On the news that the NFB had “retired” two of its remaining three film-makers.
Once upon a time, in 1939 to be exact, the Government of Canada decided to open a bakery. They called it the Canadian Bread Board. They hired a man who liked bread and who understood bakers and, because the country didn’t really have a baking industry, the bakery soon became very well known. Within just a few years it garnered a world wide reputation as a bakery that could consistently deliver good bread… because they had good bakers who understood the process.
But like all government departments there were problems: The bakers decided they didn’t want to be bothered with the running of the Bread Board —after all they were bakers and were not interested in administration. So they decided that the day to day administration of the department should be left to management types who liked that sort of thing and, as long as they let the bakers bake, no one really cared.
But then a strange thing started to happen. The administrators decided that they needed more and more help and so they hired more and more administrators. They watched their departments grow and soon were very good at meetings, which they held regularly.
It didn’t take long before they decided that the meetings were much more fun when the bakers weren’t there to ask pesky questions about what should go into the bread, so they stopped inviting the bakers.
Instead they made five year plans and changed them every three years.
Soon there was a money problem. There were too many people on staff so the administrators decided that they could do without the bakers.
Slowly they started to weed them out. First went the dough mixers, soon followed by the people who inspected the wheat, and then the people who cut the loaves. Then the bakers’ assistants were let go and soon they started to get rid of some of the bakers themselves.
When people complained that the bread wasn’t nearly as good as it used to be they hired a consultant management team who decided that now all the bakers should be removed and new, cheaper and less experienced bakers brought in on a part time basis. This, of course, would mean hiring more administrators.
A few of the original bakers stayed on, refusing to accept the inevitable.
Soon the administrators were commissioning bakers from outside. The problem was that the bakers were now being told how to make the bread by the management teams—who really knew little about baking but were very good at meetings.
This policy, however, had an unexpected flaw. Experienced bakers didn’t want to work in the plant and be told what was wrong with their bread by a bunch of managers who never actually had any baking experience .
So the management hired young bakers, let them make a few loaves and then, every year, got rid of them and hired new ones. When this policy was questioned by people who used to like the bread, the administrators said they were helping train bakers—even though the administrators didn’t really understand baking— but they were good at meetings.
Within a few more years the Canadian Bread Board realised that they only had three old bakers left on staff. One of them was a powerful old native woman with serious political connections whom they brought out from time to time to show that they were still baking; but the other two were dispensable, and, to be fair, had a thirty year run with weekly pay checks, holidays and an office at the Bread Board –so they gave them ultimatums and finally got rid of them..
At last the administrators had the whole Canadian Bread Board to themselves. They couldn’t bake bread of course, but they were very good at meetings and spent $64 million a year of the tax payers’ money having meetings in Montreal, in Banff, in Cannes, and all sorts of interesting places. They talked about projecting the legacy, and building a new vision, but that was stuff they had thought up at the meetings. They hired a press agent so the chief administrator could look good.
Then one day a little child asked—”If there are no bakers any more why is there a Canadian Bread Board? Why not give the money to the Canada Council and avoid the middle man” and the 475 administrators who were left at the Bread Board said they would hire a task force to find out.
Goodnight and sweet dreams.