The Sum of the Satisfactions

The Sum of the Satisfactions: Canada in the Age of National Accounting

Duncan McDowall
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    The Sum of the Satisfactions
    Book Description:

    Determined to banish the ravages of the Depression, win the war, and build a better post-war world, Canadian academics and mandarins applied the ideas of Keynes and Kuznets to the Canadian predicament - a highly regionalized nation interested in building a society that harnessed both the private and public sector to the goal of economic stability and increased national wealth. Today, Canadians know that they can trust the numbers put before them by their national accountants, numbers that support the working culture of our economic citizenship.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7483-0
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction: The Arithmetic of Human Welfare
    (pp. 3-16)

    We live in an age of measurements. Citizens of Western democracies like Canada calibrate their lives with cradle-to-grave statistics. Our births, marriages, and deaths have long been plotted as so-called vital statistics; every five years the federal census redefines our demographic parameters. Our political preferences are captured by pollsters. Our investments are tracked with minute precision by various financial barometers. The bulls and bears of Bay Street move in a statistical herd. Social trends as diverse as same-sex marriage and obesity are given legitimacy and urgency by statistics. Always obsessively concerned with their weather, Canadians have of late brought statistical...

  5. 1 A Mere Counting House
    (pp. 17-52)

    Sir George Eulas Foster had something on his mind. It was July 1915 and the war that had gripped Canada since 1914 showed no signs of abating. The naive early predictions that the conflict with Germany would be gloriously concluded by Christmas had been dashed. Now, a year into the fray, Canadians faced the grim reality that this was to be a war of attrition. As the minister of trade and commerce in Robert Borden's wartime government, Foster sensed that victory depended not just on the military frontline but also on the strength of the home economy. This was “total...

  6. 2 Rough Stabs
    (pp. 53-83)

    Canada’s modern System of National Accounts was born on a cold evening in April 1942. April 9 had been cool and showery, one of those Ottawa days when winter continued to cheat spring. The weather matched the mood of the national capital. The war was not going well. Just months earlier, Pearl Harbor had jolted the nation into a two-front war. The previous day, news had reached Canada that Japanese aircraft

    had sunk a British aircraft carrier and two cruisers in the Indian Ocean. On the home front, the war was rapidly overheating the economy. The Depression had been vanquished...

  7. 3 New Yardsticks
    (pp. 84-120)

    Early in September 1944 George Luxton welcomed a visitor to his modest offices. An important visitor. Richard Stone, who in 1941 had been anointed by Keynes to develop Britain's national accounts at the new Central Statistical Office, had made the risky trip across the Atlantic to confer with his North American confreres. These were momentous times. A month earlier Keynes himself had ventured across the war-torn Atlantic. At a conference of forty-four nations at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire’s scenic White Mountains, he took a leading role in laying the economic foundation of the postwar international financial system. Exchange rates...

  8. 4 In Useful Directions
    (pp. 121-164)

    Times were good. When Minister of Finance Walter Harris rose to deliver his budget in April 1955, the country could look back on a decade of solid economic performance. Government policy dedicated to “the encouragement of enterprise, investment and employment,” Harris boasted, had paid handsome dividends. The Depression had not returned. Canada had found the economic wherewithal to fight a war in Korea and to put the first timbers of the welfare state in place. Tax rental agreements between Ottawa and the provinces - soon to be renamed “equalization” - spread the national wealth, providing a

    “unique and interesting experience...

  9. 5 Sunsets and Home Cooking
    (pp. 165-204)

    The earnest young member of Parliament in the corduroy jacket had a question for Pierre Trudeau’s government. Question period has never been the Canadian House of Commons’ finest hour. More often than not, it degenerates into a set piece of Opposition questions bouncing off a stone wall of government obfuscation. The New Democratic Party member from Oshawa was nonetheless undeterred. Ed Broadbent had a doctorate in political science and a social democrat’s passion for justice. “Is the Government of Canada and the Dominion Bureau of Statistics giving consideration,” he asked James Jerome, the parliamentary secretary to the president of the...

  10. 6 A Certain Flexibility
    (pp. 205-246)

    It was the product of experts and acronyms - one that began as a 582- page draft and swelled to 711 pages of published text. There was no disguising the fact that theSystem of National Accounts1993 was a formidable document - its print dense and its narrative terse and legalistic. In their ungrammatical wisdom, the statisticians who had laboured for over a decade to craft this meticulous manual of national accounting had decided to drop the indefinite article from the system’s name - in its last iteration in 1968 it had been “a” System of National Accounts (SNA)....

  11. Epilogue: Beyond Widgets
    (pp. 247-274)

    Ottawa, Valentine’s Day, 2006, 7:00 A.M. Cold, slate-gray skies hang over the nation’s capital. On the radio, there is talk of that most dreaded of Ottawa weather - freezing rain. High on the twenty-first floor of the R.H. Coats Building at Tunney’s Pasture, Roger Jullion, director of the crucial Income and Expenditure Division of Canada’s national accounts, is ensconced in a warm boardroom. He is making pancakes on an electric griddle. His assistant directors, Pat O’Hagan and Jim Tebrake, are busy rounding out the breakfast preparations; juice, coffee, and cutlery appear on a table normally reserved for statistics. It is...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 275-306)
  13. Index
    (pp. 307-313)