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Posted: May 14, 2016

Must we all get ready to move for jobs?

Gerry WarnerPerceptions by Gerry Warner

Remember the good ‘ol days when the siren call to the young and ambitious was “Go West” or “Go North” for young men and women looking for work and wanting to get ahead with their lives and careers.

Well, it’s not that way anymore, according to a CBC story quoting the chief economist of the Bank of Montreal.

In a recent commentary, BMO chief economist Douglas Porter said 100 per cent of the new jobs created in Canada last year were created in only two cities, Vancouver and Toronto. “Yes, that means the rest of the country has created precisely no new jobs in the past year,” Porter told the CBC.

Now, I don’t know exactly what the chief economist means when he says all the  new jobs in the country were created in only two Canadian cities. Maybe he’s speaking metaphorically in terms of the vast majority of job creation or only counting whatever economists mean by “new” jobs. After all, there have been a few new jobs created in Cranbrook and Kimberley the past year.

But who can deny that it’s a different world out there now? There was a time when young people, and people of all ages for that matter, living in rural Canada could pull up stakes and move to the Big City whether for jobs, lifestyle or just because they got tired with the charms of small town life.

Not anymore!

Not when the average price of a detached house in Vancouver soared to $1.4 million this year and for that you may only get a 100-year-old “handyman’s special” on the east side or a 500 sq. ft. new “laneway cottage” in a west side alley. Who in affordable communities like Cranbrook and Kimberley would put up with that? But if you lose your job you might have to consider it because most new jobs are being created in the big cities where housing costs are in the stratosphere. And it’s not just Vancouver and Toronto.

CMHC said in its quarterly market assessment this week Canada’s 15 largest housing markets show signs of “over valuation.” In other words, we have 15 housing bubbles growing in this country and we all know where this eventually leads.


So what’s a working stiff supposed to do to survive or just keep up with the Joneses? Well if they’re young, the standard advice is to get a college degree. But this often means resorting to the “bank of mom and dad” who may be strapped themselves. If they’re older they can cash in on the equity they’ve built up in their homes, but if they still have their children’s educational aspirations to support they won’t be selling their houses anytime soon.

Increasingly the picture unfolding appears to be those of us over 65 will molder away right where we are in quaint, charming and affordable small town Canada while the young’uns run off to the big cities where the lights are brighter and jobs more plentiful. In fact, look around you, it’s already happening.

In the 20 years, I’ve lived in Cranbrook and Kimberley, the population of both communities has barely changed. Cranbrook has held solid around the 20,000 mark while Kimberley has done the same at 6,700 despite losing its largest employer.

I saw this phenomena when I walked the El Camino Santiago in Spain a few years ago and passed through many dusty, deserted villages where goats often outnumbered the few wizened Spanish seniors left while cities like Madrid and Barcelona seethed with millions of people.

It’s the way of the modern world. The rural areas are withering on the vine while the big metro areas are growing like weeds evolving into mega-city-states and taking over the whole economy. And what this means for Canada in the future is surely obvious.

At some point in the future every Canadian will live in either Vancouver or Toronto. Oh, rue the day!

Gerry Warner is a retired journalist who has been doing some serious gardening.

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