Stranger than fiction

Written by Cumulo Nimbus

Never stick your neck out. You don’t know what might happen.

A few months ago, I wrote a letter to the Slug Flats Gazette offering solutions for Canada’s recent tourism woes. Turn Niagara Falls on and off like a light switch, I suggested, or lock the provincial premiers in the House of Commons for a week with one loaf of bread and one case of Sleeman’s.

Turns out somebody outside of Slug Flats actually reads the Gazette. A day after my letter appeared, I was invited to join a blue-ribbon business panel formed to help Toronto over the slump. I consented, provided this was a serious, business-oriented board and not just typical government window dressing. Then they sent a government jet to pick me up, because the first meeting had already started.

Mike Myers met me at the airport, Mel Lastman handed me a medal, and I was ushered into my first meeting of the Save Toronto Organization for New Economic Development (or STONED, for short).

My fellow panelists had already decided to use emergency federal funding to build a new theme park to attract tourists — but they didn’t have a theme. “It has to be something authentically Toronto,” said one director. The committee rejected several ideas, including Safe Street Land (too boring), Nuclear Power World (too scary) and, Lastman’s suggestion, World-Class World (too stupid). Finally, someone suggested “Business Land.” A consultant who consults to consulting firms added, “Business is what Toronto does best.”

“We’ll need a roller coaster with ups and downs that turn you inside out,” said the chair. I proposed we call it the Canadian Dollar. “Great idea,” he responded, “but we need to sell naming rights. Let’s call it the Leading Indicator, and get Statistics Canada to sponsor it.”

This was brainstorming at its finest. When I suggested a haunted house ride, a colleague one-upped me with a haunted brokerage. “What’s more frightening than a broker trying to unload last year’s IPOs?” “We can do scarier than that,” said Conrad Black. “How about a ride that features robots reading research papers from the Fraser Institute?”

That settled, we needed a midway with lots of cool games. My fish-pond proposal was pooh-poohed. “You win a prize every time,” someone said. “We’re trying to run a business here.” Finally the group agreed to install gambling tables, where you could bet on anything you desired; bonds, labor-sponsored funds or shady dot-com entrepreneurs. I voted against the idea, though, thinking it sounded too much like online trading.

For low rollers, we decided to have a bingo tent, where the prizes would be shares in Nortel. To discourage bingo pros, we decided no one would be able to win more than 10% of the company per day.

“What about something for the kids?” asked Conrad Black. “Good idea,” said the chair. “Molson can sponsor it. They pay top dollar to reach future customers early.” “We’ll sponsor one of those old-time carousels,” offered the president of the Royal Dominion Bank. “We’re known for making our clients go around in circles.”

“What about something for small business?” I asked. “It’s an important part of business in Canada.” There was an uncomfortable silence. “Well, I think that’s enough for today,” said the bank president. “I agree,” added the chair. “We need to get this report into government before any MPs find out.”

Sadly, the powers that be never accepted our suggestion. Instead, they decided to put on a rock concert for 500,000 people in a suburban park with 200 parking spaces.

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.

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