Michaels: Canada may benefit from imminent bronze exodus

Until recently, the highlights of being half-Greek meant delightfully sloppy family affairs…

Until recently, the highlights of being half-Greek meant delightfully sloppy family affairs, fantastic food, a tie to a treasure trove of history and an inexplicable interest in blue-and-white colour schemes.

These days, however, my ethnic ties are a bit less Big-Fat-Greek-Wedding cliché, and a bit more big-fat-political-shame.

Of course, I don’t blame the Greeks. Round people forced into a square, northern European financial system, the government’s pillars were bound to collapse. But the way the word “Greek” is used these days has a slightly ego-pricking effect.

So, I pulled out my worry-beads and contemplated what could be the silver drachma lining to this Euro-mess, and I found it in my own history.

Greeks, I concluded, are adaptable—in addition to some of their less flattering characteristics oft’ listed these days—and have a tendency to migrate to more vibrant economies when times get rough. Already four-million live outside its borders compared to 11.2-million within.

My own granddad bounced from his homeland to Paris for school, New York for work, and then finally landed on Montreal to settle, before he called for my grandmother and her passel of babies to come hither.

So now, when joblessness faces 42 per cent of Greeks between the ages of 15 and 24, shouldn’t they be following that lead? Turns out they are. The Greek government estimates that at least half a million nationals have departed over the past 10 years, and more are on their way out.

And it’s not as though they’re bringing a nation’s tax-dodging ways with them. Those leaving are young, educated and in need of employment that suits them.

Australia, where skilled immigrants are desperately wanted, has already benefitted from the exodus. Jobs in health care, engineering, construction and automotive and mechanical trades are being filled at a decent clip.

Now Hellenic centres around Canada are apparently overrun by emigration inquiries.

This strikes me as a fairly fortuitous turn of events for a country that’s constantly lamenting the impact of a silver tsunami wiping out its future. We’ve heard over and over again how Canada is going to tank in years to come thanks to aging baby boomers. The newest instalment of the dire prognostication was released Thursday from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. It said the amount of Canadian government debt in comparison to the size of the economy will rise to almost 100 per cent by 2040 from less than 50 per cent now, under current public spending trends.

The unsustainable public debt is the result of mass retirements of baby boomers leading to fewer workers to create economic growth and more demand on government spending for things like health care.

It’s a dire outlook that begs the question, couldn’t the answer to the silver tsunami be found in a bronze flood?

Kathy Michaels is a reporter for the Capital News.

 

kmichaels@kelownacapnews.com