October 14th is election day, my birthday.
The Canada of 1950 was an entirely different country. The decade that followed is amazingly clear in my memory. Notwithstanding the perils of nostalgia, of the selective fixture on only the best remembrances, I think that the quality of life for my generation was, on the whole, much, much better then than it is today. And for the generation that was 25-55 in that decade, it was also better then than it is for that 25-55 age group today in Canada. Contemporary Canadians have blackberries, I Pods, computers and the odd Mexican vacation. But they don’t have much time. Or much space. And their money really doesn’t go that far. This man’s blog comment expressed my sentiment:
Here's a basic rule of economics - when you have more folks available to work, they get paid less.
In the fifties, women largely didn't work - and didn't have to. The lower availability of labour meant employers had to pay more and so salaries were considerably higher in absolute terms. That's why most of us have older relatives who worked fairly low level jobs, yet managed, without their wives working too, to pay a mortgage, car loan, and to raise three or four kids.
I.e., my uncle was a Brinks guard. Wife never worked. He has three kids, a paid off mortgage on a nice bungalow with in-ground pool, a car, and savings. Try doing that on that kind of job today.
And that brings us back to immigrants. What my uncle did was not particularly skilled labour. And it is those in the unskilled and lower skilled labour pool who most suffer due to the mass immigration of third world immigrants willing to work for considerably less money. Their availability as workers lowers the wages of all lower skilled Canadians.
My grandfather was a mere railway clerk but with a meager CPR salary he had supported 4 kids and built a medium size house on a 50 foot lot in suburban Vancouver. His wife was a stay at home mum who was able to give her children all the time and attention they needed. There was no need for exotic foreign trips because the natural beauty of nearby provincial camping and fishing spots offered all the recreational retreats they needed. Ditto with my father, a carpenter. This kind of life style was the norm for working class Vancouver until 1970, when suddenly a real estate boom, the first of several for the next 35 years, took hold. Until then the economy had been in constant equilibrium. What changed it? In-migration. People from other provinces who were born in Canada or born in other countries initially and then came to British Columbia. Or international migration. In either case, pent-up population growth, lubricated by interest rates, inflation and economic prospects, shattered the nuclear family forever.
Feminists might call that liberation. I would put another kind of spin on it.
To repeat the Stats Can report of May 2007: Since 1990, Canada’s labour pool has increased 13% (immigrant driven population increased 19%).
As a consequence, the wages of skilled workers declined by 7%.
Just imagine how much the wage level of unskilled workers in Canada must have declined in that period of time.
As I mourn another of my birthdays, I look back upon happened to the Canada I knew and realize that it was immigrant-driven population growth, not Betty Friedan or Gloria Steinem or Hugh Heffner and his puerile libertinism that busted up the Canadian family. For it has always been the corporate mandate to increase the labour supply and the number of consumers, and the downward pressure of wages in forcing female participation in the work force has robbed family life of much of the time they once had to give. Many women want to work outside the home. But not 40 hours a week plus at the kind of mindless jobs they are now doing in addition to what they are doing at home. The standard feminist interpretation of why the divorce rate was so low in the 1950s and early 60s is that women had no options, they were trapped like a bird in a cage.
I have an alternative explanation, based on my own recollections of that era. We had two things going for us then that Canadians don’t have today. Extended family and time. In my 950 sq. foot home, I had two brothers, two parents, with two grandparents. Mental health issues were not delegated to an agency or a psychiatrist that you had to wait for six months for. There was a family member or a trusted and close neighbour who had the time and the inclination to sit down over a cup of tea with you. This kind of support was infinitely more effective than the expensive New Age therapeutic rubbish I see advertised today. When French sociologist Emile Durkheim did his study on Suicide more than a century ago, he observed that peasant societies with their extended family structures still intact fared much better than modern industrial societies that had blown theirs apart. Feminists, Marxists and liberals can call these predicaments examples of “freedom”, “equal opportunity” and the like. The fact is, for the most part, people are pack animals, not lone wolves, and as such need the intimacy and support of family life. Every totalitarian experiment has so far failed in its mission to replace the family unit with a state alternative. What killed the family in Canada in my lifetime was the cost of living, but that was forced up by population growth.
In other words, folks, the Canadian family was killed by the Corporate Agenda. Ain’t that rich? The same people who are always preaching to us about “Family Values”, who, when they are running for political office, usually are sitting down with one of their children on their knee in front of a roaring fire place with a wife and three other beautiful children flanking them, are the very people supporting a “conservative” growthist position that forces husbands to work over-time and wives to work full time jobs. The only thing they want to “conserve” is their bottom line. The fate of working class families or the fate of our environment from the onslaught of never ending growth is of little consequence to them.