Colossal Canadian Failures: A Short History of Things That Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time


318 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55002-416-7
DDC 971





Reviewed by Geoffrey Harder

Geoffrey Harder is a public services librarian and manager, Knowledge Common, in the Science and Technology Library of the University of Alberta.


Canadians are known around the world for their propensity to poke fun at
themselves. Colossal Canadian Failures illustrates that there may indeed
be good reason for some of these musings. The book is a result of the
collaborative efforts of two Ontario reporters, Randy Richmond and Tom
Villemaire, who weave numerous tales of blunder into an entertaining
book that sure is to please. Operating on the premise that “Canada has
so many failures, it must be doing something right,” the authors
gather together a great deal of evidence to prove beyond a shadow of a
doubt that Canada has lived through its share of misguided and
ill-conceived attempts to make its mark.

While not exhaustive, Colossal Canadian Failures details numerous
“oops” moments in Canadian history. These include failed planning in
transportation, engineering, farming, military, and other areas. Even
the most seasoned historian is bound to learn of some farfetched idea
that almost made it past the drawing board. Take for example the tale of
Knapp’s Roller Boat, an idea born from watching a pencil roll
effortlessly across a desk. How was Knapp to know that a wooden desk was
a much easier surface to navigate than a northern waterway? Not to
mention that a pencil, much like his boat, could not be properly
steered. Knapp’s idea begins to look good when compared to the
ill-fated boat made of ice designed to battle the Nazis. And so it
continues, story after story, of well-intentioned, but generally bad

Colossal Canadian Failures contains something to amuse almost any
reader. The book is an easy read, and will no doubt be frequently cited
by those who like to tell a good yarn.


Richmond, Randy, and Tom Villemaire., “Colossal Canadian Failures: A Short History of Things That Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,