IT IS doubtful if one American in a thousand has ever heard of the Avro Arrow. Nevertheless the impact of the Arrow on Canadian-American relations, and the fundamental questions it raises for American defense planners, may be both prolonged and profound. The Arrow was a 1500mile-per-hour delta-wing jet interceptor. After lavishing more than $400 million on its design and development, Canada abandoned it on the eve of its going into production. The government was convinced that the Arrow had been made obsolete by intercontinental guided missiles. If 1500-mileper-hour lighters are useless to intercept incoming atomic rocket bombs in Canada, what good are they in the United States?
The Canadian decision to junk the Arrow was taken during the ides of March in an atmosphere of political turmoil. For Canadians, it was a rude awakening from a dream of industrial aggrandizement. It marked the beginning of a reshaping of Canadian thinking about the defense of Canada. The dream was an important Canadian intangible. It arose from the fact that for almost a hundred years Canada’s main export to the United States had been brains. The steady irek of young engineers, doctors, and other scientists southward has long agitated Canadians,
World War II offered a solution to the problem. Canada underwent an accelerated industrialization. Huge plants were thrown up to build airplanes, tanks, vehicles, munitions, ships, and endless varieties of materiel for the Canadian forces and their allies. When the war ended, the government made every effort to keep these plants going so that the engineering skills acquired during the war could find full employment in Canada.
An essential part of this drive was the search for big works projects: the Chalk River atomic energy project, the Trans-Canada Highway, the Trans-Canada Pipe Line, the St. Lawrence Settway, the Ganso Causeway, all multimillion-dollar undertakings. So were the main contributions which Canada made to the South East Asia Treaty Organization and European recovery.
The Avro Arrow was cast in this mold. When the English Hawker-Siddeley group, in 1945, evinced an interest in starting up a jet aircraft business in a recently vacated government plant in Toronto, it got the red-carpet treatment. Britain, at that time, was far in advance of the United States in jet aircraft development. It was no trick at all to envision Canada as the jet capital of North America, with orders for jet planes pouring in even from the United States.
So A. V. Roe Canada Limited — Avro — was born. The government kept it supplied with orders for jet fighters, and its record has been impressive. It developed and built the CF-lOOs with which the Canadian air force in Europe is equipped. In addition to turning out seven hundred jet fighters, it developed a jet airliner that missed beating the Comet into the air by only two weeks. But that plane was a casualty of Korea as the Avro plant was converted to fighter production exclusively.
Canadian jets versus American missiles
By the time the first experimental Arrow was ready for flight, the government’s investment was over $300 million. For three years, 15,000 employees worked steadily on the Arrow. Eventually, in the fall of 1957, a flying model was put into the air, on the day the Russians exploded their first Sputnik into space. Though work went on, Sputnik finished the Arrow. A year later, in September, 1958, Prime Minister Diefenbaker announced in Parliament that future use of the Arrow was being drastically cut back and that Canada would rely largely on Bomarc guided missiles, to be obtained from the United States.
The announcement opened a flood of questioning. What would become of the Canadian aircraft industry, the wide range of parts plants, the 15,000 workers concentrated in one area? All depended on the Arrow, Why should Canada buy Bomarcs in the United States? Why not make them in Canada? Why not continue to make Arrows and supply our allies with them, or sell them to the United States? The government promised to try everything.
The decision to buy American Bomarcs was particularly embarrassing. A third of Canada’s budget, $1.5 billion, goes for defense. So long as the money paid Canadian labor and bought Canadian material, the expenditure was manageable. Again, defense contracts could be used to keep skilled Canadian technicians and scientists at work in Canada. But, if Canada must go to the United States for its weapons, it will lose its engineers and impair its industrial potential. Expenditures on defense will then become a drain on the economy.
It was natural, therefore, that with the first Arrow decision should come a campaign to obtain defense orders from the United States. The Bomarcs would function behind the DEW Line and Mid-Canada Line warning systems, set up primarily to protect the United States from Russian attack. Canada had become the Maginot Line of the United States. There was no way in which the United States could protect itself from Russia without Canadian cooperation on its northern border. Therefore, a continental defense policy fully justified unified defense production, Canada contended.
However, during the next six months, no headway was made in getting U.S. contracts or in finding buyers for the Arrow. Instead, the government became more solidly convinced that the jet fighter was obsolete and, in March, Prime Minister Diefcnbaker announced that work on planes still under construction would be suspended. Avro promptly fired its entire staff, and the uproar in eastern Canada drove most other news out of the papers and off the air.
What concerned everybody, once the air cleared, was the future of Avro’s skilled technicians. Canadian negotiators with Washington stepped up their pressure for contracts. Washington agreed to place orders in Canada for materials needed in Canada. But this was far from satisfactory, and as spring approached there were reports that the United States “Buy American” policy would be relaxed in important details, to take Canada’s special position into account.
Diefcnbaker was given credit for showing exemplary political courage in handling the Avro crisis. In face of the serious unemployment problem half a million Canadians out of work at the time — it did take courage to blow the whistle on the Avro Arrow.
Diefcnbaker, however, made his decision from a position of complete impregnability. Elected in March, 1958, in the greatest landslide in Canadian history, he counted no less than 209 supporters in a house of 265. So complete was his victory that he eliminated the Social Credit Party entirely, cut the socialist Cooperative Commonwealth Federation to a corporal’s guard, and decimated the Liberals everywhere except in Quebec and Newfoundland. He does not have to stand for election again until 1963.
The farmers march on Ottawa
At the height of the Arrow crisis, western agrarian discontent exploded into a protest march on Ottawa. Canadian grain growers market their crops through the Canadian Wheat Board. The board sells the grain for the best price it can get, and after expenses are deducted, the farmers get what is left. Most of Canada’s wheat must find its way into export markets, where it is sold in competition with wheat being given away by the United States. An irritant for some time, the American surplus disposal problem is now being handled with somewhat more regard for Canadian needs. However, farmers have long felt that while they had to take what they could get in world markets, they should demand a better price for the third of their crops that is consumed at home.
This has increased the agitation for deficiency payments from the government to compensate for alleged subsidies to Canadian consumers by Canadian farmers. During the last election campaign, this was a lively topic for argument on the prairies. Whether the Diefcnbaker Conservatives actually promised deficiency payments is debatable. But the western farmers certainly thought they were being offered something like that. Every farm district between the Lakehead and the Rockies returned a Conservative to Ottawa.
When no payments were forthcoming, the farm organizations united to form the biggest trek ever to travel to Ottawa. One thousand farmers from all over Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba chartered four special trains to take them to the capital to argue with the government. They were told bluntly that they would get no deficiency payments from the Conservative Administration.
Newfoundland and the Maritimes
As the farmers went home emptyhanded, another storm blew up in Newfoundland. There Premier Joseph Smallwood, the last Liberal in office in Canada, stepped into a woodcutters’ strike, decertified the International Woodworkers of America, and personally organized an independent union. When violence flared on an IWA picket line, and a Mountie was killed. Smallwood called for more Mounted Police reserves. While the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is a federal force, it acts as provincial police in eight provinces. The administration of justice is constitutionally a provincial matter in Canada, and the police are under provincial jurisdiction. In addition, control of the Mounties is covered by contract between the federal government and the provinces.
When Smallwood sent for more Mounties, the federal minister of justice, Hon. Davie Fulton, refused to send them. The superintendent of the force resigned in protest, and Premier Smallwood announced that he would sue the federal government.
Then, within a few days, Prime Minister Diefenbaker announced that special subsidies to Newfoundland, paid since the colony joined Canada as a tenth province in 1949, would end in 1962. Smallwood canceled plans to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the union and ordered a day of mourning with all public buildings in Newfoundland draped in black.
Though less flamboyant, the Maritimes too are becoming restive with f lack of action to solve the coal problem and declining markets for steel. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia looked with jaundiced eye on grandiose plans being made to celebrate the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Will it, too, cut further into outlets for Maritime basic industries?
ft was hoped, somehow, that the Springhill disaster of last October might focus national attention on the sickness of the mining industry. But despite special subsidies recently voted, the mines are largely idle, and in that idleness hope dies that the Conservatives can find a solution to the coal problem which eluded one Liberal administration after another.
Canada, a nonpower?
Regional economic crises, however, are things with which Canadians have long lived in peace. But there is no help from past experience in finding the way to a new and sensible defense policy. The foundation of Canadian thinking has been based upon the conviction that middle powers might save the great powers from destructive collisions. But as Maclean’s magazine recently pointed out, the ICBM has changed the world from great powers, middle powers, and small powers to powers and no powers.
“To be a Power it is necessary to possess and control nuclear warheads and long-range missiles capable of landing them almost anywhere on earth. Canada possesses and controls neither. We are a non-Power and we would still be a non-Power if we owned a thousand Arrows and were about to own ten thousand Bomarcs. . . . Once the war begins we cannot count on having any more influence on its outcome than the State of Monaco.”
The government at present does not accept this extreme view, yet there is no doubt that this state of mind will gradually extend its appeal in Canada. All of which adds point to the idea that if the United States wants to integrate its defense in the north, a completely new attitude toward cooperation with Canada is urgently required.