I grew up in the age of the Free Trade Agreement, when Mr. Mulroney sold Canada away piecemeal to our neighbours to the south. They were a stronger economy, a larger workforce, and, I suppose in the minds of many, a readily available customer for our resources. The USA wanted our oil, our timber, our water, our natural gas, our hydro-electric power, and we needed someone to buy it.
So, we opened the doors, and now, twenty-plus years later, the Canadian landscape – both geographical and socio-political has changed radically. To be honest, we don’t live in a Canada I recognize anymore. Quick – try to name one large Canadian-owned business. Tim Hortons? Nope, not anymore. The Hudson’s Bay Company? Nope, not anymore. Not even Molson Canadian is Canadian anymore. Globalization has eliminated many industries in Canada, and in an effort to stop the bleeding caused by that loss, we’ve turned to quick-fix “solutions” like casinos and other tourism-based businesses. Niagara Falls is the perfect example of how Canada has been ravaged by greedy businessmen with no moral compass or regard for the beauty that once was. Sure, they give the economy a quick burst, but it’s short-lived and provides no room for growth. An economy that depends on tourism for is main source of income is never going to succeed on the world stage. Just look at any Caribbean island, and ask yourself what they produce, and you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that an economy must evolve or die. The Bahamas once provided sugar cane and molasses for most of the world. That was their entire product line. And five-hundred years ago, that sustained them. (Let’s not get into the slave-trade bit just now – let’s stick to sugar.) But then in the early 1800s, scientists discovered how to extract sugar from beets and over the course of a hundred years, the need to import cane sugar from the Caribbean slowly evaporated.
In Canada, we had mining and the steel industry, and they were the backbone of the Canadian economy. My father, and millions of other fathers, went to work for Algoma Steel, and were told that they would have a job for the rest of their lives. (See also, Atlas Steel, Dofasco, Union Carbide, etc etc etc…) But globalization killed the steel industry, and now towns all over Canada that were once strong economies full of hard-working people have been turned into ghost towns that are little more than living communities where the property values have plummeted and the only businesses in town are retail. Want to buy a house for peanuts? Move to Welland. There’s nothing there, mind you, but you can pick up a house there at about a third of what you’d pay in, say, Hamilton.
So, what is a society to do when they no longer really produce anything? Well, they look to other resources. Human resources. People start getting service industry jobs, because people are always going to need coffee and burgers and haircuts and clothes. But how long can that last before we are an entire society of people serving each other coffee?
Twenty years or so ago, Canada thought that call centres were the answer. The Canadian dollar was low, and so the Canadian workforce was attractive to US businesses who could outsource their customer service/telephone sales departments to Canada, and because of the exchange rate, these businesses could afford to pay well. In the early days of the call center boom, you could get a job straight out of high school making $11/hr, back in the days when minimum wage was $6.85/hr. To put that in perspective (and I’m not even going to do the tricky math and factor in rate of inflation) that would mean that these call centre jobs today would be paying $15.55/hr to start. Instead, they are paying minimum wage -- $11.40/hr.
What happened? Well, for one, India happened. A well-educated, English-speaking workforce that US, British and yes, Canadian companies can outsource their labour to, and pay a whopping $2/hr. The Indian workforce is a western capitalist’s wet dream. To be honest, it’s a wonder there still are any call centres operating in Canada.
So what does any of this have to do with marijuana?
Well, to me, it means that we have an opportunity of a lifetime here. We literally have a chance to learn from past mistakes and do things right. For the first time in decades, Canada has a new industry, and a new product. Instead of building new strip malls, instead of just beating the retail industry to death with yet another big chain store like Target (because we all know how well that turned out), we can do things differently this time. I imagine a world where empty retail big-box stores are converted into greenhouse grow-ops, and where hard-working people can find honest work again.
Canada is poised to become the largest producer of marijuana in the world. Projects like Aurora Sky in Edmonton, and now MYM Nutraceuticals’ planned facility in Weedon, Quebec are going to put Canada back on the global stage economically in a way that none of us have seen in our lifetimes. MYM projects that they will be producing over 150,000 kilograms of cannabis per year, with an estimated value of $750,000,000. That’s seven hundred and fifty million dollars, and that’s just one company. Weedon is about to become to Quebec and marijuana what Dubai is to the Middle East and oil.
Honestly, Canada’s future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades, and not just because I’m all red-eyed from the amazing sativa I was just able to smoke legally. Cannabis is, pardon the pun, a growth industry, and the foundations are being laid to make sure that it is a sustainable industry.
Yann Lafleur, the President of CannaCanada Inc. says, “CannaCanada’s bond with the municipality of Weedon, Quebec will create sustainability that will reflect on the entire industry of cannabis leading to incredible future projects involving many other aspects of the industry. MYM Nutraceuticals will supply us with the necessary resources and tools in order to establish this deed and transmit this heritage.”
For the first time in a century, Canada will be at the head of the pack, creating an industry that will surely expand around the globe. We joke that we are known for our maple syrup, and the maple leaf is so Canadian an icon that it’s even on our flag. But maple syrup doesn’t run our economy anymore. When not even the Hudson’s Bay Company is Canadian anymore, the maple leaf is as outdated as wool blankets, coon-skin caps and coureurs de bois.
Now a new leaf presents itself as our future, and with our neighbours to the south becoming less and less relevant as they look to isolationism as a solution to the problems caused by globalization, Canada needs this more than ever. We need something all our own to revitalize our stagnant economy. I celebrate the possibilities that industrialized cannabis brings, but I just hope that we learn from history, and grow this industry for the benefit of the nation, or else we will just end up having the same “where do we go from here?” conversation again in fifty years’ time when some greedy cannabis business decides they can cut costs by outsourcing production overseas.
Companies like Aurora, MYM and CannaCanada are leading the way by investing millions creating a new type of infrastructure designed to create sustainability for generations to come. We are living in very exciting times. Here’s to a green future.