I’m not exactly sure what the Oilsands look like and for some reason I think of the quicksand episode of Gilligan’s Island. Perhaps its more like Lawrence of Arabia and the Oilsands are just too friggin’ hot to think straight. Regardless, it is a shame when a group is so oblivious that it doesn’t seem to understand how offensive it is. Kind of like when your racist grandparent talks out loud about the nice negro doctor. The Canada Oilsands Community, one of many Canadian oil advocates, ran this ad last month to the chagrin and confoundedness of Canadians everywhere.
Canada Oilsands Community founder Robbie Picard, an openly gay (strange-but-true) Oilsands activist was shocked at the backlash. It seems that no matter how many times it’s pointed out to him, he defends his mistake with an explanation of how he thinks everyone is hot. Picard explained, “When I say lesbians are hot, I don’t think there is anything wrong about saying that. I think all lesbians are hot and I’m not opposed to putting a picture of two guys up there. It was just to strike up a conversation. I find anybody is hot. I think two women kissing is hot. I think that something that is part of the fabric of our city — that we can do whatever we want in our country — that is hot.”
While I can agree that Mr. Picard is not all wrong about our freedom to make asses of ourselves, he has managed to once again offend without seeming to realise how. He included people in his hot designation, but he failed to give a nod or shout-out to hotdogs, Red Hot candies and has slighted the chili-pepper growers, flat-out offending India, Mexico and Trinidad. In a press release, The Red Hot Chili Peppers have agreed to headline at the upcoming Hotchilipalooza raising money for Robbie Picard’s sensitivity training (This might not be true).
Once the smoke cleared from his absurdity-bomb, he went on about the Oilsands and buying Canadian oil. Unfortunately, now we can’t help thinking about hot lesbians and can’t focus enough on the details of why we should buy Canadian Oil.
I expect the next ad should run with a picture of Mr. Picard holding up his ad beside the caption that reads, “In Saudi Arabia you would get your head chopped off for running an ad like this. In Canada, it probably won’t even affect your career.”
And remember, hot lesbians buy Canadian Oil, and so should you.
Canada does not make everything. We just don’t. But we do produce a bunch of stuff and that stuff should be what we buy in Canada. There’s no-brainer stuff like maple syrup and beer but if we realise that buying foreign maple syrup would be ridiculous, why would we not apply that same logic to every purchase we make? Sure, we can have the occasional Stella but it is always in knowing that it’s just to mix things up, not that it’s the better choice. It is better to buy strawberries that have ben grown within 500 km from your home, than from Chile, or even California for that matter. We should always buy Canadian first. That should be the choice over foreign options when there is a choice.
Among these things that we do produce, is honey.
The strange thing about the honey market is that it breaks conventional buying trends. The largest company charges the most for their honey, and Canadians still buy it. We will hum and haw about the price of organic produce and choose GMO, shrink-wrapped, foreign produce because supporting local farmers costs more. Yet, in the case of honey, we’ll pay more because we trust that cute little bee illustration as being the healthier choice. Of course, it also says Canada all over it, doesn’t it? It does.
But in all the wrong ways.
McCormick Canada owns most of the honey shelf-space in grocery stores. Their cute little Billy Bee buzzing around and their Natural Honey Farms brand calling us like a siren to its green fields. Their packages say things like Canada No.1 (a colour grading system) and Canada’s Favourite (because they take up so much of the honey market). Why wouldn’t we buy that? Why wouldn’t you pay more for it? It’s so Canadian. Canada shows up on the back label as well, only instead of Product of Canada, it usually reads “a blend of Canadian and Chinese honey” or “a blend of Canadian and Argentinian honey”.
McCormick Canada, the world’s largest packager of honey uses foreign honey in most of their honey brands even though Canada exports half of the honey it produces. What’s worse is that Chinese and Argentinian honey contains antibiotics to keep their bees healthy and alive. This contaminates the honey so much that in 2002, Europe banned the import of honey from the world’s largest producer of honey – China.
McCormick Canada has no such concerns about Chinese honey, and it must have huge savings to their bottom-line. But when a price is set by a company’s own SRP, why not just raise the price? Oh, that’s right, they did that too. McCormick Canada’s honey is usually 25% more expensive than other brands.
McCormick Canada spokesperson Andrew Foust confirmed that Billy Bee, which they call “Canada’s favourite”, makes its product using a “small portion of Argentinian honey” and its Natural Honey Farms brand uses Chinese honey. In an attempt to minimize the absurdity, he added that 85 percent of the honey McCormick Canada uses comes from Canada. That leaves a mere 15 percent coming from foreign sources.
Only 15 percent you say?
I once attended a lecture by nuclear physicist and UFO researcher, Stanton T. Friedman. Putting aside ones opinion on the existence of little green men visiting our planet, the probing kind or not, he broke down sightings into percentages. When showing the breakdown of annual UFO sightings, he explained that a percentage were known satellites, another percentage were known commercial aircraft, these private aircraft, these ones military, those are weather balloons, this percentage was birds and so on. At the end, he showed that the military could account for 96% of all UFO sightings.
Phew, that was scary for a moment…wait, what? 4% are completely unknown? Imagine if that number was 15%.
While I settle into my bunker, let’s get back to the 15% foreign honey.
The 15% in question travelled 11,000 km from Argentina or 9,500 km from China. It used endless resources, trucks, trains, boats, trains and trucks again, and to save what? Canada produces about 65 Million pounds of honey per year, exporting its 20 to 30 million pound surplus to the States. But while Canada produces far more than our market requires, companies like McCormick Canada still use foreign honey as filler in most of its honey brands.
Often being sold in Canada and the U.S. below market value, Chinese honey is a great temptation to companies who want to save a few bucks, regardless if Chinese honey has been banned in Europe because it is considered unsafe.
One particular problem is that Chinese and Argentinian honey is known to include chloramphenicol, an antibiotic used to keep the bees healthy and alive. Unfortunately, chloramphenicol is known to transfer into the honey they produce. In some susceptible people, it can cause aplastic anemia, a fatal blood condition. Though most countries, not including Canada, have banned chloramphenicol in food production, the U.S. penalized China with a heavy tariff of over $2/kg. Because of the high tariff China often launders its honey through countries like Russia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, switching the country of origin so it won’t be inspected for markers that show its true source.
And the honey thickens.
This got me thinking, what is the actual honey footprint at the local grocery store? How many honey brands contain this foreign honey? What does the honey say in my own pantry? I never thought to look at its origin, it had to be all-Canadian.
Recently, I started drinking peppermint tea and in trying to reduce my sugar intake, began using honey. Being the bargain shopper I am, when I see something I regularly use on sale, I buy it and because of this thriftiness, I had collected a few bottles of honey in my cupboard. I had a bottle of McCormick Canada’s Natural Honey Farm brand as well as their Billy Bee brand honey in the cute little bear bottle. I scanned the label, ignoring all of the shout-outs to Canada such as Canada’s favourite and Canada number 1 (that sounds so patriotic), and then my worst fears were confirmed!
Half expecting that my research was misleading; I reached for the first bottle. It sadly read “A blend of Canadian and Chinese honey” and the latter read “A blend of Canadian and Argentinian honey”. O-M-G! The corrupted honey dripping down the shelves of my own innocent pantry? Now tainted like a gangster’s moll. After everything I had recently learned about the global honey crime syndicate, I felt criminally traitorous! Contaminated like honey even! Exit stage left.
How could this be true in mainstream top dollar priced honey from that cute little Billy Bee? And I asked again, how much could they have saved?
This led me to reluctantly reach for a large bottle of honey that I had bought, secretly feeling guilty when I had put it in my shopping cart. By buying this honey I thought I was somehow mistreating my children, feeding them store-brand honey because it was so much less expensive than the Billy Bee honey. My shame mounting, knowing I was sure to read the worst description ever, “contains Argentinian and Chinese honey” and that’s why it’s so damned cheap! Mustering my bravery and overcoming my embarrassment, I turned my bottle of Compliments brand honey, priced 30% cheaper than it’s Billy Bee competitors, and it was…produced…entirely in Canada! How can this be? Suddenly, the honey conspiracy seemed far worse than I had originally thought. McCormick Canada (an American company that adds the Canada to their name for their Honey and Clubhouse Spices lines) saves by using low quality, antibiotic-infused honey and then charges top-dollar for it while a no-name brand uses Canadian honey and sells it at a reasonable price. That doesn’t make any sense.
I immediately reached out to give Compliments Brand owner Sobeys Inc. a buzz!
I emailed Sobeys Inc. asking how a store-brand product could be Product of Canada while major brands use a portion of foreign honey in their premium-priced products? How is it that theirs, and other store brands don’t? Is it because Compliments doesn’t sell enough volume for the savings to be worthwhile? Is it a stance to “buy Canadian”? Or is it that they do use a portion of foreign honey and are not labeling the fact?
The response took a couple of days and in that time I started to really consider that they weren’t responding because I had uncovered their diabolical lie, that they were misleading the end-user with a “Product of Canada” nonsense label.
Had the honey conspiracy become an even greater scandal? I began to fear I’d be visited by the Honey Mob and sent off with some smoke to sleep with the bees.
Then I received a response from Sobeys and it was a sweet as it should be. Jacquelin Corrado clarified that their “Compliments Organic Honey and Compliments Pure Natural Honey Liquid, is made with 100 per cent pure Canadian Honey, supplied by a producer-owned cooperative in Canada.” She explained that their “strategy is to buy from domestic growers first and work extensively with them to offer customers a wide selection of local products.”
This is what I needed to hear. That a Canadian company like Sobeys with $24-Billion in annual sales hasn’t been tempted to pad the bottom line by stirring in some junk honey. Ms. Corrado added, “As a proudly Canadian company, buying Canadian is important to us, because it underscores our belief in supporting the local communities we proudly serve.”
McCormick Canada has some explaining to do.
Actually, they don’t. It doesn’t really matter what they have to add. This is their practice. We are simply left with a choice. Do we buy expensive honey with unhealthy foreign ingredients or do we buy inexpensive all-Canadian honey?
As Canadians we should not tolerate this behaviour from any company. I could get into the particulars about bees and how they pollinate plants and without them, we’ll die as a species…bor-ing. How massive bee colonies are dying the world over so we should keep them healthy without pumping them full of antibiotics, but you don’t want to hear that…what’s on TV? I could talk about jobs and the livelihood of farmers but I won’t. I’ll get to the point…Buy Canadian – invest in ourselves!
The time has come, Canada, to read the label and know that when you can get a Canadian product, that should be the choice you make because that’s the right choice. Complacency dictates that people generally won’t pay higher prices for their health but in the case of honey, the Canadian choice is the cheaper or comparably priced choice. Let’s be dependent on ourselves whenever we can. Buy the things that people just like you make, the people that support your employment, people who make a decent wage, next-door neighbours who participate in the Canada you share.
The truth is that Canada doesn’t produce everything we use, need or want, but when it does it should be purchased before a foreign choice, no matter how cute the mascot is or the cost. Instead of interpreting the price of Canadian goods as being expensive, remember that the cheaper item is just greatly underpriced and consider why that is – you’re smart; you were educated in Canada.
On February 4, the Royal Canadian Mint and financial institutions across Canada stopped distributing the Canadian one-cent piece. Production on the penny had ceased in May of 2012 looking forward to February 2013 when the penny would no longer be sent out to clink around in the pockets of Canadians. On that same day in February, the Canadian Mint began melting down the first of the 35 billion pennies in circulation.
One-Cent Worth of Patriotism
All Canadian coins minted between Confederation (1867) and 1935 have included the proud maple leaf but the penny has always shown it like no other. The first penny was produced on January 2, 1908 and was struck by Countess Grey at the official opening of the Ottawa branch of the Royal Mint (renamed in 1931 to the Royal Canadian Mint). The modern 1-cent coin that features two maple leaves on the same twig was designed and created by G.E. Kruger Gray. It was first used in 1937 and has remained unchanged until 2013 with the exception of the 1967 centennial coin, which used a rock dove, designed by renowned Canadian artist Alex Colville.
It Costs to Save Pennies
The beloved and seemingly pointless one-cent coin costs Canada 1.6 cents to produce and therefore the mint will melt down the 82-million kg of steel, nickel and copper-plating that remains in circulation and selling it.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is indeed correct to say that eliminating the penny will save Canadian tax-payers but his estimated 11 million dollars savings per year in production costs will actually result in a less impressive but still worthy $4 million savings. The cost to redeem the 6 billion coins will cost the Canadian government about $80 million over the next 6 years. The $80 million expense is a result of about $53 million to redeem the face-value of the 6 billion pennies jangling about in people’s pockets, and an impressive $27 million in administration, handling, and little signs that will be placed on fountains throughout Canada informing romantics that wishes now cost a nickel or higher.
Toronto’s Mayor, Lord Ford at Edmonton’s City Hall. On an earlier trip, Ford had become enamoured with Edmonton’s Skating Rink by Winter, Wading Pool Fountain in the Summer. Ford visited his favourite versatile fountain with a little present. Even with tight security, Ford was overheard whispering to the fountain, “join me and we can rule the fountains.”
Recycling the zinc and copper from melted-down pennies will bring in about $42.5 million in revenue. That, and the additional savings of $11 million per year, Canada will walk away with a savings of about $4 million per year over the 6 years it is expected to collect most of the circulating pennies.
A Pretty Penny
It will be great to save all that money in producing the penny but perhaps the Canadian government is missing an opportunity to make a little extra.
When King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, the Mint was just finishing up the tools to produce the new 1937 penny with the new king’s portrait. While the 1936 penny still had the image of King Henry V, the 1937 penny recycled the 1936 penny die along with a new portrait of the abdicating king’s on the reverse. To differentiate between the 1936 and 1937 pennies, the mint included a dot below the 1936 date to mark it as the 1937 penny.
This of course makes this penny quite rare, there are only seven known rare dot coin specimens known to exist, as all other specimens are believed to have been melted by the mint. It might be worthwhile for the Mint to hire some students to pick through the pennies they collect and pull out any rare ones. I’m not a coin collector but being a comic book collector, it would horrify me to know that Marvel was collecting any comics they found and were recycling them. The idea that they would destroy an Avengers #4 amongst a heap of Alpha Flights sends me into a tizzy.
Now, that’s crazy-talk you might say but these precious 1937 pennies are worth a pretty penny (I couldn’t resist). These King Edward VIII pennies fetch as much as $402,500. In other words, ten of these little coins equals the $4 million dollars the Canadian government is going to save. Not to mention the other rare pennies they’ll come across. Now that’s worth enough to have a guy hand sort them.
Because the Royal Canadian Mint still doesn’t know what they’re going to do with any American pennies they collect, it might be possible to separate all those American pennies at the same time and let the U.S. redeem them from us. Ca-ching!
A Fishy Situation
While the beautiful koi swimming in Chinese restaurant ponds might want to take a deep figurative breath that they will be safe from copper toxicity, and only in danger of getting pelted with monetary projectiles, they will be disappointed to learn that pennies aren’t the end of copper coins. In fact, every Canadian coin, except the $1 coin, is made of copper of varying quantities.
Pennies are Icky
While the death of the penny might fill Canadians with varying degrees of sentimentality, remorse and reluctant acceptance, it will certainly be relief for one group of Canadians. People with cuprolaminophobia will find solace in the death of the copper sibling of the coins that fuel their phobia. While people suffering from cuprolaminophobia are repulsed by all coins, the copper coin seems to bring far greater dread, even to those with mild cases. While some might read into that as some racial profiling, the truth is that this is often developed in childhood. the taste of a copper coin brings to mind the taste of blood and this connection seems to have remained with many people throughout their lives.
Other (sort of) True Canadian Penny News:
Thoughts will now be a nickel but a lucky penny will still be a lucky penny, perhaps even luckier for it’s rarity.
Penny (played by Kaley Cuoco who dated Canadian actor-model Kevin Zegers) from the Big Bang Theory, the television show that follows the “Big Bang Theory Theme” by Canadian super-group the Barenaked Ladies, will still remain in circulation.
Penny from Inspector Gadget, co-produced by Canadian animation giant Nelvana, is still no longer in circulation.
Penny Marshall, Television’s Laverne of Laverne and Shirley, worked at a fictitious Milwaukee brewery called “Shotz Brewery“. Shotz was based entirely on a Labbatt’s/Molson-esque brewery and had nothing to do with the fact that Milwaukee was once the home to four of the world’s largest beer breweries (Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst and Miller), and was the number one beer producing city in the world for many years…um…ah…because Canada invented Beer…and Laverne and Shirley were Canadian spies in the War of 1812.
Other countries have also nixed the penny, including Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden.
Now that Canada has eliminated the one-cent coin, there is still the issue of the United States continuing to use the penny. What to do? What to do? I can recall vividly, traveling and living in the U.S. and I can remember times when some cashier went out of their way to make me feel worthless, a bit of a penny one might say. These were times when I was making a purchase and a lowly Canadian penny was mixed in with coins! The cashier would give me a look of disgust, segregate my Canadian penny, and push it back across the counter as if I had attempted to pull one over on her. Old ladies would clutch their purses and I would be treated like some penniless drifter.
Well now, here we are with some pretty strong currency and no longer using that lowly penny. I suggest we ready our index fingers and, while continuing to be polite because we should be better than to make them feel ashamed about their little Lincoln-headed (I think the other side is a radiator), but push it back across the counter all the same. Pay-back’s a bitch, eh?
Goodbye one-cent coin. You will be remembered like the one, two and one thousand dollar notes and you will be sort of missed.
I don’t know if you can help me, but I bought several of your postcards (I think I purchased them at Toronto’s First Post Office), and I am using them to send to people’s names I get through Postcrossing.com (a hobby of mine).
Anyway, one of your cards is a vintage-looking, faded colour one reading “TORONTO” in large letters across the middle. Inside each letter is an image of a famous Toronto landmark. I think I have all of them figured out but one. I think, in order, they are: Old City Hall, Queen’s Park, Fairmont Royal York Hotel, the Princes’ Gates, [unknown], Canada Life Assurance Co., and University of Toronto’s Hart House. However, I have been unable to figure out what the image is in the letter “T.” Can you help me, Thingy? I’d like to be able to list all of the buildings in my message to the recipient, when I use this card for a Postcrossing person. Please let me know if you can help me, Thingy, or even where I might look online (although I’ve checked a few sites, as well as a few books already).
Thank you in advance. Most sincerely, Virginia C. Toronto
As far as Canadian Culture Thing Large Letter Toronto postcard CCT0034, you were pretty close…
In the foreground is Sir Henry Pellatt’s Casa Loma (1914).
Most of the building are government buildings or structures with the exceptions of the Royal York and the CIBC building. For the purpose of postcards like this one, directed primarily at tourists, it was important to feature significant city buildings and historical landmarks. The Royal York is used because it was an important landmark hotel and one that many of the postcard-buying tourists would be staying at or at least wishing they were.
The Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada Building was the tallest building in the British Commonwealth having overshadowed the Royal York by by 21m (69′). It held this title until 1962 when it was surpassed by La Tour in Montreal by 35m (115′). In 1967 it ceased to be the tallest building in Toronto when it was surpassed by the TD Tower by a whopping 78m (256′) which brought the Commonwealth title back to Toronto. It’s hard to believe when looking at the Toronto skyline today, that the CIBC building, while beautiful in design, was once the tallest building in the British Empire.
In another CCT Large Letter Toronto postcard (CCT0087) we have a similar assortment of buildings with the inclusion of a seldom used landmark building in the centre O, Maple Leaf Gardens on Carleton at Church.