Red Paperclips to Hold Province Together?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A red paperclip
For those not familiar, I live in a province of western Canada called Saskatchewan. It's a nice province, lots of resources, in the middle of a pretty big boom, and yet still boasting a friendly small-town attitude. That could be because the population of the province dwindles ever closer to the population of a small town. With just under one million people and slowly dropping, it's quite the problem; especially because the economy is good enough that we should be growing tremendously. Our neighbour to the west, Alberta, is rightly credited with taking many of our departing residents in. However, at least one town has found a way to convince people to settle. The town of Kipling, Saskatchewan has managed to attract one new resident by trading him a house for - effectively - a red paperclip.

Instant Party Kit
About a year ago, Kyle MacDonald, an unemployed Montrealer, decided he wanted a house. While pondering his future, he spied a red paperclip on his desk and posted on the 'net that he was looking to trade it. And trade he did. First for a fish pen from Vancouver, then for a handmade doorknob from a potter in Seattle. Somehow, the doorknob was traded for a gas stove, which is a poor trade for some Massachusetts man, but the stove was bartered into an electric generator from California soon enough. This may seem an odd step, but the generator was traded for an instant party kit (a neon Bud sign and an empty keg) from someone in - you guessed it - New York. At what was probably the pivotal moment in this experiment, a Montreal radio host helped him turn that somewhat dry party into a skidoo. Now that's something. A paperclip into a skidoo. But we're not done yet. He took that skidoo and, in an interview with George Strombolopolous, was posed the following question: Is there anywhere in the world that you wouldn't go to make a trade? To which Kyle replied, Yahk, BC.

Alice Cooper holds up a massive red paperclip
Well, someone from nearby Cranbrook called up and offered him an all-expenses paid trip in trade for the snowmobile, provided the trade was made in Yahk. He guilted CBC's The Hour into coming to Yahk with him and, because he happened to have a moving company's shirt on during his interview, he had the opportunity to trade his trip to Yahk for a cube van from Cintas. The van he used to haul the skidoo to BC and then traded it for a recording contract with Club Treehouse, which included 30 hours studio time, 50 post, transportation to Toronto from anywhere in the world, and accomodation. Nice! This he traded for a year's worth of free rent in Phoenix in what appears to be a rather respectable dwelling. Not a house to himself, but certainly a start. Now, interestingly, a girl by the name of Leslie, living in Phoenix and working at Alice Cooper's restaurant, asked her boss if he'd spend an afternoon with a fan so she could get free rent for a year. He liked the idea (as you can see in the photo) and didn't that just work out nicely...

A red paperclip
But we're not out of the woods and into notoriously treeless southern Saskatchewan yet. It was at this point that Kyle tried what could have been his most bone-headed move so far (though I consider a year's rent worth more than an afternoon with ANYBODY - even Natalie Portman (sorry, hon)). Anyway, most bone-headed move so far: he traded the afternoon with Alice for... get this... an Alice Cooper snow globe. Surprisingly, Corbin Bensen saved the day. A big collector of snow globes, he traded a role in a movie for this rather rare weather dome. And so, Kyle MacDonald went from snow globe to a role in a movie to a farmhouse in Kipling that will indeed look like it is in a snowglobe come December. Yes, Kipling gave him a farmhouse in exchange for a role in a movie. And Kipling gained one more resident.

Now, admittedly, Kipling did not itself trade the home for a paperclip, but consider if they were to do so. Do you think we'd be seeing a massive influx of new residents? Yes! Would the current shortage of red (and other coloured) paper clips be remedied? Yes! Could this be the final clip in the report spelling out Alberta's demise? You'd better believe it. So, to all those thinking about the "Alberta Advantage" remember. The same house there would cost you at least two paperclips and possibly a staple.

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