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How Much is a VW Billion?

Really, does our government know how much is a billion?

With all the hoopla and self-congratulations in the media about Canada giving or promising to give or slipping 13 billion dollars to Volkswagen (the Car for the People) for building a factory near St Thomas, I began to wonder at the fiscal competency of our politicians. Did they know, for example, how much or how many dollars ($ CDN) they were giving to the German company?

My suspicions were aroused when the Minister of Innovation, announcing the gigafactory (that is one big factory), said it would be the size of so many football fields built on a whole bunch of acres near St Thomas. Were these American-size football fields or CFL-size fields? Did the minister not know we had switched to hectares from acres many years ago?

And most worrisome, did he know how much is a billion? Of anything? You see, a billion is not what it used to be. Back when I was in grade school, and I admit that was some time ago, a billion was a million million. Fortunately, for us, the Canadian taxpayer, we are using the new smaller number, adopted when most of the rest of the world conceded to the Americans that a billion was only a thousand millions (about 50 years ago).  Still, I worried.

The reason for the diminished size of a billion was, anecdotally, so scientists could easier explain the values of a light-year. Or perhaps more likely, so Americans millionaires could more easily become billionaires. Your choice.

The return (ROI) on our VW billions investment, the Minister assured Vassy on CTV, was going to be 5 years. Now, building a gigafactory is going to take a little while, no matter the skill and enthusiasm of the St Thomas workers. Have you tried booking a plumber or electrician lately? The Minister assured the TV hostess that the money would trickle back into the Ottawa and Toronto and St Thomas coffers through direct and indirect jobs, materials purchases, and other Liberal ways. Chrystia will explain it to us on the next budget update.

Furthermore, he said, this factory was a 100-year project. Does this fellow think we are idiots? In this throw-away world, the darn gigafactory will fall apart long before then and we won’t be driving around in EVs, but beaming ourselves around. Did he not watch Star Trek?

What is more, if he thinks we are going to be smelting Ring of Fire minerals within five years, he ought to step out of the St Thomas bubble and come to Northern Ontario.

Not one to rain on the parade, or throw cold water on a hot idea like a doubting Thomas, but wasn’t the original idea to build car batteries for the VWs (and maybe others) but our deluded Minister announced that the giga plant would be producing the whole automobile in St Thomas. This might be news for Uncle Joe and the people in Chattanooga Tennessee. I may have to check this with Herb at the Autohaus on Airport Road.

Anyway, I apologize for the negative spin on the good news. It’s just that I find it difficult to trust anything a politician says. Although, you can be certain that Vic will put a positive charge on the whole thing and find us some indirect manufacturing or maybe even some small part for the ONR in getting all that Ring of Fire rock from A to B. (Get used to the electrical terminology as the positive (+), negative (-) and static charges (!) shock us into the future).

Is there any chance they will bring back an EV Beetle? I’ll bet they could sell a billion of them. Just saying.

Bill Walton

About the Author: Bill Walton

retired from City of North Bay in 2000writer, poet, columnist
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