I hope Canada catches itself before the bottom falls out. There are a lot of my own mistakes I'm trying very hard not to repeat, and it would sadden me greatly to see Canada follow in the footsteps of our neighbour to the south.

Somewhere out there, the American Tea Baggers are preparing the slipknot on a noose with my name on it. Bring it on, folks; I'm actually very easy to find.


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