The Canadian Arrow: Redemption of the Canadian Soul

The CF-105, or Avro Arrow was a delta-winged interceptor aircraft designed and built in Canada by A.V. Roe. It is still regarded as Canada's greatest aeronautical achievement and was well ahead of its time. Amid political intrigue, the Arrow's sudden cancellation in 1959 left a hole in the Canadian soul, as well as 14,000 highly qualified employees without work.

I lived in the neighbourhood where the Arrow was produced. When something happens that tears open a hole in the collective soul you feel it. I was 13 at the time and I felt it as a 'sag' in the mood of the day. Disheartened talk coloured the streets and invaded homes. A friend's family, whose father had been involved in the production of the Arrow, abruptly moved to California in the middle of the school year, part of an exodus of world class Canadian technicians and engineers.

What of redemption after over half a century? Here the story picks up about 10 years ago when a friend of ours was planning to run for federal office. The circle around this political friend formed into a set of policy working groups to help him prepare for a campaign. My wife Mary researched the area of the environment and found to her horror just how dire our current straits are. The window for effective action was rapidly closing even back then. This led Mary on a search for solutions and ultimately to the transportation sector, a major offender when it comes to carbon emissions, and finally to electric vehicles. Our political friend ended up not running for office, but Mary was caught up in the story of electric vehicles with zero emissions such an obvious part of the solution. We learned more by joining the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association (VEVA) and Mary eventually became Vice President for a time. Part of her passion became purchasing an electric vehicle which on our modest late career budget turned out to be easier said than done. For me electric vehicles began to interweave with a broader commitment to green technology education and community social and economic development. In all of this, the light of redemption began to appear.

Redemption takes the form of a made in Canada, safe and affordable Electric Vehicle called the Canadian Arrow. Impossible, the chorus rains down. Get redeemed somewhere else. The advanced technology involved in electric vehicle manufacturing is far too expensive for poor little Canada, the market is too small and it's too late to come to the market. Yet, in Ontario there are thousands of skilled workers in the automotive sector working or not at the whim of US car companies. Somehow we have managed to contract constructing 15 billion dollars worth of nasty jeeps for the Saudis with their questionable human rights record. Dotted around Vancouver and the Lower Mainland startups manufacturing versions of electric vehicles such as VeloMetro's electric assisted, enclosed bicycle and Meccanica's one person, Solo are at work in local garages and warehouses. There are a number of battery companies plying their wares. As I learned from Mary's engagement in VEVA, electric vehicle 'wrenchers and dreamers' abound on the coast and they are plugged in to an international network. For all of these reasons, I am not convinced that this form of redemption is out of the question.

Allow me to add another imperative to the proposed redemption and for this ingredient I owe thanks to my friend, economist and clean tech entrepreneur, Ken McFarlane. Vancouver's economy though apparently booming skates on the thin ice of real estate development and tourism. Real estate development and tourism do not provide the basis for a sustainable economy with solid, ongoing and well-paying jobs. What can provide such a sustainable economic foundation is manufacturing. So, along with the restoration of the Canadian soul and a capacity to provide a much needed contribution to reducing carbon emissions, we can envision an electric vehicle manufacturing, research and development core in Vancouver.

But this redemption requires bold leadership and investment. Here, I call on the federal government with its visionary emphasis on infrastructure and cadre of freshly invigorated civil servants. Similarly, I call on their provincial and municipal counterparts. It also requires that the EV sector lift its head from its otherwise noble and varied pursuits to collaborate on behalf of a larger agenda.

I can see it now. The Canadian Arrow: an affordable, safe and made in Canada vehicle. When the first Arrow rolls off the assembly line and government officials cut the ribbon the Canadian Spirit will soar. And we'll say, "It wasn't rocket science."

As a footnote, especially to those of you who know me. You may wonder why a family therapist and educator of over 40 years' experience is writing about things like electric vehicles and manufacturing. It is because I have learned how important the community, including its economic foundation is to children and families. Hilary Clinton was right when she said that it takes a village to raise a child. To this I would add it takes a healthy environment for there to be a community.