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!
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.