Live or Die in the Knowledge Economy by Jamie Labonte – The Avro Arrow – September 17, 2011

CFN – Recent events inOntario politics have caused me to reminisce about our not too distant past.


In 1945, An aeronautics firm named Hawker Siddeley purchased the former Victory Aircraft firm in Malton Ontario, and renamed the operation A.V. Roe Canada Limited. Commonly known as “Avro” , it was famed for the design and production of the CF-105 Arrow.


Avro was used to building more conventional aircraft before the Arrow. Workhorses more similar to the Lancaster bomber. Not high performance jet planes but primarily prop driven aircraft. When they first created the CF 100, this was a first generation fighter jet designed to patrol the NORAD borders of the North (Sound familiar?) and because it was designed based on prop driven craft, it was decidedly….sub-sonic.


This would never do. Canada needed to have a supersonic fighter or the Russian threat would be over our airspace before we could intercept….enter the plans for the CF-105 Arrow. This was a bold venture into supersonic flight for the little company and they knew they needed to be armed with the best experts of the world to get this thing done. They immediately started recruiting the greatest electronic, aeronautic, mechanical engineers as well as the best metallurgists, test pilots and military strategists, mechanics and tool and die workers. Their goal was to be the best at making jet planes and by God they were.


This was the largest influx of technological skill that Canadahad ever experienced. The accomplishment of the Arrow called the equivalent of the American Moonshot. This was in no way an exaggeration. Arrow revolutionize the airframe of jets, a design that is being “borrowed” from by even the  most sophisticated jets of today (including the fabled F-35 multi-purpose fighter). Not only the airframe but also the engine for the Arrow, the Orenda Iroquois was the first properly balanced titanium hulled unit that was so powerful, it could out-power 5 Pratt and Whitney JP-5s. The guidance system was a Honeywell design that is essentially the same one used in F-14 Tomcats. The Sparrow Missile launching platform is still used today. This was one mean machine!


Radar tests of the Arrow showed that it was capable of achieving Mach 2 in a steep climb. It was so fast that it’s speed was not properly determined due to the interceptor leaving radar range before it’s final velocity could be reached. The radar operator was incredulously observing something that might as well have been a UFO.


This is the marvel that Canada accomplished in 1957 (coincidentally the same year that Russia rolled out Sputnik 1 and scared the world into stupor). The world demanded Canada to become bigger than we rose to the occasion. And how we rose!


Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in action.

We all know how this story ended. The Arrow was scrapped by the then Diefenbaker Conservatives because they were led to believe that our product was sub-standard and over-priced. Some say that they were brow-beaten into scrapping it in favour of Bomark Missiles that we purchased from the Americans as a nuclear weapons payload delivery system that were eventually filled with sand-bags instead. This also marked the beginning of a crisis of identity in Canada. All of a sudden, we went from being capable of any manufacturing feat….to the makers of pots, pans and aluminum canoes. A north American version of China. Not fit to export anything other than raw materials. A technological third-world nation.


We also lost something else. We lost hundreds of top scientists, engineers, mechanics. We initiated a decades-long brain-drain that we’ve never fully recovered from. We lost the means of production.



Now, I’m not trying to blame the Conservatives (though I long to) and there are certainly other instances of the derogation of our manufacturing and design base that I’m sure you can think of.


I brought up the Avro example to underscore the point that in order to do great things that you’ve never done before, you need to import talent. The Americans did it with Werner Vaun Braun, Niccola Tesla, Einstein and Oppenheimer. We all know where that got them. It got them into the electric age , to the center of the Atom, and to the moon and itself!


The idea that ideas are international is important. Skills do not know borders. If a shrewd nation wants to be the best at something, they hire the best. Then they hire the best to train the next best.  They don’t hope and wait till the best is born at home by some chance.


So why then do we balk at the idea that we should help new Canadians get into their chosen profession in Ontario? These are not some bunch of trans-national carpetbaggers hoping to get a few kickbacks and then leave us in the dust for greener pastures. These are Canadian citizens. Ontarians who have chosen to plant stakes here and raise a family. These are the people who are bringing something WITH them from parts elsewhere. They should be using these skills to improve the quality of life for US!


Skills which we did not have to furnish, I might add.


I mention international carpet-baggers because in my mind, this is a good name for the transnational manufacturers. They can pull up their stakes and ship their facility to any point on the globe. Trying to cut taxes or lower wages enough to satisfy THEIR like is akin to a race to the bottom. Canada is better than this.  Ontario is better than this.


We don’t want to be some sort of modern-day cargo cult who simply cut corporate taxes, salaries and working standards so that the foreign Gods can come and bestow their employment upon us.

By encouraging knowledge workers from abroad to share their expertise here, we are allowing our province and our country to achieve the next great thing. Perhaps it’s green technology. Perhaps it’s a new lightweight electric car. Perhaps it’s the greatest new smartphone. Whatever the goal, we need to have skilled workers that can achieve it.


Now there are only two ways to get skilled workers. Increase the education capacity in our province….or import skill. Dalton McGuinty’s government is doing both. Hudak would have us do neither. We have an entire province wondering how we can get to be a “have” province again.  This is how. It’s time for the people who want to rebuild Ontario’s knowledge economy to either support our government…..or get out of the way while others get the job done.

Best Western Cornwall


  1. Point well taken…thank you.

  2. Well and wisely spoken, Jamie.

    Are we content to remain little insular subservient Canadians? Or are we Startrekkers?

  3. Actually we have had insentive programs for employers to hire skilled workers for several years and it does not work! In fact, the NEW Liberal incentive discriminates against the same people that have paid the taxes to provide the incentive making it unpopular and with just cause! Why would you not offer the same offer to employers looking to hire CANDIAN NEW GRADUATES first! Hiring immigrants over our local youth or current workforce is just plain insulting to our forefathers!

    Interviewing qualified individuals and hiring one over the other, due to the government providing an incentive, should be outlawed and can be argued to be a bribe! A bribe to win votes! WHY SHOULD YOU NEED AN INCENTIVE IF THEY ARE THE BEST CANDIDATE FOR THE JOB!

    Answer: You don’t! This form of discrimination will virtually force cash strapped or smaller businesses to choose an immigrant over a Home-Grown Canadian! The fact of the matter is, that this incentive is designed for the private sector which legally must prove that they have chosen the most qualified candidate or it can be prosecuted under our very own labour laws!

    Your example of the the A.V. Roe Company only proves that you DO NOT NEED A GOVERNMENT INCENTIVE TO HIRE QUALIFIED IMMIGRANTS you just need “qualified” immigrants and a hard pill to swallow for many is that the large majority of the immigrants looking for work are not qualified to perform their profession in Canada nor are many even considered skilled workers!

    If a skilled worker, such as an ENGINEER, DOCTOR , etc. needs help finding work than they are probably not “QUALIFIED” or need other assistance such as help with their language skills or becoming certified in CANADA!

    Incentives to hire NEW GRADUATES and programs to re-certify NEW CANADIANS! Would be much more beneficial than providing an incentive to hire an immigrant! Also, supporting our small businesses with bridge-financing and providing further support to the manufacturing sector will create jobs not a $10,000 incentive that would only pay for up to 3 months of an employees pay!

    Great article but A.V. Roe didn’t need the government incentive and nor does any other ligitimate business!

  4. As I have posted before, I have used similar programs to hire recent immigrants for 3 to 6 month periods. The people I hired were very knowledgable in thier fields and they worked on specific programs for me, and quite successfully. It was a win-win for the company and they made me look good. It would have taken at least two years for a recent graduate to come up to speed to complete the assignments.

    New graduates from college and universities come into the work force thinking they know everything already and are immediately entitled to raises and promotions. It takes them at least 5 years to realize that they didn’t even know what questions to ask. The experienced recent immigrants that I have worked with knew they would have to prove themselves all over again and were not afraid to ask intelligent questions.

    It takes a lot of courage to move to another country and try to start a new life. You hear people complaining about both immigrants living on welfare and about them getting jobs. Could it be they just don’t like no damn immigrants? It’s OK if they drive cabs or work in convenience stores but don’t let them get good paying jobs. We want those for us borne and bred Canajians.

  5. So, Mike, I gather that you want to keep Canadian foreign trained engineers and medical doctors driving cabs and staffing convenience stores, even though we badly need more engineers and doctors.

  6. The 10,000 tax break offer that bothers me is first, the money, and then only helping one element of society.

    The money part could be an easy fix, take in fewer refugees! We spent 18.5 million last year on legal costs for processing plus who knows how much for accomodation etc.

    Helping one group while ignoring others has become the Canadian way I guess. Kathleen Wynn for example, is an Ontario Liberal cabinet minister and wants to allow schools in her area to have muslim prayer time in the school and during the school day. If women are allowed in the room at all, they are sent to the back. That is not the Canada I grew up in.

    People with skills like an Einstien or Gretzky are rare and are in demand everywhere. Perhaps we should have less government red tape, less crime, , less bickering over bilingual signs and less expensive day to day costs so these people will want to come here and raise families.

  7. Author

    So Eric if we’ve established that this bothers you how do you feel about Mr. McFuddle having a high paying tax supported position, his CAO, be a Quebec resident thus sending his income and property tax out of the province?

  8. Eric, Gretzky is already a Canadian. I don’t think he has renounced his citizenship. As for immigrants, the future of Canada depends on them. Without immigration the CPP will not last because there won’t be enough workers to pay into it. The birth rate in Canada is so low that without significant immigration there will not be enough people working to support us baby boomers in our retirement.

  9. Reg, do you really expect hardcore Cons to think ahead?

  10. For less crime, Eric, put money into education, not prisons.

  11. I’m glad my article got some comments. I wish it didn’t result in people throwing words around like “Bribe”.

    Strange choice of words since it’s going to help about 1200 people. (not a very good bribe) For the same amount of money….Dalton could have just written a cheque for 100 dollars to 120 thousand citizens….now that would be a good bribe….and one more reminiscent of Ernie Eves, who promised tax breaks (often accused of bribing us with our own money).

    The 10k incentive is a two-fold value for money. It helps prevent brain drain by getting new Canadians to use their skills and improve our own knowledge base, (in some cases getting people off of welfare roles) and secondly it is an economic incentive to expanding business.

    At the very least, this is stimulus that is desperately needed to keep Ontario’s base strong.

  12. Mike Bedard. You assumption that a foreign trained doctor is not employed in Canada “Must not be qualified” is flat out wrong. Like many entrenched institutions, the CMA and the OMA have been slow to accept foreign credentials.

    Your “logic” that “unemployed, ergo, underqualified” is a throwback to Herbert Spencer’s “Social Darwinism”, a philosophy that inspired great experiments in history as the sterilization of First Nations Women in Canada, the Eugenics fiasco and the Nazi “Pure genetics” movement.

    The supposition that only smart, just, qualified or skilled people ever succeed and privilege is a genetic birthright is totally disproven in a modern world where wealth is more and more stratified.

    The suggestion itself is at best wrong and at worst an expression of socio-economic bigotry.

    In my humble opinion.

  13. Jamie Labonte, the recent cheques from our provincial government from the HST installation must be profit sharing……LOL
    I still think the Liberals are putting the money (12 million X 4 years) in the wrong place. Coordinate with the Federal government, to get education recognition processes going when the visa is applied for, or soon after a basic clearance at least.

    Seems to me the voters put hundreds of people like Jim M. into positions each term, and with the Charter of Rights, municipailties can not exclude the CAO or other employees from living where he / she would like, but I am not a Lawyer. Being so close to the US and Quebec border, there must be more than one doing this.
    Of course, I would prefer someone working for a town / municipality / province / country to live there.

    Reg, I used Gretzky as an example of the best of the best. I am not sold that we need so much immigration to pay our CPP. If conditions could be changed so a parent could afford to stay in the home to raise children, that incentive could pay for it’s self.
    By having a parent in the home, there just may be better control over the kids. Of course educating the parents on the Parent Responsibilty Act might help as well.

    I am just tired of the government(s) acting on every little thing in our lives, creating laws / policy / enforcement continually. Allow me the priviledge of keeping more of my own money, and I will create my own programs.
    That does not mean do away with the safety net by the way.

  14. Quite frankly as well, with the education systems in foreign countries being highly more rigorous than that we have here, some of these workers coming in are even more qualified to do some of these positions here than anyone we may potentially turn out to take that job. All it is is a cash grab to keep making them re-do their credentials when exactly, they are trying to move here and make a decent life for themselves. But then, oh, we’re sorry, we don’t recognize your credentials unless you come from here or the US mentality kicks in, the cash grab kicks in, then after a few years of enduring this crap, they become taxi drivers. Blue Line in Ottawa for example has more qualified doctors then we probably have in Ontario, and yet we sit here complaining we have a lack of doctors. We do this to ourselves and some blindly allow it to continue to happen. Some posting in here for example. With the gap widening between the rich and the poor, and the middle class being pushed out, unless we do something drastic, this is only going to get worse and worse. So Mike, as you sit there in a waiting line at the hospital for 7+ hrs, feel free to think to yourself that your logic makes it that way! Time to start thinking out of the box, or you can stay in the box!

  15. Foreign doctors driving a cab. Good. Can you imagine how much the people of India have to work and pay taxes into a system that trains their people to become doctors and then those doctors graduate and say, see you later – thanks for all the fish? Cab driving is a form of karma for those sell outs. I don’t understand why we subsidize the true cost of medical training in Canada and then allow medical personnel to decide where they can practice.

  16. Interesting point, White Coat. Perhaps it’s just as well to hire foreign sell-outs to replace the Canadian sell-outs that move to the United States to make money in private practice there….

  17. Same things happens to us with brain drain to the USA. Docs here get a few hundred K for their work, they get offered millions a year down in the US, where do you think they go? What can we do about this situation truly? I understand your karma theory White Coat but the same things happen to us, except the doc’s don’t care about uprooting to the US because they will always get the better pay there anyways. Do we become more protectionist? Do we have the capability of really doing so? While we send a lot of our industry and work to other countries to handle because it costs way less, while this is going on, we are slowly destroying ourselves, jobs, etc. It goes back and forth. So how do we put a stop to this and build Canada up? The answers may be out there, but then many won’t like those answers..

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