A Tune from the Nickelodeon – by Charles Baird (October, 1982)

Most of your readers will have sensed that they were being given a fevered caricature of Inco and the international mineral market in Mick Lowe’s Podium piece “Why Inco Must Be Nationalized”, in the July 19, 1982, issue of Maclean’s. Mr. Lowe is a Sudbury-based freelance journalist, well-known to us for his numerous Inco-related articles of the past, and we question his qualifications as a commentator on the international marketplace.

For example, a key statement in Mr. Lowe’s article is that Inco was debt-free in 1972 and now owes $1.1 billion. He also charges that “Inco’s profits in recent years have been invested everywhere but in Canada.” In fact, Inco’s debt in 1972 exceeded $500 million. This money, as well as profits, was used to finance an investment program of more than $1 billion undertaken in Ontario and Manitoba from 1967 to 1972. Inco has continued to invest in Canada, but did indeed invest outside Canada for two reasons: because Canadian nickel supplies were seen to be inadequate to meet market demand; and to diversity the company’s revenue sources so as to be less dependent on the world metal cycle.

Regrettably, there is no basis for any assumption that Inco’s shareholders have realized more from Inco’s Canadian operations than others. For example, from 1970 to 1980 the tax take from Inco by Canadian governments increased from $54 million to $260 million, or by 382 per cent, and our Canadian unionized workers’ hourly wage rates and related fringe benefits increased from $5 million to $15 million, or by some 200 per cent.

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Why Inco Must Be Nationalized – Mick Lowe (July, 1982)

Inco must be nationalized, and the sooner the better. The need is pressing not because the firm’s management has squandered the immense Canadian wealth of the Sudbury, Ontario, and Thompson, Manitoba, ore bodies in ill-advised adventures in Guatemala, Indonesia and the United States. Nor is it because Inco’s management has exercised almost legendary arrogance and callousness with regard tot eh Canadian environment and in dealing with its Canadian work force (this summer’s strike at the company’s Sudbury operation was the third in seven years).

Inco must be nationalized for strictly economic reasons: it may be necessary in order to save the Canadian nickel industry, for never before has it been threatened at it is today. As stated in World Mineral Markets Stage II, a report recently released by the Ontario ministry of natural resources, North American nickel production will actually decrease over the next 10 years, even though total world nickel demand should increase moderately.

The projections on world nickel production made in the report should be disquieting  to all Canadians, and a truly national debate over its pat management and future development is long overdue. The sad truth is that, despite the projected increase in demand for nickel during the next decade, Inco’s share of the market will continue to decline because of the nature of its competitors: most of the newer nickel-producing companies tend to be in the Third World and state-owned.

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A Short History of Sudbury Labour – by Mick Lowe

Mick Lowe - Sudbury Journalist and Former Northern Life ColumnistSudbury’s labour movement had its official birth on March 10, 1944, with the certification of Mine Mill Local 598, after a tumultuous gestation that was not without bloodshed. According to local labour lore, the triumph of union organizers after decades of failure stemmed directly from an equally historic and bitter defeat only a few years earlier: the crushing of the Mine Mill certification strike in the Kirkland Lake gold camp during the winter of 1941-42.

Several of the union’s key organizers headed south to Sudbury following the failure of the four month strike at the fabled Golden Mile in the hopes of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, and, in the event, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

The 11,000 hardrock miners, mill, smelter and refinery workers who became trade unionists that March were the newest members of a union with a long and storied history in the hardrock mining camps of North America. Founded originally as the Western Federation of miners in 1893, the union was renamed the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers (IUMMSW) in 1916, but it was known to friend and foe alike as simply “The Mine Mill”.

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Boomtown Brat – Personal Reflections on Sudbury’s Made in China Economic Recovery – by Mick Lowe

 This article orginally appeared in the Christmas 2004 edition of Highgrader Magazine – a Northern Ontario publication that brings the issues, concerns and culture of Ontario’s vast forestry and mineral rich north to the world.

In the latter half of 2003, in the wake of yet another failed marriage, I was forced to indulge in one of the most dreaded of all male pastimes, an activity ranking somewhere between visiting the dentist and plumbing: I had to go shopping.  In the act of replacing the myriad of consumer goods that are forfeited when a household is split asunder, I made several discoveries.  Ever the nosy parker, (and hoping to support Canadian industry) I made a point of determining the country of origin of almost every purchase: from patio furniture to kitchen utensils, from an inexpensive stereo to a weed-whacker. 

The results were astonishing: virtually everything had come from, or at least been assembled in, the People’s Republic of China.  Also amazing was how cheap most things were, and that the quality nevertheless appeared relatively high.  The world was awash in cheap electronics.  It appeared that, at a conservative estimate, 90 per cent of the merchandise in the local Dollarama store was from China.  Multiplying the inventory in all the dollar stores in Sudbury times all the dollar stores in Canada conjured up a mental image of a chain of container ships crossing the Pacific from west to east, disgorging an unending stream of consumer goods produced by a nearly infinite supply of cheap labour in a nation of 1.3 billion souls.

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Mick Lowe – Journalist and Former Northern Life Columnist

Mick Lowe was born in 1947 in Omaha, Nebraska.  He is a 1965 graduate of Lincoln Southeast High School.He emigrated to Canada in 1970, after attending the University of Nebraska- Lincoln for four years,majoring in history, English literature, and philosophy.  He also attended the University of Calgary from 1973 to 1974, before moving to Sudbury …

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