Canadian history and politics #2: The Sport and Prey of Capitalists: How the Rich Are Stealing Canada’s Public Wealth by Linda McQuaig – 2019

Sport and Prey is first a history book that trades in case studies of public works and state entrepreneurship past, and second a plea for more of the same in the present. A historian isn’t supposed to be such an activist but McQuaig can’t be contained.

The stories of Connaught Labs, Canadian National Railway, public banking, Ontario Hydro and the twin histories of the oil and gas sector in Alberta and Norway are illuminated with entertaining anecdotes. Closer to the present day, the privatization of the 407 (by the Harris government) is made to rankle.

The top historical highlight: McQuaig’s recounting of the CNR’s pioneering use of onboard radio outright seduces and puts the reader at a past cutting edge breakthrough in time and space.

But perhaps the most pressing and contemporary insight in the book is that Canadian banks got a huge bailout during the Global Financial Crisis, but that crucially (and quite unlike the USA) it was managed outside of politics, avoiding public scrutiny.

The author seems nostalgic for past eras of enlightened noblesse oblige (Adam Beck, Peter Lougheed, oh my!). Who wouldn’t be at least sympathetic in the current era of vapid Justins.

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