It is in our own best interest to support our local economy

One of the claims of those who support free-trade is that ‘we can compete.’ This is often said in a way that seems to question the patriotism of those who raise concerns about the effect of unfettered free-trade agreements.  After decades spent pushing Canada in this direction we are facing the consequences: massive Canadian job losses, severely reduced retirement security, and relaxed environmental protection.

In the north we have seen a consistent drop in our traditional employers, none more than the forestry sector.  As the dollar soars, the jobs dry up.  Worse, in stark contradiction to the stated aims of globally competitive economies, the forestry sector in the United States remains one of the more subsidized and protected sectors in our North American Trading zone. 

The one way we can protect ourselves in this scenario is to go out of our way to buy local.  Whether it is produce, products, goods or services, there is nothing binding in our trade agreements to stop an individual from making a concentrated effort to support his or her local economy. We still get fairly local dairy products.  We don’t have to only go to big box stores, in many communities there are still butchers and smaller grocery stores. There is no doubt that it is difficult, or perhaps even impossible, to only spend your money locally, but that shouldn’t prevent people from giving it a go. 

It is generally easier to buy local in the summer. Road-side stalls and farmer’s markets make the very freshest produce available in a more convenient way.  But we shouldn’t be just focusing on food with this mindset.  There are ways people can spend their recreation time locally. I enjoy visiting communities throughout Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing in this season because there are so many festivals and special events going on.  Whether it is a music festival, a pow wow, or a community fair, I leave the event more invigorated and community-minded.

I find it helpful to remember as I go out of my way to support local businesses and community efforts that it is my neighbour who I am supporting. In helping our neighbours and contributing to the livelihood of our communities we make ourselves better citizens and a little bit richer in more ways than one.