Time flies 

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It's hard to believe that it has been a year since I became editor at Pique.

What a whirlwind time it has been, from the news breaking about the slaughter of sled dogs, to the citizen action on the asphalt plant and perceived over-spending by the Resort Municipal of Whistler, a local election, the law suit going sideways for Rainbow Park, a heart-wrenching avalanche death and more — so much more.

And behind all this news are the global pressures affecting not just our day-to-day lives, but also the economy of the resort.

It is easy sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life to forget to lift one's head up and see what is going on in the rest of the world.

So much of what we work to achieve each day is driven by the desires we have for our own families and our community.

But I was struck this week by a study released by the Economic Club of Canada, which found that only 25 per cent of those polled felt optimistic about the economy in 2012.

Personally I understand that feeling — and I see it reflected in spending throughout Whistler not just in the tourist based retail outlets, but also in the service industry for visitors and locals alike.

Of those polled by Pollara Strategic Insights for the Economic Club of Canada 70 per cent said they felt like Canada was in a mild recession. Most people I know would say it feels more than "mild."

"If last year I reported that Canadians were cautious and retrenching, then this year I have to state that they are now seriously concerned and worried," Michael Marzolini, chairman of Pollara told CTV recently.

The trouble is that while the economy in Canada is growing it is not growing fast enough to really take a bite out of unemployment, or make people feel better about their circumstances.

Indeed new Statistics Canada figures for December show that the economy created 17,500 jobs in December with every province except Quebec registering gains.

But don't breath a sigh of relief yet— all the gains were part-time and among the self-employed. Employers actually got rid of 13,600 workers in December and full-time jobs fell even further, by 25,500.

The unemployment rate rose for the third consecutive month to 7.5 per cent, the highest level since April, as more Canadians sought work in December.

It feels like doom and gloom, but in reality Canada is doing pretty well. The danger here is that if everyone believes we are experiencing a "real" recession then patterns of spending will change and we might find ourselves helping to create the very thing that we are afraid of.

"Public attitudes toward the economy usually drive events," said Marzolini.

"They impact on people's collective spending, investing and saving.

"The perceived reality ... is often a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Canada's last recession officially lasted from the fourth quarter of 2008 until the second quarter of 2009.

On average, economists expect Canada will post 2.3 per cent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011, and a two per cent gain in 2012, according to survey firm Consensus Economics.

"I think there is a bit of a disconnect between that survey and the economy," Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist with BMO Capital Markets told the Globe and Mail when asked about the poll.

Looking around it seems to me that those most affected by concerns about the economy are young people who can't get full-time jobs, or are worried about the ones they have or those who don't have a job at all.

Perhaps this is why so many of them, along with those who feel like they are always taking two steps forward and one step back financially, were drawn to the Occupy movements.

In times like these it is frustrating to learn of Service Reviews that go over budget, of CEOs in the private sector getting millions a year in salary, or government staff whose earnings appear out of line.

In plain terms we get jealous and there is a general belief that people's salaries should be reflective of what they do.

But as an Ottawa Citizen article pondered, is this a public policy issue?

At issue is the reality that even if you lowered the salaries of the "one per cent" it wouldn't mean higher wages for everyone else. What Canada needs are more good jobs paying a living-wage.

That goal is a difficult one to pursue in a resort — no doubt about it. So many of our young people graduate here and move away.

Not that this is new. It's been happening in small towns forever.

But as we cast our eyes globally to understand the impact of trends on our visitors, we need also to consider how we can keep our own community a thriving one where families can stay and make a life.


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