There is a lovely French bistro in the heart of Toronto that makes you forget where you are in the world. With a side of frites and a glass of good wine, you could be forgiven for thinking you're in the very lap of Parisian luxury.
It was in this bistro, over wine, that a friend and I were inspired to muse over life, the economy, and Canada's fleeting moment of prosperity.
We had just demolished sumptuous goat cheese, shrimp and golden frites when I tucked into the topic that is most on my mind these days.
Canadians, I said, are in denial. We think -- hopefully, miraculously -- that the global recession is going to happen everywhere but here.
Sure, we didn't start the fire, but smoke is rising. In our jobless numbers (234,000 job losses in the last three months), rising consumer bankruptcies (up 50% in December), waning consumer confidence, and a slowing housing sector.
It was then that I saw the dark shadow of recognition fall across my friend's face.
She has been quietly spending for the last few years, establishing herself in her own home with renovations, landscaping, and all the things that Canada's prospering economy encouraged.
I'd done much the same.
Who among the fully employed hasn't considered a flat screen TV, even though our old tubes work perfectly fine?
Jobs have been plentiful -- almost as plentiful as extended lines of credit, mortgages, and a myriad other financial dangling carrots.
With news of job losses hitting close to home, Canadians are slowly doing a double-take. Our federal books may have been balanced walking into this recession, but our average household debt levels have never been higher. There is nothing hidden under the mattress. The coffee can holds only coffee, not savings.
And our key safety net -- Employment Insurance -- is out of reach for the majority, thanks to restrictive eligibility rules that should have been changed long ago.
After a sobering discussion with my friend, we paid our bill, left ‘Paris' and headed to a bookstore.
Perhaps chastened by the reality of recession, perhaps frugal by nature, my friend went straight to the bargain bin for her selections.
The book I chose? It's called The Power of Less. I suspect the mantra ‘less is more' will fast become ‘the new black' as the reality of recession darkens doorways everywhere. Even right here in Paris -- I mean Canada.
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