SORRY JOHN, you are just not cutting it as an windbag-energy award winner if you continue this kind of rant!
Having been tasked with identifying what they think are Canada’s greatest mistakes, National Post columnists have produced a shopping list of policy errors, blunders and follies which each sees as pivotal sins of commission or omission in our country’s history. I tend to be more Jungian in my analysis. In my view our country’s wobbly progress and generalized angst stem not from any particular event but from a chronic state of baleful regret.
Essayist and clergyman Syndey Smith wrote “the regret for the things we do not do is inconsolable.” And certainly Canada’s continued collective wallowing over a few roads not taken has been the source of considerable and disproportionate sorrow.
The United States has always been a great swaggering dare devil of a country. It tries everything once and celebrates its greatest humblings. The sinking of the Maine, Vietnam and exploded space shuttles are trophies of the vicissitudes of risk to be appreciated the way Evil Knievel’s 200 broken bones were in their time. Canada on the other hand is like a sad sack retiree with a scrap book full of musty press clippings about the times he placed second or never tried at all.
Two events in Canadian history in particular have always prompted weary eye-rolling on this writer’s part. Both involve cancellation: the Avro Arrow and the CBC’s much vaunted This Hour Has Seven Days. Not a year goes by that someone doesn’t write a dreary lamentation on what might have been, as if the country’s entire hopes were extinguished the days an elegant aircraft and a somewhat snobby TV show were consigned to the scrap bin.
The more tedious of the two would be the TV show. This Hour was an admittedly lively weekly look at news, trends, current affairs and pop culture made giddy by innovative technology and the winking superiority of its hosts Patrick Watson, Laurier Lapiere, John Dranie and others. It is feted to this day as documentary television’s Citizen Kane though in reality it’s more like Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind which is celebrated not for its cinematic achievements but for having gone missing.
I’m sure that This Hour had many fine points but surely no TV program is worthy of the four decades of Italian-funeral worthy ululation that followed this one’s cancellation. The lore is that the show was too controversial, a reputation that has flowered over the years such that This Hour is seen as a kind of Edward R. Murrow See it Now entity which so spoke truth to power that it was dispatched to the dungeons like a South-American dissident.
In reality, while This Hour was inventive and sometimes controversial, the ire it provoked was due more to its elitist cheekiness and tabloid antics than to its assault on privilege and power. Thanks to the fact that the very clique that thought This Hour was just too arch for the room dominated Canadian media for another thirty years, the show’s reputation and alleged persecution have been inflated to mythic proportions.
Far greater than the sucking nostalgia for a defunct TV show is the half-century of hand wringing over the cancellation of the Avro Arrow. Commissioned in the post-World-War-Two years and prototyped through the 1950s, the CF-105 was a cutting edge but by no means unique military aircraft. Though its scrapping has been represented as a kind of technological crucifixion the real story is a more banal affair of administrative pragmatism.
The Diefenbaker government nixed the Arrow not out of an obsessional hatred of everything hatched by the previous administration but because the wisdom of the day was that missiles would render military aircraft obsolete. There simply wasn’t enough money to pay for Bomarc missiles and the Arrow. While conspiracy theorists have wailed for years about the destruction of all prototypes, parts and blue prints, the shredding of everything related to the Arrow was due to fears of a Soviet mole which later turned out to be justified.
The Arrow’s bereaved disciples have spent the last 50 years manufacturing an alternative history in which the jet would have safeguarded Canada’s predominance in the aerospace industry. This ignores the fact that innovation in aerospace is measured in months not years not to mention that the last time I checked Canada was still doing just fine in aerospace development. The two dozen technicians and scientists who were spirited away to the U.S. Mercury program probably would have left anyway. Landing on the moon was a lot more interesting than flying Mach two jets over Lake Ontario.
This Hour has Seven Days and the Avro Arrow are swell stories but our inability to move on after so many years reflects a kind of dewy-eyed “I could have been a contender” mentality that is paralyzing to a country. They don’t represent a Canadian mistake. The inability to shake them off is.
— John Moore is host of the drive home show on NewsTalk 1010 CFRB. Outside of Toronto he can be heard at www.cfrb.com. He looks forward to his e-mails from Patrick Watson and Laurier LaPierre.
Don't miss the other instalments in the Canada's Biggest Mistake series: