COLUMN

A guided tour of the Bottom Line

Charles Gordon June 9 1986
COLUMN

A guided tour of the Bottom Line

Charles Gordon June 9 1986

A guided tour of the Bottom Line

COLUMN

Charles Gordon

Welcome to Cutback World, ladies and gentlemen. We hope you enjoyed your

flight. Sorry you had to walk so far in the rain, but spending reductions have made it possible for us to operate the same number of airplanes with fewer unloading ramps. You will notice complimentary newspapers on some of the seats of this bus. We hope you don’t mind sharing them. While we wait to begin our tour, you might like to read some of the stories, just to get an introduction to the place we call home.

If you’ll turn to page 1, you’ll see the little item about what we are doing for our homeless citizens. We have provided 300 beds for them in this city alone. According to the most recent estimates, this means that at least 10 per cent of our homeless citizens will be able to find a bed tonight. So across the country, only 20,000 to 40,000 people are sleeping on the streets.

For those of you unfamiliar with our streets, many of them are very nice, although the garbage is not collected as frequently as it used to be.

Looking out the window, you can see that there will be a slight delay while we try to find somebody to open the gate, so you might like to turn the page to the story about our services for mentally disturbed adolescents. “Data collected by a committee examining adolescent bed demand in Toronto found that 85 per cent of all requests for admission were considered appropriate, but places could be found for only 41 per cent.”

Perhaps we can have questions on that later, but I see that our bus tour is about to get under way. Be sure you have your seat belts fastened. Traffic accidents are up a bit since we discovered we could save money by not painting white lines down the middle of the road. Those of you for whom seat belts have not been provided can hang on to the seat in front of you.

The first thing you’ll see, as we leave the airport area, is one of our factories. It is operating very efficiently now since the layoffs. Soon the robots will arrive and even fewer workers will be necessary. This improves productivity, and improved productivity improves profits and improved profits make possible future investment in new technology. Eventually, it will be possible to operate this entire factory with no human beings in it at all.

On the right there, you’ll see one of our city buses. You’ll notice it is mostly empty. Since we began running the buses once every two hours and raised the fare to $2, it is much easier to find a seat. Furthermore, increases in the transit system deficit have diminished as we began running fewer and fewer buses.

That empty building on the left was once a school. Here in Cutback World we have discovered that the educational system operates far more efficiently if schools are not open. You should not conclude from this that we have closed all our schools. That would be foolish. There is a school downtown somewhere. Every city of at least 100,000 people in Cutback World is entitled to have a school. Ours has 15,000 students in it, which enables it to offer a full range of courses. When we pass it, you might notice some students hanging out the open windows.

In Cutback World the educational system operates far more efficiently if schools are just not open

We regard this as a sign that classroom space is being fully utilized.

We also have a university, and there is no restriction on who can attend. Any kid who can afford it can go. When the government stopped sending money to the university and the university hiked the fees, it helped to separate out those who were not sincere about getting an education.

Over there are the former drop-in centre and the former neighborhood clinic. That vacant lot to the left is where we started to build low-cost housing before we changed our minds. That was when we decided to give bonuses to bureaucrats who cut spending, which has been a very successful program. Up ahead is one of the hospitals we were able to shut down in the big consolidation last year, after the lottery money didn’t come in.

We’ll stop here for a minute. This traffic light hardly ever works, but there should be a policeman along any minute to get things sorted out. The police department budget is a lot trimmer these days. Some of you might like to get off the bus while we’re waiting and visit the information booth. They

can answer just about any of your questions for only a nominal fee.

Thanks for your patience. We’re just coming up now to the arts centre. Many of you may not be aware that it is possible to make the arts more costefficient. This is done by putting on only those shows that are likely to make money. I see there’s a bingo on tonight, and some of you may want to drop in.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our bus tour so far and that the mosquitos haven’t bothered you too much. In answer to a question, no, we’re not going to be able to see the Bottom Line today. They used to bring it out twice a week during the tourist season, and all the people liked to come look at it. But you can understand the security problems that caused. People don’t mean any harm: they just want to touch it. But with our reduced police budget, it became increasingly difficult to provide the kind of security we needed. So now we only bring it out once a month. However, color photographs are available at our next stop, which should be the highlight of our visit.

There they are now, our parliament buildings. Quite something, aren’t they? I should point out that the grass will be cut next week,and we turn the fountains on every Saturday night during the tourist season. Gas for the eternal flame should be made available from the proceeds of the next lottery.

Now I’d like to warn you before we go inside that there are likely to be debates going on and that interruptions from the public galleries are not permitted. We are very proud of our politicians here, particularly the way they have refurbished and dusted off the Bottom Line to make it the major spiritual force and tourist attraction it is today.

It would have been easy for them to throw money at problems and earn the appreciation of the public, but they decided to devote their energies to improving conditions for the Bottom Line and let the problems look after themselves. Instead of earning the appreciation of the people, they have earned the appreciation of bankers and editorial writers.

And yet you can see what a job they have done. The fountains are beautiful when they’re on, fewer than 40,000 people are homeless and our credit rating in New York is Triple-A.

Charles Gordon is a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen.