Salena Zito

BUCKHORN, Ontario – Candy Penny and her husband have owned their novelty shop here just long enough to not know what it was like when American tourists flooded this small Peterborough County town in Canada’s “cottage country.”

“I understand that, before the recession, every other license plate in town was from a different (American) state,” said Penny, a Michigan native who moved here when she married a Canadian.

“Between that and the spike of gas prices in 2008 and again this summer, and the required passports to cross the border, our main business is Canadian.”

Her shop is in a century-old wooden church. It is artfully arranged with birdhouses, beach towels, candles, charming retro signs of the Kawartha Lakes, and moose- and deer-antler cottage décor. “And it is pretty good business, at that,” she said.

That is because, unlike its Yankee neighbor, Canada has a robust economy.

Buckhorn is bustling. The parking lot of the provincial liquor store was so full that cars spilled onto both sides of the narrow two-lane road; the Foodland’s lot also was full, forcing shoppers to create spots along a slope down to Buckhorn Lake.

Teddy’s Antiques shop overflowed, and the Olde Icehouse bar’s outdoor seating had a long wait for lunch.

As America’s woeful economy and high unemployment reflect its increasingly pessimistic outlook, things look better up here.

Canada’s economy is doing better for several reasons, says Matthew Lebo, political science professor at Stony Brook University in New York.

It has “a well-regulated banking system, which prevented banks from taking excessive risks with depositors’ money and from borrowing based on assets of dubious value,” he explained. So it had no need for a public bail-out of private companies that took bad risks.

Lebo said Canada’s diverse population and influx of educated, entrepreneurial immigrants over the last 30 years has led to a constant supply of innovation and new businesses.

It also did not have a housing bubble, says former Federal Reserve governor Larry Lindsey, “So, therefore, no crash.”

Canada’s housing sector has been a continuous bright spot, taking the country out of recession swiftly; the U.S. housing market remains abysmal, contributing to a faltering economy and no job growth.

“They are also just booming with everything that surrounds the energy industry,” said Lindsey.

According to Lebo, “Canada is really 13 economies, mostly energy resource-based except for the Windsor-Quebec corridor, where heavy industry and … financial and business sectors are concentrated.”

And here’s a blow: More cars are made in Ontario than in Michigan, he said.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.