I’m on a road trip with the family that included a very pleasant three days driving across Canada from the Michigan border to Montreal. Here are a couple of observations from the road:
Observation 1: In Toronto (my first time there), I was struck by the sight of construction cranes, something I haven’t seen in the US in about three years. Downtown Toronto felt like a beehive of activity. It may be in the grip of a recession, but it sure didn’t feel that way. In fact, Canada’s economy grew at a 6.1% annualized rate in the first quarter of this year. It has already recovered 75% of the jobs lost in the great recession and its property markets are reported to be hot.
Canada’s economy is basically an extension of ours. When the US sneezes, Canada has to wipe itself off. Its banks largely avoided the web of mortgage securitizations, derivatives and leverage that US banks used to run themselves right off the cliff. So Canada’s relative economic health serves as proof of the value of a reasonably healthy banking sector. Extensive government regulation generally gets credit for the current health of Canada’s banks. I don’t know if this credit is deserved or not. I’m leery of regulation not as a matter of principle, but because the cure often is worse than the disease. Maybe the leaders of Canadian banks exercised better judgment than their American counterparts. Whatever the case, the value of a healthy banking sector is plainly evident just a few miles to the north.
Observation 2: This has nothing to do with anything, but we visited Toronto’s Science Museum to see the Harry Potter exhibit (yawn). More interesting to me were the posters I saw in the museum gift shop that showed history’s great scientists and inventors. I note with pride that one of them, Walter Brattain, who won the Nobel prize for co-inventing the transistor at Bell Labs, subsequently became a physics professor at my alma mater, mighty Whitman College of Walla Walla, WA, all 1200 students of it. (My pride in this fact should not be taken to suggest that I ever went near the physics department.) For those of you who may be interested in becoming one of history’s great scientists or inventors, I also note that, while not guaranteeing success, being German and having a ton of facial hair does appear to improve your odds.
Observation 3: I live in a town outside Chicago that is so inundated with Canada Geese that we have companies dedicated to their eradication (or at least to insulting them enough to get them to move to the town next door). I’ve been on golf courses so thoroughly covered with the evidence of recent goose occupation that I felt like swimming laps in Lysol when I was done. These are supposed to be migratory birds, but they’re with us year round.
So what happens when I get to Canada? No Canada Geese. This was perhaps my 10th trip to Canada and I’m 0-for-10. I’ve been to British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. And I have yet to see a Canada Goose in Canada. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is an anomaly. This has the feel of conspiracy. Perhaps this is Canada’s way of getting back at those of us who like to think of it as just six more (really large) states. Where is Oliver Stone when we really need him?