Happy 60th anniversary Mr. Massey .. and why aren’t more Canadian leaders like Leo Gerard in Canada today?

Feb 28th, 2012 | By | Category: In Brief

Two future Canadian governor generals (and one prime minister) are in this photo taken at the office of Canada’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom in London, England, January 1, 1938. Clockwise, from the left: Georges Vanier, Lester Pearson, John Ross Mclean, and Vincent Massey.

FEBRUARY 28, 2012. Today marks the 60th anniversary of the swearing-in of Vincent Massey as “the first Canadian” Governor General of Canada. (“Until 1952, Governors General were British. The 1952 installation of Vincent Massey, the first Canadian to hold the office, reflected Canada’s new sense of autonomy and identity in the post-war era.”)

In our view this event from back in 1952 is almost certainly more worth commemorating than the British North American heritage moments whose 60th (and 200th) anniversaries are being so lavishly celebrated this year by the government in Ottawa (still elected by slightly less than 40% of the cross-Canada electorate on May 2, 2011 — even if our peculiar electoral arithmetic did finally give PM Harper a majority of seats in the Canadian House of Commons, with or without robocalls).

Meanwhile, yesterday morning we bumped into “Mother America Always Loved Manufacturing Most” by Leo W. Gerard, International President, United Steelworkers — a intriguing piece of contemporary Americana by another legendary Canadian, still very much with us!

A short quotation from Mr. Gerard’s article may suggest its intrigue: “Yeah, it’s cool to make stuff. The ‘maker,’ whether an inventor or engineer or welder gets a thrill out of performing work that results in visible, viable products. Manufacturing also gives the ‘makers’ the feeling of empowerment …Manufacturing is powerful … That’s why mother America always loved manufacturing most. Since the early days of this country, visionary political leaders like Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln nurtured manufacturing … So President Obama’s focus on reviving American manufacturing, including his proposal last week to give American manufacturers a small tax break, is wise …”

Leo Gerrard, International President of the United Steel Workers, testifies before the US House Trade Subcommittee on climate change legislation that provides job security for American workers, March 24, 2009.

Whatever else, we came away from this article wondering why we don’t quite seem to have Canadian labour leaders in Canada today who are talking like this? It would make a lot of sense — and not just in Ontario and Quebec.

Canadian manufacturing in the early 21st century has at least some presence across the country. And Canada, like the United States, increasingly stands in danger of letting its manufacturing sector migrate offshore altogether. A recent “study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development … says Canada has entered into a form of the dreaded ‘Dutch disease,’ whereby the increase in exploitation of natural resources is leading to a decline in manufacturing.” It’s nice to hear a Canadian talking up the “thrill out of performing work that results in visible, viable products” at last. And it’s just a little disappointing that he’s doing it in the United States. (Where is the NDP/NPD when you need it, anyway?)

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