Finance Minister Mike de Jong recently announced an unexpected revenue loss of $1.4 billion over the next three years for B.C. How can such a breathtakingly large number be described as unexpected?
This huge sum will have a major impact on government spending for employment, schools, hospitals and other services for many years to come. Across the border, our U.S. friends are facing a far more serious time, with a current deficit of $16 trillion, or 25 per cent of the world's gross domestic product (projected to grow to $26 trillion by 2021), plus unfunded liabilities of $236 trillion.
Unemployment in B.C. is running at 6.7 per cent, according to Statistics Canada, but a more accurate number would be 8.8 per cent if people are included who have just given up looking for work.
So what can the individual do about this dreadful and worsening situation? I suspect very little, where macroeconomic policies are concerned, other than voting for a political party that at least admits to the problem. But on a small basis, we all can help our local economies by buying more locally, not just artists' work, as I mention in this article, but food from the excellent local farmers' markets.
Instead of buying goods made in some far-off country (often for low wages), we need to support local Canadian-made goods and services.
Locally crafted work is unique. Unlike items made in a far-off factory, those made by local crafts people are individual and one-of-a-kind. This does not just apply to a magnificent vase or a glass bowl. Even with a humble coffee mug, every piece has a slight difference. When just one person or a husband-and-wife team makes an item, the numbers are, by the nature of the process, small. It's great to have or give as a gift something that is unique and locally made.
Local artists produce works of excellent quality and always take personal pride in their work. I have yet to meet an artist who was not passionate about his or her work. From potters to glass artists to textile makers - this is their life and they are justly proud of their work.
If treated well, much of this work can last a lifetime. How many things can you say that about in our society today? How many of those "bargain" mass-produced items last more than a few years?
Save money. Contrary to what some people believe, buying directly from the artist or a local studio can most often cost less than buying some mass-produced item from a department store. Reduced transportation costs, no middlemen and low advertising helps to keep costs down.
Local artists do really care about customer service. The artists are available to repair, alter, clean or replace your purchase if you should ever need this service. They are genuinely interested in helping if there is ever a problem. You never need to speak with some remote customer-service person.
Personal service is greatly important to local artists. Many artists will custom-make work to your specification.
Shopping locally helps your local economy. By supporting local artists, you keep money in the community and ensure that hard-learned skills are alive for future generations.
Help your local environment. Local arts and crafts have a minimal carbon footprint - little transportation is involved. Conservation is important to all of us. Much of what local artists use is recycled, including what little packaging is ever used.
If you ever think of supporting a green movement, then local arts-and-crafts groups are an excellent place to start. It really can be a fun shopping experience - you get to meet the artists and find out about their skills, how they make their work, the huge time and effort that goes into a single piece.
A locally handmade gift reflects the community and region in which it was made. It has greater relevance for the person who purchased it and to the person to whom the gift is given.
Nigel Hayes is co-owner of Side Street Studio in Oak Bay.
© Copyright 2013