Monday, October 29, 2007

The smaller dollar

According to the Bank of Canada, the day I started City in the Trees, May 16, 2005, the Canadian dollar was worth 79¢ US. If you had bought something worth a dollar Canadian with a US dollar that day, you would have gotten 26¢ in change (Canadian).

All my life, at least all my economically-conscious life, the Canadian dollar has been worth less than the US dollar. There've been certain advantages to it; it's tended to be good for exports because it made our commodities less expensive to everyone else (in particular, people in the US)... but it had a couple of downsides. First of all, it made it things here more expensive, and that meant that we had to live just a little meaner than our neighbours, through no fault of our own. Secondly, it was faintly humiliating. Who could forget when our dollar was worth 62¢ US just five years ago? Odds are, it will be worth less than the US dollar again, but for the moment... just for the moment... I can think back to when a friend visited from Los Angeles in the mid-90s. He came ready for every contingency implied by crossing the border; he even wanted to know if he had to bring adapters for his electrical appliances (the answer: no). But he could not be bothered, absolutely couldn't be bothered, to change one red cent US to Canadian currency. He simply took it for granted that people here would treat his money as legal tender in a foreign land; indeed, would be damn glad to have it and welcome it in preference to our own. I never said anything to him, he was a guest, but I found his attitude arrogant and insulting... and the thing is, I knew even if I had raised it as an issue, he would simply have thrown the value and international stature of his currency right in my face... he was that kind of guy, unfortunately.

(Allow me to quickly add here that of the several visitors I've had from the US since, not one has had that attitude or come without at least some Canadian money at the ready.)

Well, I've lived long enough to see my dollar raise its head above that waterline and finally take a breath. I don't know how long it'll last, but I did see it. Just a few moments ago, I noticed our dollar trading, momentarily, above $1.05 US. Today, our dollar broke the record it set against the US dollar in 1974, and is worth as much as it was in 1960: in other words, it's worth more than it's ever been worth in my entire lifetime, measured against the US dollar. And how I would have loved to have had that smug Los Angeleno with me on Saturday. I was with P-Doug and MG down at a new Chinese supermarket called T&T at the lake front. As we went through the checkout, I happened to notice pink cards they'd put up at every register, announcing they were accepting US dollars at 90¢. I couldn't help smiling as I tried to imagine his face. Damn, but that felt good.

It won't last... but just for a few moments, this is ours.

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