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‘O Canada!’

By Ramon J. Farolan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:54:00 04/04/2010

A lot of people would normally associate a “loonie” with some crazed fanatic. But in Canada
, loonie refers to the Canadian dollar, which today is almost at par with the US dollar. The loonie is a copper coin with Queen Elizabeth’s portrait on one side and the depiction of a loon—a water bird found in Northern Canada—on the other. Canada’s two-dollar coin, which has a polar bear on its face instead of a loon, is called a “toonie.” It is similar to our 10-peso coin with a copper center surrounded by a silver border. In terms of paper money, the smallest denomination is a five-dollar bill with a picture of youth playing ice hockey, Canada’s national sport.

Another interesting fact about Canada is that in terms of official independence, it is probably one of the youngest in the community of nations. It was only in 1982, upon the signing of a new Constitution Act by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Queen Elizabeth that Canada officially became an independent country. The Philippines will be marking its 112th independence anniversary on June 12. “O Canada” was an old French marching song dating back to 1880. It became Canada’s national anthem 100 years later in 1980.

Canada is the largest country in North America with roughly 10 million square kilometers in land and water area, but with a population of merely 34 million. This is one reason Canada is one of the few countries that conduct seminars in various parts of the world in a bid to attract more immigrants. The waiting time for qualified applicants is anywhere from 16 to 87 months. In the case of my daughter, who has a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, she made it in 18 months, a reflection of an immigration point system geared towards people with high educational and professional qualifications. She now resides in British Columbia, where she teaches Academic English and Business Communication to college students mostly from Asia and the Middle East.

Canada is an example of a federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy. The country has 10 provinces each with its own parliament and premier, along with three territories—Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The national government in Ottawa is headed by Prime Minister (head of government) Stephen Harper of the ruling Conservative Party. The governor general, representing the Head of State Queen Elizabeth, is appointed by the Queen on advice of the prime minister. Michaëlle Jean, an immigrant born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is the current governor general. For Charter change enthusiasts, the Canadian model should be studied closely.

Filipinos in Canada

Statistics Canada or StatCan, the federal agency that comes up with statistics used in the formulation of national policies, reported that there are approximately half a million Filipinos in Canada. Among the more prominent members of the Filipino community is Aprodicio Laquian, former chief of staff of Joseph Estrada and an emeritus professor of human settlement at the University of British Columbia. Laquian recently co-authored a book “Seeking a Better Life Abroad: A Study of Filipinos in Canada 1957-2007.” He believes that a united Filipino community can be a strong political force in Canada. As of today, 15 Filipinos have been elected to public office, including two in the province of British Columbia.

How is Canada faring in the current recession?

All reports indicate that Canada is moving from recovery to expansion. The Globe and Mail, a national broadsheet, reports: “the economy is in overdrive, growing faster than anyone expected. Spending, housing starts, and job creation are surging. House building, hiring and even car buying has surpassed the most optimistic expectations. A year ago, General Motors was facing bankruptcy. Lately, the automaker announced plans to hire more workers and boost production because of a growing demand for certain models.”

The National Post, another daily, highlighted a GDP growth of 0.6 percent for the month of January, the strongest gain in more than three years. Manufacturing made gains for the fifth consecutive month.

Two sectors have been driving the turnaround—the labor market and housing. Unlike their US counterparts, Canadian companies have been hiring; unemployment is down to 8.2 percent in February. Roughly 60,000 full-time jobs were created last month alone. While some of the hiring could be attributed to the Vancouver Olympics, economists credit the private sector for playing a significant role in the upturn.

In the case of housing, home sales jumped 44 percent over last year’s numbers with the average price of homes rising to $335,000, up by 18 percent from a year ago.

In British Columbia alone, Premier Gordon Campbell confirmed that the province would be getting a $450-million hotel casino addition to current gambling facilities. The new project is expected to generate 3,200 direct jobs, 1,300 indirect jobs during the construction period, and is expected to be completed by 2013. It is interesting to note that early in his political career, Mr. Campbell opposed the expansion of gaming operations. He now says that “the whole concept of gaming has changed dramatically,” citing entertainment and cultural opportunities.

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