Living in Canada By Mel Tobias  

If we are to believe the head of Bank of Canada, the country’s recession is over and the economy will now show signs of positive growth in the current quarter, largely due to the recovery of credit markets, low interest rates and renewed consumer spending.

This trend is evident in British Columbia. There is an emerging sense of consumer confidence and the B.C. Real Estate Association reported that at the beginning of July recorded five straight months of increasing home sales. House hunters who had been sitting out the market, particularly first-time buyers who felt priced-out, are combing back in surprising numbers.

T&T Supermarket Inc., Canada’s largest Asian supermarket chain was purchased by the country’s grocery giant Loblaw Co. Ltd. Ontario-based Loblaw believes that the ethnic market opportunity in Canada is vast.

T&T headquarters is in Richmond B.C., and has 17 stores across Canada with annual sales of $514 million. Loblaw will pay $225 million for the retailer and will continue to run it as a separate niche banner.

It is a fact that the ethnic food portion of overall grocery is growing much faster than traditional grocery. It is also a fact that immigration accounts for 70 percent of Canada’s population growth.

By 2017, about half of all visible minorities will be South Asian or Chinese. By that time also, it is estimated that visible minorities will make up 51 percent of the population of Toronto, 49 percent of Vancouver and 19 percent of Montreal, while the rest of Canada is projected at 9 percent. The Filipino and Korean communities are trailing behind the South Asian and Chinese.

It was definitely a wise economic move of Loblaw to acquire T&T and hopefully the new management will protect consumers from cheap but hazardous food items from China. Remember the poisonous toothpaste, tainted milk products and chocolates, contaminated meat and industrial salt in canned goods? We also hope to see more quality products from the Philippines.

Loblaw has been trying to move out of its less-income generating general merchandise categories, such as household goods and electronics. It will take the retailer six to nine months to reduce the amount of store space reserved to the unproductive general merchandise.

London-based Monocle Magazine (a monthly briefing on global affairs, business, culture & design) is rather tough on Vancouver as the most livable cities index category. While other respected publications listed Vancouver as the most livable city in the world, Monocle placed Vancouver in the 14th place.

“Arriving in Vancouver can be pleasantly disconcerting. Snow-capped peaks and omnipresent water place you on the North Pacific Coast, the notably friendly, low-key atmosphere could only be Canadian. Vancouver should not ignore the American border for a brighter future and should forge tighter business, cultural and transport links with Seattle and Portland.” That’s how Monocle saw Vancouver. The magazine’s top five cities are Zurich, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Munich and Helsinki.

Meanwhile, a leading news magazine rated Burnaby, B.C. as the best-run city in Canada. The ranking was based on socio-economic status, crime, fire services, transportation, road and sewer conditions, economic development, recreation spending and indicators of civic engagement as voter turnout and library use.

Burnaby is in good company with Surrey to the south and Vancouver to the west, finished third and fourth respectively of 31 cities surveyed by Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

Burnaby’s current population is about 220,000 and has the second largest influx of immigrants of the cities. Meanwhile, Surrey has the advantage of having a third of its residents under age 25. It is expected to increase to 633,000 by 2026 from the 395,000 residents measured for the survey.

Statistics Canada has been asking couples since 1990 this question – “Are you planning to have children?”. About 17.1 percent of women aged 30 to 34 said “no” to the question in 2006, while I8.3 percent of men also gave a negative answer.

The societal shift in attitudes toward childlessness has changed. Unlike in the Philippine community where a couple must have children as soon as possible due to familial and religious pressures, it is now fashionable to be “child-free”. The stigma of being childless is less in modern, urban society. As many couples today would say “If you don’t know how to raise or can’t afford children, why bother to bring unwanted children to this world just to please some people. There are enough screwed up people in the world so why contribute in raising inferior children.”