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February 4, 2002
Pocket Change, Greenback, and Charlie
The Canadian Dollar. It almost sounds regal, doesn't it? Almost, until you come to realize that it's worth a full third less than the American dollar, and to add insult to injury, it's a coin, not a bill. Is our money so worthless that we have to have a total of five dollars before it's considered bill-worthy? Apparently the answer is "yes".
From time to time over the past year or so (perhaps longer, I'm not sure) Experts and People With Important Opinions have told us that the Loonie will eventually die, and that it's inevitable that the Canadian economy will be based on the United States dollar. The USA is Canada's largest trading partner, and Canada is the USA's largest trading partner. If I remember correctly, approximately one billion dollars (Canadian or American, I'm not sure) of goods cross the longest unguarded border in the world every day. This, one would think, equates to one billion dollars of currency conversion just in goods alone every day. Man, no wonder the banks are making record profits, skimming a fraction of a percent off each transaction. If Canada and the USA shared a common currency, not only would it make business easier, I would wager it would save billions annually.
For the record, I'm not advocating adopting the American dollar. That just doesn't sit well with a Great White Patriot like me. Why should Canadians be forced to use American money? And have you ever panicked while on vacation in the States because you weren't sure if you got the right amount of change back or paid or tipped the right amount because all their bills are the same freaking colour? I have - repeatedly. No, I like our coloured Canadian funny money. I'm just not keen on the coins, that's all.
Having said that, there is no way we can keep the Canadian dollar. And that reason may not be imminent, but it's coming, and it scares the hell out of me. Please indulge me, and you'll see what I mean.
The other day on my way to work I was listening (like a good little Canuck) to CBC Radio 2, "Classics and Beyond". After the 7am news came sports, and then the well-intentioned but pretty much ignorable Arts Report. The lead story was about Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee celebration this coming summer, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. (One might think it's kind of a hard time to celebrate, as it happens to also be the same time her father King George gave up the throne due to cancer killing him, but maybe it's only me.) Apparently our good friends in Britain have had it up to their ears with the Royal Family, and just don't care about the Golden Jubilee, or feel like celebrating it. While the Queen herself has remained scandal-free and is still generally a really nice old bean, she's now 75, and a shadow of the stunning 25-year-old that took the throne so many years ago.
This got me thinking. Eventually, even assuming that Elizabeth has got her mum's longevity, the Queen shall be no more, and someone else will have to take the throne. And who will that be? Short of the monarchy being rejected, dissolved, overthrown, or electrocuted a la King Ralph, the easy money seems to be that Charles will get the throne.
Here's where it gets nasty for the entire Commonwealth. Who is currently on every coin and every bill? Queen Elizabeth. Who do we not find on any coin or bill anymore? King George, because he's dead. So, after Queen Elizabeth is gone, who are we going to find on our coins and bills? You got it - we're going to be seeing Charles the First, teeth and ears and all on the backs of all Canadian currency. That sucks!! At best, we've probably got another generation until our currency will have to change faces. But Elizabeth isn't exactly a spring chicken, and her mum's longevity may not be hereditary, so we've got to act NOW! We have two choices, as I see it. 1) We can wiggle Canada out from under the monarchy once and for all, or 2) we can scrap the Canadian and American dollars (and maybe even the Mexican peso) and go for North American Dollar.
Wouldn't that be nice? Just think of it. Your paycheque would be in NADs. You could order things from the States, and all the prices would be in NADs. All businesses would do business and accounting in NADs, and sell all their goods and services in NADs. You could purchase a plane ticket out of Buffalo or Detroit (sold to you in NADs) and fly to Cancun where all the tequila shooters, onyx chess sets, sombreros and hookers are price in NADs as well! And whatever currency the USA is using, so too will most of the Caribbean islands. Yes, most of our vacation destinations would no longer require currency conversion, and you'd know when the street vendor is ripping you off.
Of course, every schoolboy from Alert to St. Johns to Tijuana will make jokes about having "NADs in my pocket" or "a fistful of NADs". But I believe that is a small price to pay to keep Charles off of my $20 bills.
Years ago, this idea probably would have been laughed at. But now there's a precedent with the euro over in Europe. The world has yet to see whether it works or not, but so far, so good. Of course there will be people (other Great White Patriots who would rather have Charles in their pockets than have anything in common with the USA) who will resist this idea, saying that we can't give up our Canadian Sovereignty just for the sake of convenience. (More fodder for this column, I'm sure.) Others will resist it just because it's change (pun not really intended, but I'll take credit where I can). Overall, however, I believe that between industry and the quickly expanding Snowbirds segment of the population, the Loonie will go the way of the Dodo, and a unified North American currency, whatever it will be called, will come forth.
Maybe then my stack of Canadian dollar bills with finally be worth more than $0.63US each. Watch me not hold my breath.
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