I find it extraordinarily sad, the sale of my proud and struggling Canadian publisher, McClelland & Stewart, to Random House, the German-owned conglomerate. Even though I can guess at the realities and appreciate the relief my friends at M&S tell me they feel, and even knowing it’s been in the wind for quite a while.
What a hue and cry there would have been once upon a time. Last spring, reading the correspondence between Margaret Laurence and Al Purdy, I came upon Purdy’s fiery denunciation of the sale of Ryerson Press to the American company McGraw-Hill in 1970: he immediately withdrew the book he’d been planning to publish with them.
What different times those were, yet not so different. As Purdy wrote soon afterwards, “the Ryerson sale gone ahead and completed as expected, everyone talking a good fight but not much action otherwise.”
Remember when Trudeau said that if Canada were to end, he hoped it would go with a bang and not a whimper?
As part of the present wrenchingness, if that’s a word, is the parallel bleakery, if that’s a word, of seeing the Harper government attack ‘foreign money’ the odd time it suits them. It suits them when they want to undermine environmental groups raising questions about Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline from Edmonton to Kitimat.
All this takes me back, of course, to the proposed Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline of the 1970s. In those days the bogeyman was ‘southern white advisors’ polluting the minds of the native people. See Late Nights on Air.
For different times, when Canadian cultural activists weren’t so thin on the ground, see Margaret Laurence—Al Purdy: A Friendship in Letters.