Thank you so much to everyone who passed along their condolences following the death of my Grandmother this past Friday afternoon. It's been... it's been really rough, but she passed as cleanly and as painlessly as anyone could hope for given the circumstances, which I'm sure will be vastly more comforting once the rawness and immediacy of the whole thing have worn off a bit more.
All right. Deep breath. Keep it together, deep breath. Okay.
Hello and welcome back, everyone; let's see what round one of Ask James Anything Month yielded!
"If Winnipeg didn't have so much immigration, left to its own, would the city population actually be declining?
"And for the bonus question, 'What does that say about governance?'"
Hm. Not quite what I'd expected as the opener -- I'm not sure what I expected as the opener, really, to be honest -- but sure, let's roll with it.
The question could just as easily apply to any other city in the land, or indeed to the country as a whole -- counting on immigration to outpace the declining birthrate is something of a modern Canadian tradition -- but Winnipeg must also contend with the very pressing issue of competition from the bigger and/or better-run cities elsewhere in Canada. Which is basically all of them! That's pretty much every single one. These are not our glory years.
As the experiment, then, let's assume for the sake of our hypothetical scenario that the current federal government decided to treat all immigration the way that Mackenzie King treated Jews.
(The gap between his heyday and the rise of the internet was far enough that this may occasionally be forgotten, so I want to make sure we've established this as a point of order while we have the opportunity: Mackenzie King was a wretched little man, and he barely deserves the four lines of Dennis Lee poetry he got.)
People come to Winnipeg from other places, be it immigration from countries or migration from cities, for one of two reasons: 1) they already have a bunch of family and friends living here, or 2) they really, really, really need to get away from wherever they were beforehand. This scenario would pooch both of those conditions, but more particularly the former -- and as disenchanted as I may be with our current governance, I don't think there's any potential administrative makeup that could make lemonade out of our lemons if you took those two draws away.
Like, if you drew up an All-Star fantasy team of Winnipeg governance past and present -- as silly as I know that sounds ("my fantasy team is doing awful this year, ugh") -- and then handed them modern-day broke-ass Winnipeg with a smaller tax base and fewer incentives to live here? Shit, nuh-uh! They'd resign then and there, and that'd be that, and that's how that would end.
It isn't quite dire enough to suggest that Winnipeg would become ghost-town territory -- like a landlocked prairie version of some teeny abandoned Maritime village that the kids all packed up and left to find work years ago -- instantaneously, or that the whole province would be annexed by Saskatchewan and sold off for scrap within the week, but Winnipeg would definitely go hinterland (more so than usual, I mean, in the national scheme of things) sooner rather than later if the borders were to suddenly close. And there'd be an ugly but sizeable rumbling of certain white folks -- those of you who know me in person know how I enjoy pronouncing it as "WAAIIIHT folks", for the sake of distinction -- certain white folks very up in arms about the aboriginal and First Nations birthrate, rather more so than they already are now. Because people are kind of terrible, sometimes.
I'm a bit confused about the later comment's weird follow-up statement of "trying to corner James into the realization", as though I've A) ever argued against immigration or B) ever intimated that the people in charge seem to know what they're doing, but I suppose it was inevitable after the systematic purge of the Uptown Magazine archives that people would forget how I used to roll.
Y'know what I'd like to see? I haven't encountered such a thing in the wild as yet, if it does indeed exist, but I think it'd be fascinating to read a book about the origins of Filipino immigration to Winnipeg and how those four original nurses in 1959, followed shortly by a small wave of doctors and teachers and garment workers, would go on to influence their newly-chosen home for generations to come.
I realize that phrases like "changed forever" get thrown about willy-nilly in these exaggerative times we live in, but man: imagine if those four nurses and those early professionals had instead decided to settle in, I don't know, Hamilton. God, could you imagine? Extrapolating a modern-day Winnipeg from that, in the grand sci-fi tradition, would probably be super depressing.
("More so than usual", yes, yes. Sometimes I fear I've become predictable in my old age.)
So, to answer your question: yes, eventually. And to answer your bonus question: probably nothing, which is perhaps the nicest thing I could say on their behalf.
Anonymous, 2013-03-01 14:44 asks:
"Is Uncle Bob a secret bigot?"
Well, if he were, we wouldn't know, because it'd be a secret. Right? Admitting up front that I am not a secrets expert, I am nonetheless reasonably certain that this is how secrets work.
Anonymous, 2013-03-02 10:34 said:
"How's this AMA working out for you so far, James?"
I dare say it's the best one I've ever done! Let us try to maintain that momentum, then.
Yes, readers, please feel free to hit up the comments form below; it's time to Ask James Anything!