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Reviews 127 It is possible that the decline ofthe FUA/Unifarm reflects that it was never the general farm organization that Jaques argues it was. In its 'glory days,' even as a general farm organization, the FUA may well have been primarily a grain producer's organization, as the peak of the FUA/Unifarm came during the period of history when wheat farming dominated Alberta's agricultural production. Jaques suggests that even as late as the 1980s the power of the grain interests in Unifarm was recognized. After 1960, many of Alberta's farmers diversified their production to include new crops such as rapeseed. As the structure of Alberta agriculture changed, the interests of the FUA/Unifarm did not necessarily change with it, particularly if non-wheat producers did not join the organization. The growth of individual commodity groups suggests that farmers saw their interests aligned along commodity lines rather than general or sectoral lines; at the very least, they viewed their interests as different enough from those ofgrain producers that Unifarm membership held little appeal. In the end, the fate of the FUA/Unifarm may be explained simply by the relative decline in the role of wheat production in western agriculture. J.C. HEBERT EMERY University ofCalgary Telecom Nation: Telecommunications, Computers, and Governments in Canada. LAURENCE B. MUSSIO. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press 2oor. Pp. xx, 308, illus. $49·95 Telecom Nation is a well-researched and well-written account of the development of federal telecommunications policy between 1945 and 1975· Specifically, it examines the regulatory relationship between Bell Canada and the Board ofTransport Commissioners (later reorganized as the Canadian Transport Commission), Canada's international presence in telecommunications, as well as federal forays in public enterprise, including the creation of the Telesat satellite crown corporation and a foundered attempt to develop a computer services utility in the early 1970s. Despite the increasing importance oftelecommunications on the federal policy agenda, however, Mussio concludes that, after the Second World War, the Canadian state did not keep pace with the rapid technological changes occurring. As a result, he argues, the post-1945 regulatory relationship destabilized and that imbalance, coupled with the federal government's uncoordinated, contradictory policies and lack of strategic vision, resulted in a failure to control this key economic sector. Mussio follows a well-established approach to the study oftechnology: he posits that the form ofregulation chosen will influence the outcome 128 The Canadian Historical Review oftechnological systems, and the system, in turn, will affect relationships within the state. He is adept at outlining the conflicting interests faced by successive regulatory agencies - how to balance consumer interests against the often compelling case made by Bell and the rest of the telecommunications industry to accede to requests for rate increases in order to support the expansion ofthe system. He also ably captures the federal-provincial rivalries that hampered the visionaries within the federal Department of Communications and their quest for a computer services utility in the early 1970s. What is never clear to the reader, however, is why Mussio believes that governments should, or could, control the implementation oftechnological systems. One is left to infer his normative view that, somehow, a more centralized state-managed policy model would result in better and more affordable telecommunications for Canadians. This obscured but ever-present political view tends to steer his conclusions towards technological determinism as he interprets his evidence within an a priori ideological framework that presumes state failure. Granted, as with any study of the state and technology, it is often difficult to isolate how and in which ways that technology is a determining factor or whether prevailing economic and political interests are exerting a greater influence on outcomes. The selection of a twelvechannel satellite design, for instance, was circumscribed by the limited number ofproven technological options available at the time. As a result ofthis decision, Telesat Canada was laden from the outset with an excess capacity that compromised its balance sheet. Hence technology acted as a determining factor on corporate outcomes. It is much less apparent whether the successive expansions of the telecommunications system over a continental land mass were determined by the availability of new technologies or...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 127-129
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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