This article orginally appeared in the Christmas 2004 edition of Highgrader Magazine – a Northern Ontario publication that brings the issues, concerns and culture of Ontario’s vast forestry and mineral rich north to the world.
In the latter half of 2003, in the wake of yet another failed marriage, I was forced to indulge in one of the most dreaded of all male pastimes, an activity ranking somewhere between visiting the dentist and plumbing: I had to go shopping. In the act of replacing the myriad of consumer goods that are forfeited when a household is split asunder, I made several discoveries. Ever the nosy parker, (and hoping to support Canadian industry) I made a point of determining the country of origin of almost every purchase: from patio furniture to kitchen utensils, from an inexpensive stereo to a weed-whacker.
The results were astonishing: virtually everything had come from, or at least been assembled in, the People’s Republic of China. Also amazing was how cheap most things were, and that the quality nevertheless appeared relatively high. The world was awash in cheap electronics. It appeared that, at a conservative estimate, 90 per cent of the merchandise in the local Dollarama store was from China. Multiplying the inventory in all the dollar stores in Sudbury times all the dollar stores in Canada conjured up a mental image of a chain of container ships crossing the Pacific from west to east, disgorging an unending stream of consumer goods produced by a nearly infinite supply of cheap labour in a nation of 1.3 billion souls.