It was fairly common in the Depression years for people to carry their Economic Plan with them wherever they went. Often the Economic Plan would be carried into a newspaper office, the Plan’s author demanding to see the editor. Upon being granted an audience, the Author would produce the Economic Plan, hand-written and 80 pages long, from a soiled and wrinkled paper bag. The editor would give the Author the bum’s rush, as they called it in those days.
Pride of authorship being what it was, this was not always easy. The story is told of a Winnipeg editor who was dismayed to find that the Author of this day’s Economic Plan stood six feet, four inches and weighed more than 200 lb. Furthermore, the Author did not seem to be in the mood to be ushered out. The Winnipeg editor had to think fast, and he did.
“See here,” he said to the Author. “This plan is too big for us. We’re just a little Winnipeg newspaper. I advise you to send it directly to the King.”
The Author, being no fool, said he did not have the King’s address. The editor gave it to him and a grateful Author departed, after putting the Economic Plan back in its paper bag.
Perhaps it is because the newspapers have, in many cases, moved to the suburbs. Perhaps it is because poverty has been scattered about the city, rather than centralized downtown. Perhaps it is because today’s Economic Plans are on home computers. Whatever the reason, nobody comes in with an Economic Plan anymore.
Yet one is needed. The unemployment line is long, even though it now forms at Statistics Canada rather than on Main Street. The dollar is not in great shape. The Prime Minister is begging Americans to come up and make us prosperous. Farms are bankrupting, factories are laying off. Economists are bickering. And what is the solution?
The solution is jobs.
Jobs? Sounds simplistic, but that’s what it says on the outside of this paper bag here. Inside the bag, the handwritten sheets say, if it is permitted to paraphrase them, that this country does not really think jobs are that important, even though it says it does. The economic history of the past decade shows that.
The most important economic forces in Canada in that period have been tech-
Allan Fotheringham is ill.
nological change, sometimes known as “progress,” and what the Economic Plan calls “deficit-banging.” Every instance of progress has resulted in the loss of jobs rather than the creation of them.
The handwriting is smudged here but the Economic Plan seems to make note of robots, which have been doing fine work in Japan and are beginning to find jobs here, at the expense of people. Six hundred of them are employed by Canadian manufacturers now, as opposed to 275 two years ago. The Economic Plan says that there will be more and makes a half-hearted crack about their breeding like robots. In the short run robots will create more work for people engaged in the manufacture of robots. But eventually robots will be able to manufacture themselves. You know how robots are.
This Economic Plan does not put the
The rehired people will spend wages and create jobs. They will also pay taxes, and deficitbangers will be happy
entire blame for progress on the private sector. It also singles out the government, making specific reference to the post office, or Canada Post or whatever it’s called now, which taught people how to put a string of letters and digits on their addresses so that their mail could be sorted by machines instead of people. The section about the deficit-bangers is hastily scrawled and covered with coffee stains, as if it were written in a state of agitation. Deficit-bangers, says the Economic Plan, have caused schools to be closed, teachers to be laid off, universities to tighten their belts and research budgets, CBC workers to be chopped, social workers to lose their jobs, prisons to be overcrowded. It is the strong position of the Economic Plan, edited a bit to remove bad words, that deficit-bangers are more interested in a low deficit than a low unemployment rate. The analytical section having been concluded, the Economic Plan goes on, as all Economic Plans must, to spell out solutions. The section about solutions is headed: “Jobs.”
The solutions section takes note of the Japanese economic miracle. It recalls that Tokyo buses and trolley cars were,
in the postwar years, manned by two people. One was the driver; the other collected fares. Visiting North Americans sneered at the system because it was inefficient. Efficient North American public transit vehicles only needed one operator. But inefficient Japanese public transit vehicles provided twice as many jobs.
The Economic Plan extends that reasoning to the post office, or whatever they call it. If those silly codes that no one can remember were eliminated, mail could be sorted by hand again and human beings could do the work. While the post office was at it, it could reinstitute Saturday mail delivery, thereby putting some more people on the payroll and off the unemployment rolls.
The Economic Plan has harsh things to say about job creation schemes with fancy acronyms and complicated funding formulas. It doesn’t see what was wrong with good old Winter Works. The Plan says that any time people are out of work is a good time to widen roads. Roads can always use widening.
The educational policy of the Economic Plan calls for the reopening of all closed schools, the rehiring of all laidoff teachers and a sincere apology to them for having been labelled “redundant.” (Sincere apologies would be issued to Canadians in all walks of life so labelled, the issuing process creating work for hundreds of people formerly in a redundant state themselves.) Schools under the Economic Plan would operate with small classes, and no one would apologize for them.
Rehired workers will also pay taxes, and the deficit-bangers will be happy in the long run.
If pressed to the limit, the Economic Plan would play its hole card—a massive, nationwide monument-building program. Creation and construction of the monuments would create thousands of jobs and, at the same time, honor Canadian heroes, past and present. The Economic Plan, generous to a fault, would even provide for statues commemorating leading deficit-bangers in Canada’s history including, if they keep up their present pace, Michael Wilson and Brian Mulroney.
If it receives little honor in its own land, the Economic Plan is prepared to go straight to the Queen. The address is written right on the paper bag. Buckingham Palace. Even the postal code is
Charles Gordon is a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen.
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