Cry, the beloved country
I read in my morning newspaper that both Bell and Rogers are thinking about increasing monthly charges for wireless and Internet customers. Funnily enough, both companies were considering hikes of a similar amount. I’m not suggesting collusion – Heaven forbid – but it doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to conclude we have too few big media companies in Canada competing for customers.
By contrast, in the U.S., Verizon is giving away iPhones with any trade-in in any condition. Rog/Bell will never make such an offer. Why? Because Canadians are complacent and compliant, not demanding or desiring. At this time of year, all we care about is surviving winter.
We’re also lazy. Productivity per capita has been falling for at least twenty years while that same measurement continues to rise in the U.S. One problem is that too many Canadian businesspeople are content to chug along at a certain level of effort making $250,000 a year by operating a small business with six employees. They have no interest in expanding so don’t invest capital in the firm. And far too many founders feel their just reward is to be swallowed up by a U.S. firm so they can retire to Florida.
I keep reading American success stories like the one about the guy in New England who started Staples in 1985 because he couldn’t find a typewriter ribbon on a weekend. Today, there are more than 1,200 Staples stores in the U.S. and Canada, plus some in Europe and South America. We need more such founders like Frank Stronach (Magna) and Frank Hasenfratz (Linamar) who emigrated to Canada in the 1950s, penniless, but with tool and die training learned in their respective home country. Too many of today’s immigrants arrive with no skills at all.
Worse, Canadians don’t celebrate success. For example, we don’t embrace or admire our singers and actors until they make it in Hollywood or New York. What kind of country waits for the applause of another nation before feeling proud of their own? About the only star I can think of who stayed home and gained any level of reverence and respect in Canada was Gordon Lightfoot. Three hundred musicians did covers of his songs but he lived in Toronto and played Massey Hall 170 times and we loved him.
I weep for my country. We could be so much more. If only we believed in ourselves.