Dare to create on a grand scale

HynesB88X146.JPGBy James G. Hynes
The federal and provincial governments of Canada are about to start pouring gushers of money Neil%20Pulling98X32R.jpginto our faltering economy, in order to save us from revisiting the Great Depression of the 1930s. This money is supposed to do three things, usually treated in rapidly descending order of priority.
The first priority is, of course, to save as many existing jobs as possible, or quickly create similar new ones to replace those lost. This is done by, for instance, bailing out companies that would otherwise collapse, or creating new construction jobs for otherwise idled tradesmen.
The second priority, doomed to be honoured more in political rhetoric than in “shovel-ready” cash outlays, is to ask for more from the investments made in pursuit of the first priority. Don’t just bail out the dying company, restructure it so it can live again on its own. Don’t just pave the old road again, make some improvements along the way. Rather than simply preserving what already exists, leave us with a little more. Thrash%20Merchant92X36R.jpg
The third, and almost entirely neglected, priority is to use the current crisis not simply to cope, but to create. This means looking beyond job preservation, or even new job creation in conventional terms. It requires a large, bold move that will focus the entire economic recovery in a new direction, opening the way to a future the status quo, however well preserved, can never provide.
Guidotoni68X54L.jpgOrdinarily, this third priority would receive the almost total neglect it now enjoys in Canada simply because no such grand Serie103-124X28R.jpgproject presents itself. But that isn’t the case at all. A project that fits the requirements of all three priorities is staring us in the face. What is it? A high-tech, high-speed rail link, first from Montreal through Ottawa to Toronto, and ultimately from Quebec City all the way to Windsor.
This is a project that has been mooted for years. Major studies have been done, and another is underway right now. Current leaders in both Quebec and Ontario have pronounced themselves in favour, but enthusiasm is notably lacking at the federal level.
Peggey80X54L.jpgAs matters now stand, our governments will treat this recession as if it were an earthquake or a hurricane, an unavoidably destructive event from which we should only expect to recover by returning to the status quo. But a recession is actually a symptom of a need for change, for transformation that will replace what is failing with something new.
Creation is always fraught with uncertainties, but the negative consequences of failing to create are all too certain. Is this still the improbable country of MacDonald and Van Horne, a land of men who dare to create on a grand scale? Stay tuned.
[Ed Note: Click here for the Hynes take on nay-sayers.]

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