Letters

Letters

A few of the reasons why them that has—like Bechtel—gets

August 1 1976
Letters

Letters

A few of the reasons why them that has—like Bechtel—gets

August 1 1976

Letters

A few of the reasons why them that has—like Bechtel—gets

I am surprised that in Bulldozers Inc. (June 28) Walter Stewart did not devote more attention to the root cause of the domination of “big deal” Canadian construction by American companies such as Bechtel. It lies in the power of American banks to dictate who will do the work on which the money they provide is spent. The signatures of deGollyer MacNaughton, Fluour Corp., Bechtel, Williams Brothers, Commonwealth Services, etc., in a prospectus add such prestige to a project that bonds and debentures are more easily placed with institutional buyers. This cuts the underwriter’s selling costs by two thirds and doubles their underwriting profits. If you examine the prospectuses of Trans-Canada PipeLines, Westcoast Transmission, etc., you will see how the original feasibility studies and engineering cost projections were all by American companies. Canadian companies of equal competence could not even get into the rooms in which the game was being played.

Ironically enough the unequaled prestige of the American giants did not prevent a whole series of screw-ups in their carrying out of assignments. In Alberta, American designed gas processing plants developed corroded stacks that fell over. Some gas reserves estimates proved to be criminally inexact. Strangely enough these blunders never seemed to impair the reputations of the “prestige” names with the New York bankers. Perhaps the latter, having pocketed their underwriting commissions, were too preoccupied with new underwritings by the time the blunders were discovered.

An example of how things work in Canada was the effort made in 1956-60 to pro-

mote the construction of a crude oil pipeline from Alberta to Montreal. The first modem feasibility study of the project was done by George Furnival, then a Canadian engineer employed by the Standard Oil Company of California in Calgary. When I published his study in the Western Oil Examiner it created so widespread an interest that a group of independent Canadian companies commissioned a Calgary engineering firm, Pryde-Flavin Company, to do a more detailed study. The independent group was eventually expanded to attempt to promote the actual construction of the line. But Pryde-Flavin was dropped from the project and a large American company retained because of the prestige the American company gave to the money markets of New York and to the Borden Royal Commission which held hearings on the project.

The moral to all this has been clear since the discovery of Leduc, and before. A country content to rely upon foreigners to finance the development of its natural resources must abandon all hope of ever developing the kind of engineering establishment such resources deserve and demand. For such a state of affairs we can credit the pusillanimity of the TorontoMontreal financial apparatus and the incurable anti-Canadianism of the Ottawa mandarins.

JAS. H. GRAY, CALGARY

Poly-saturation

As a graduate student involved in research on the biological effects of vinyl chloride, I have several comments on the June 14 letter to Maclean’s from R. S. Hayter of the Society of the Plastics Industry of Canada.

Hayter stated that there was no evidence that anybody suffered from handling or using polyvinyl chloride (pvc). In fact at least four out of the approximately 35 deaths reported in the plastic-using industries occurred among individuals in pvc bottleproduction and pvc wire-covering. The reason for this is that PVC resin leaving the factory still contains as much as 1% vinyl chloride (vc), the gas that causes the liver cancer (angiosarcoma). This vinyl chloride is partially removed during processing of the resin into numerous products, but small amounts stay in the finished products such as bottles, toys, records, credit cards and waterpipes. This is a particular hazard in packaging oily substances such as shampoo, vegetable oil and pharmaceutical products which can extract the vinyl chloride from the bottle. Furthermore, vinyl chloride has been used as propellant gas in hair and insect sprays, with measured levels of vinyl chloride after spraying of up to 400 times the maximum allowable concentration for factory workers. An estimation of weekly exposure in a normal family lies, on an average, far over the limits set for workers. These people may not show an effect until 15-40 years later, depending on their exposure. In addition, living in the surroundings of a vinyl chloride plant may prove to be hazardous as reports show an uncommonly high level of liver cancers in cities with these factories. Like their American counterpart, the Society of Plastic Industries, it appears that the Society of the Plastics Industry of Canada gravely underestimates the effects of vinyl chloride as an extremely potent human carcinogen.

HANS PLUGGE, GRADUATE STUDENT, UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH, GUELPH, ONT.

Subscribers’ Moving Notice Name □ I’m moving. My moving date is__ My old address label is attached. My new address is on this coupon. (Allow 6 weeks for processing) New Address □ I would like to subscribe to Maclean’s. Send me 23 issues for $8 ($12 outside Canada) City □Please bill me □! encloses_ Prov. Postal Code Send to: Maclean’s ATTACH Subscription Department, OLD ADDRESS LABEL Box 9100, Postal Station A, Toronto, Ontario, M5W 1V5 HERE! J99

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It profiteth a businessman not...

Having attended the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association’s annual meeting in Ottawa in early June, 1 enjoyed Peter Brimelow’s Since Canadian Business Feels Hurt . . . (June 28) and his remarks on the business-government interface. His report was, in my view, accurate and discerning. Two things bother me, however. First, the article contained criticism of the CMA leadership’s low-key approach and spirit of compromise. But in today’s world, 1 wonder how the government, the public (and the press!) would react to noisy, pushy big business pressure. Big business lives in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t’’

environment. Also, I wish that there had been space available to describe why businessmen are opposed to the profit reduction measures contained in the May 25 budget. Despite repeated questioning by the CMA, the government’s ministers did not explain this most destructive piece of the anti-inflation measures.

We as businessmen and as Canadians can live with controls on prices, wages and dividends that are paid out of profits. But to reduce profits, to make profit growth stemming from efficiency improvements well nigh impossible, threatens our national well-being. Profits attract investment. finance expansion, and provide jobs.

Only a minor portion of corporate profits are paid out as dividends to shareowners. Without increasing profits (euphemistically termed capital accumulation, surpluses, etc. in socialist countries), there is no increasing economic pie to share or redistribute.

Public misconceptions concerning profits—what they are. how much they are, how they are used—are being exploited cynically by some politicians, both federally and provincially. Businessmen fear that increasing control of business, particularly controls that increase operating costs and reduce profits, will prevent business from making the contribution to Can~ ada’s economy it is capable of making. This failure will heighten the conviction of some that the market system is ineffective and encourage the establishment of more control mechanisms—creating a classic vicious circle to the detriment of our country in an increasingly competitive world. GUY P. FRENCH, PRESIDENT. AMERICAN CAN OF CANADA LIMITED, REXDALE, ONT.

Their country ’tis of thee

A Canadian magazine? While the American Bicentennial is certainly topical, I don’t think it warrants front cover play (June 28) in a publication purporting to represent the emergence of a truly Canadian newsmagazine. Surely there has been enough bumph about the Americans’ 200th anniversary without Maclean’s leaping on the bandwagon. The article was good but was the cover really necessary? No! .

STEPHEN HOUSSER, OTTAWA

Our business is our pleasure

1 am surprised that Time magazine hasn’t seen fit to run a copy of Maclean’s on its cover. To Canadians, at least, it is reassuring to know that there are more than two pages of news relevant to Canada. It is gratifying too that at last a Canadian magazine is covering the news of Canada and the world with a mixture of professionalism and zest. Congratulations for producing this well-balanced,informative and entertaining magazine.

PAUL ROSS. CLINTON, ONT.

For the first time (in years at least) I have read Maclean ’s almost from cover to cover (June 14). I find the recent development of the magazine excellent in content, format and writing style. I particularly appreciate the format with continuous articles rather than having them interspersed throughout as most magazines do—ending up with many needless references to pages in the back of the book. My congratulations on having gone a long way toward creating a truly worthwhile Canadian magazine. I have been a subscriber at various times over the past 40 years, having discontinued my subscription at intervals for lack of interest. I am happy to have renewed for the next three years.

W. RALPH SLEE. WEST HILL. ONT.