September 2007 Archives

Loonie* tunes

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This past week, the Canadian dollar reached parity with the American dollar for the first time in 31 years.

31 YEARS!

Not that long ago, we Great White Northerners (the North being white, obviously; this statement is not meant to be exclusionary or unreasonably unaccommodating in any way) were looking at the very real possibility of our "dollar" being valued at 50 American cents. We certainly hit the low 60s, and we dipped into the 50s in daily trading more than once.

So, what does this mean, this valuable money thing? Can we, as it were, cash in on it?

The silver-dollar lining (a.k.a. the upside):
~ cross-border shopping, particularly all those fantastic outlet stores so conveniently located just beyond the crossing. Assuming the outlets are still there; it's been a while since cross-border shopping was an activity in which sane Canadians engaged.

~ virtual cross-border shopping: eBay and Barnes & Noble, here I come!

~ political ramifications: we can talk smugly about how our government appears to be actually governing domestically, unlike some demagogues we could name. We can, but we won't. Much. That would be gauche (from the French for 'left.' Coincidence??)

The cloud:
~ tourism: we're not so attractive now that we've lost our banana-republic-with-skiing status. American tourists have gotten used to becoming millionaires just by driving a few miles north; they may have second thoughts about vacationing in what is essentially exactly like home, but with indiscriminate use of needless 'u's.

~ impact on the GNP (yes, I know what that is. I may be an English teacher, but I'm not completely clueless): a lot of Canadian manufacturers have been exploiting the exchange rate for years now, making a tidy profit on American sales paid in American dollars for products made with cheaper Canadian raw materials by cheaper Canadian workers. Ditto the movie industry - every city in Canada calls itself 'Hollywood North' because loads of U.S. films are made here (Mira Sorvino was in our neighbours' house, for instance) because the location fees are cheap, the equipment is cheap, the labour is cheap, the tax incentives are, well, incentive... you get the idea. Except now, all of this is true in the past tense - our unionized key grips are still making $18 Canadian an hour, but two years ago, that was about $13 U.S. - now it's $18 U.S.

~ political ramifications: we achieved parity under Stephen Harper's Conservatives, albeit with a minority. But c'mon, they're going to milk this economic upswing for every drop of political punch - and if they're really smart, they'll call an election ASAP, which means a winter vote, which means that the annoying holiday advertisement will have to compete for space with annoying campaigning. And they'll win.

~ at-home shopping! This is the big one for the average individual Canadian. For example, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows is listed at $34.99 US at Barnes & Noble, but the Canadian list price at Chapters is $45. The Gazette compared a few items in an article in yesterday's paper, including a Honda that was about $3,000 more in Canada than in the U.S., albeit with a different sound system. I doubt we're talking about a sound system worth 3K, though.

Now, having said that, when I did some quick surfing to back up my price-gouging rant, I discovered that we GWN's seem to be getting a pretty good deal on some things. The ubiquitous iPod nano, f'rintstance, retails on the American Best Buy site for $129, but only $119 on the Canadian site. The two Amazons both carry the about-to-be-released Blue Rodeo album Small Miracles, which we can pre-order for $14.96 - but Americans have to buy the same album as an import for $31.99.

Still, the book thing - which also applies to magazines, which are typically about 30% more in Canadian dollars - sucks.

*explanatory note for non-Canadians. Our dollar coin (the paper dollar is a thing of the ancient past) features a loon, one of our notable water fowl. Since it's introduction, this coin has been called the Loonie. When the two-dollar coin was introduced a couple of years later, we naturally called it the Toonie. No one can say that, as a nation, we take ourselves too seriously.

The fox hat

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Thanks, Dad!

You can call me "guv"

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Tonight was "meet the teacher" night at the boys' school; naturally, as a teacher (not to mention an overeager student) I went prepared with a series of questions designed to (a) help me understand what my children would be learning, and how, and why, and (b) establish me in their teachers' minds as 'that annoying mum who keeps interrupting my presentation with endless questions about skills and assessments.' Mission accomplished.

Before we even got to the teachers themselves, though, there was a general assembly of parents to elect the parent representatives to the Board of Governors. This is a group of parents, teachers and administrators that meets once a month to discuss pertinent issues and make decisions for the school on behalf of all the interested parties. I offered myself as a nominee because one administrator cornered me as we were assembling and said "we really want you."

Okay, so I'm a sucker.

So, I raised my hand, and my name went up on the board, along with seven other parents, some of whom had previous Board experience, and another couple of newbies. Since there are only six parent reps, one of whom is already in place, we had to vote for the five available positions ~ which meant that all of us nominees had to campaign, in the sense that we had to say a few words to justify our nomination. So I mentioned that not only did I have two kids in the school, and that I had volunteered for a few other things in the past, but that I was a college teacher and was studying for an M.Ed., and could thus bring a unique perspective to the Board.

Apparently, that was enough to get me elected to the Board, and subsequently, the Board itself has appointed me as the alternate sector rep, which means that once a month I might be asked to go to yet another meeting, this time with parent reps from other schools in our area, if the actual rep can't make it.

All of this means that I have a chance to get to know the inner workings of the school a little better, and can add my voice to issues that directly affect my children's education.

More importantly, obviously, is the fact that people voted for me in a school election.

In your face, 1986 prom committee!!

**Crash**

...I stop typing to see if there's any wailing...

"wail, wail, wail, wail"

....I hold my breath to see if this wailing will stop on its own, as it usually does. Footsteps on the stairs...

"Mummy, Robert really hurt himself."

...I get to the bottom of the stairs, where I find a crumpled heap of Robert ~ naturally I am expecting something truly horrible, like his leg is sticking out at an unnatural angle, or the top of his head is missing. There appears to be no blood, however, nor are there any visible bones.

Robert sits up, moans a little...

I ask "what happened?", as we mothers are wont to do. In fact, I think it's probably a safe bet to say that "what happened" is the question most frequently asked by parents.

This is what happened: Robert bruised his shin because, while he and Colin were taking turns "catching" each other at the bottom of the stairs, Robert failed to catch Colin and bumped his leg.

Oy.

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