We Should Count Our (Neighborly) Blessings | Shepley Wood Products
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We Should Count Our (Neighborly) Blessings

Good news doesn’t make headlines much. It’s war, catastrophe, and terror that get our attention. Sometimes the obvious is right in front of us, unseen because we take it for granted. One good fortune in the US, that we don’t often appreciate, is in our neighbor to the north, Canada. For instance, how many of us remember the name of the Canadian Prime Minister (Justin Trudeau)?

Here to our north lies the second largest country in the world, behind only Russia in size, yet with more coastline than any other country (125,000 miles) by a wide margin. In fact, Canada’s coastline is more than half the total incorporated coastline on the planet! The Vikings arrived in Canada in 1021, hundreds of years before Columbus, and some suggest that Basque fishermen may have even beaten Columbus to “discovering” America in 1492, as they fished Eastern Canadian and New England waters for plentiful cod, which they salted and took back home. This preservable source of protein made long ocean voyages practical and opened up the world to the exploration of the British, the Dutch, the Portuguese, and other early adventurers. Canada was a pretty well-kept secret for quite a while.

Some 38.5 million Canadians inhabit the country with 90% living within 150 miles of the country’s southern border. Incredible natural resources, from forests to fishing, to mining and energy, complement extensive farming resources in Canada. It boasts the world’s largest wheat field in the Province of Alberta at 35,000 acres for a single field among many others. To give a further sense of scale, the shared Canadian/US border is the longest international land border in the world at 5,523 miles, beating out the Russia/Kazakhstan’s second place by 1,270 miles! Canada holds the record not only for the most lakes of any country in the world at 879,000, but also, the world’s largest lake within a lake, Manitou Lake on Manitoulin Island in the middle of Lake Huron. Manitou Lake is twice the size of Manhattan! Canada contains 9% of the world’s forests and those cover 38% of its land. She has 10 Provinces and three territories. Though technically a constitutional monarchy, Canada is actually governed by a Parliament. The highest tides in the world are found in Canada’s Bay of Fundy with heights of 50’ from low to high. Tying your boat to a piling dock is a whole other level of challenge! 60% of the world’s polar bears make Canada their home and in some northern communities, bears outnumber the human residents. Canada boasts the northernmost settlement in the world, Alert, in Nunavut. The average temperature there in mid-winter is minus 33 degrees and the next nearest town is 340 miles distant. Subzero solitude, anyone?

Most of our dimension lumber used in the Northeast, comes from Canada. Kiln dried Spruce/Pine/Fir has been an important staple of our industry for a very long time. White Cedar shingles are an Eastern Canadian product that enjoys tremendous popularity in our markets because they are cost effective, low maintenance and very long lasting and provide the very traditional look of New England architecture. Canada doesn’t always get the credit she deserves for also giving us Superman (In 1933, Canadians Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, created Superman, whose alter ego Clark Kent, worked at the Daily Star, modeled after the Toronto Star. Basketball was invented by Canadian James Naismith from Ontario, who first developed the game in Springfield MA. Canada first brought us the Circque de Soleil in the early 1980’s. A Canadian orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Frederick Banting is credited with the discovery of insulin in 1921, which has saved millions of lives worldwide.

What I admire most about Canada, is their commonsense approach to life, more of a live and let live philosophy. Despite their proximity to us, they have managed not to fall under the American fascination with personal injury lawyers, insanely marked up pharmaceuticals, and a national diet designed to bulk us all up, so that we have to consume more insanely marked up pharmaceuticals to get “better”. Canadian TV is not loaded with commercials describing the symptoms of our next illness, and with attorneys working on a contingency basis so we can sue each other for free, people in Canada sue each other a whole lot less. Canada has a national healthcare system that keeps medical costs relatively under control, and people generally have a higher level of trust in government that we do in the US. Canadians put a whole lot less additives in their food, and despite their invention of Poutine, take a healthier approach to eating. They do like their donuts though, leading the world per capita in donut shops, helped by the presence of 4,592 Tim Horton’s shops throughout their country.

Next time you want a break from the rat race of American media, politics, and culture…. think Canada. Old Quebec is a slice of Europe brought closer and Montreal has the excitement of France with the annual Formula One Gran Prix added in. Even Canadian currency has been thoughtfully equipped with Braille and color coding for different denominations to help the visually impaired. Lastly, one indicator as to how Canada may be good for us….the average life expectancy for a Canadian citizen is 8th highest in the world. The US, just to the South, enjoys a life expectancy of only 46th! One unanswered question in my mind is about the two popular dog breeds from Canada, Labradors and Newfoundlands. How is it that Labradors are actually from Newfoundland, and Newfoundlands are actually from Labrador, eh? Please drop us a line if you know the answer. Happy Holidays and here’s to the New Year!