Walter Gordon’s masterful condensation of a ton of regional, municipal, association and corporate briefs into a two-pound preliminary report on Canada’s economic prospects has understandably become a bestseller. Whether or not the government decides to implement the royal commission’s recommendations, its predictions and the larger stocktaking of resources to follow in further studies will provide valuable terms of reference for Canadian business planners.
None of the Gordon prophecies has greater implications than the estimate that by 1980 most Canadians will be working less than thirty-four hours a week. That will mean seventy-eight waking hours away from desks, shops and factories. With more than twice as much idleness as working time, the employment of leisure hours will within the next twenty-five years become a pressing national dilemma. “I would like to be able to say with some conviction that there will be a wide difference in the ways in which Canadians will use their increased leisure,” Gordon said in a postscript to his report delivered at a, Canadian Club luncheon in Toronto. “But I am afraid the signs all point the other way: to more and more people living in the same kinds of houses in more and bigger suburbs; to two or three of the same kinds of cars in every garage and the same kinds of programs on every television set . . . to greater conformity in all things.” We hate to accept this gloomy prospect. Borrowing the Gordon Commission’s twin assumptions—that no global war or wrenching depression will halt Canada’s progress during the next three decades — we think there is at least an outside chance that Can-
adians will compensate for the sameness imposed on many of their work procedures through increasing automation, by a wave of adventuresome creativeness. We don’t need to accept the dismal advance of uniformity. If we want them to. our lives can grow far more full and exciting than they ever were before. We can make homes that are more suited for leisurely living by having more workshops in their basements. pottery kilns in their garages, homemade planetariums in their attics, and trailer-mounted fishing boats in their back yards, perhaps even more books and records in their libraries. It is within our power to use automation as a means to the pleasant ends of landscape painting, music, butterfly collecting, writing and flycasting. If we don’t, automation will create far more misery than it relieves. The clockwork rhythm of the robot factory and office will need its compensations and unless we find them, machines will eventually have to do our thinking as well as copying our actions. If the rate of shift from labor to leisure of the past hundred years continues for the next century, Canadians will, by 2050 AD, be working less than two hours every second day. The Gordon Commission's more prosperous Canada will only be a happier place to live if Canadians use their newly gained leisure to break the drab patterns of conformity threatening our spiritual survival. Despite Mr. Gordon’s rosy economic assurances, heaven, as he himself well realizes, lies not in the happy statistic or the brilliant gadget or the super tool, but in the individual who knows how to live his life with profit and a decent modicum of pleasure.
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