February 20: The Day Canucks Curse Diefenbaker
It was on this day in 1959 that Prime Minister John Diefenbaker cancelled the Avro Arrow project, wrecking Canada's cutting-edge aeronautics industry and destroying 30,000 jobs in one fell swoop.
Just one result was the loss to Canada of more than 30 top scientists and engineers who were immediately scooped up by NASA for the Americans' Mercury, Gemini and Appollo manned space programs. The Canadians ended up playing leading roles in putting an American on the moon.
My pal the space nut and historian Chris Gainor tells the whole astonishing tale in his book Arrows to the Moon: Avro's Engineers and the Space Race. You can watch a CTV interview with Chris about it all right here, and he's taken a closer look at starstruck Canucks in his latest book, Canada In Space.
(Chris is on a break from his weird post-doc space studies at the moment. He's working for the New Democratic Party's communications staff, having survived the recent Potato-Head Purge.)
Damn you, John Diefenbaker!