Stirring the Pot - May 28, 2008
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May 28, 2008  |  Vote 0    0

Stirring the Pot - May 28, 2008

St. Marys Journal Argus

Could an upside-down notion of migrant labour be the answer for once-proud provinces that are supposedly destined for have-not status? Specifically, is an economic opportunity currently staring out from about 100 pages of splashy wedding photos in England's Hello! magazine?I refer, of course, to Autumn Kelly, a one-time aspiring actress from Montreal suburb Pointe-Claire, who married Queen Elizabeth's eldest grandson last week. If most of the British tabloids are to be believed, it was the money-grubbing Kelly who contrived to demand 500,000 pounds for Hello!'s exclusive rights to photograph their wedding.Depending on the spending habits of the happy couple, it's entirely possible the approximately $1 million photo fee will be lost to the mainstream British economy. But the same can't be said for the millions more currently being pried from the wallets of the voracious British public for the rights to view those photos. From between the mattresses of spendthrifty Britons, that's now being drawn into circulation. Here was the national economy, rocked by the mortgage lending troubles and rising fuel costs, facing what top-level Cabinet minister Baroness Vadera recently called "the first real international economic crisis of globalization." Grocery costs will rise and the cost of traveling will skyrocket, the public was being told.Yet with a single "I do," Autumn Kelly breathed new life into consumer spending. For this reason alone, it has become clear to me that the most reliable strategy for Britain's fiscal navigators is waiting out the tumultuous times between spending-inspiring Royal Weddings and Royal Affairs, and acting as a Royal dating service when the economy needs a boost. Those navigators are smart enough to know, however, that the economy-transforming potential is significantly decreased when the Royal in question chooses to accompany a commoner like Autumn Kelly down the St. George's Chapel aisle. Prince Harry's most recent choice for a girlfriend is probably a better prospect; despite the objections supposedly expressed by the Royal Family over her appearance in Autumn's wedding photo spread, she already has her own history with Hello! in the form of accepting 125,000 pounds six years ago to welcome photographers into the home she then shared with jockey Richard Johnson. A wedding between Harry and her would certainly bring the British tabloid-buying public into even greater euphoria.By contrast, Kelly is squeaky-clean. A Montreal journalist, "hired by a ruthless British tabloid to sniff out and find the vital facts about this newest addition" to the Royal clan, eventually conceded on his online blog that "the tale of Autumn Kelly seemed about as typical as could be. She was born and raised in a sleepy suburban area, had a typical upbringing and met a well-off guy and moved to London."So her effect on British consumers will be muted, and they'll soon be back to worrying about prices for petrol and mid-sized flats.The real money in the whole scenario, however, isn't in the hands of the public. It's in the jewel-bedecked hands of the Royals. And this is where the story of Autumn - and her boring Quebec upbringing - reveals potential for Canada's collective coffers.The willingness of human beings to cross borders and even oceans to pursue financial gain has long been recognized as a key element in the distribution of wealth. Mexico, the Philippines and Jamaica are among a group of developing nations which see their citizens either send home or bring home considerable amounts of cash earned on foreign soil.An article in the July/August 2007 edition of Ode Magazine states "migrant workers from developing countries send home well northward of $150 billion each year; which is at least 50 per cent more than all the development aid that comes from the First World."The positive effects on the economies of these nations are undeniable. According to an online article by the executive director of the Philippines-based International Migrant Resource Center, this so-called "remittance . . . sustains local demand for restaurant meals, motorbikes, pre-paid mobile phone credits and cinema tickets as exports slump and debt payments force the government to continue to severely limit social spending."Reliance on these funds, however, demands sacrifices that severely threaten the advancement of some nations beyond Third World status. Many Filipina doctors, teachers or accountants, according to the Ode article, retrain in hopes of earning 10 times more money as nurses in the US. Or they risk abusive employment placements to earn 15 times more as nannies in Hong Kong or the Middle East. Domestically, their departures leave behind chronically understaffed and underskilled hospitals and professional sectors.It would be poor public policy to create a situation where young Canadians were forced to leave to take on relatively low-wage occupations in other countries. But Royal wife - even the wife of a Royal whose mom abdicated her family's direct right to the Royal Family's public funding - is not a low-wage occupation. As well-connected, upwardly-mobile and well-educated as Autumn Kelly may be, she would have had trouble landing a Quebec-based job as lucrative as being the wife of Princess Anne's son. And if even a portion of that is allowed to trickle back into the Quebec economy, it's sure to have an effect.Multiply that by a few more Royal weddings with Canadian connections, and we'll be getting somewhere.In the low-wage migrant labour market, surreptitious efforts are undertaken by governments in places like the Philippines to convince potential wealthy employers that their country's workers are the best-suited to the job at hand. Canada could do the same in this proposed high-wage migrant labour market.Britain's Royal family has, from its height during Queen Elizabeth's post-bombing walk-arounds during World War II, become an extreme example of endlessly waning legitimacy. And much of this has been brought upon it by its dominant members' spousal selections. Repeatedly, the Diana Spencers, Sarah Fergusons and Camilla Bowles of the world have brought scandal and ridicule to the House of Windsor. Autumn Kelly's arrival has provided what, until now, has been a rare treat for the Royals: an almost scandal-free expansion to the bloodlines. And all it took was Mark Phillips' wise choice of a product of a run-of-the-mill Canadian upbringing. If the Royals - and, perhaps, other royal families around the world - hope to maintain their legitimacy, this is something they'll surely pay dearly for in the future, and something Canada can ably provide.

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