Roy Scott

Writer - Photoghrapher - Entrepreneur


Using Metrics

Posted by royscott0514 on October 12, 2016 at 12:10 AM

The Metric System - Let's Go All In

As a result of some recent issues at the grocery store, this blog was going to begin with a trivia question: On what date did Canada officially convert to being totally metric? Unfortunately, my research showed that there was no drop dead date for total conversion. Moreover, implementation of metrics has been as confusing as actually using the system.

Change was implemented gradually, and the only specific date I could locate was April 1, 1975. That was the mandated date for temperatures to be reported in Celsius. As of September, that same year, millimeters and centimeters had to be used when reporting rain and snow falls. Subsequently, in 1977 road signs changed to reflect speeds and distances in metric, and in 1979, service stations had to begin selling fuel in litres.

Along with making Canada bilingual—another move that still has unnecessary costs and ramifications—going metric was the brainchild of Prime Minister Trudeau . . . no, the other one.

Some of the most vocal opposition to the change occurred around 1980 when grocery stores tried to switch over to the new system of weights and measures. With the Liberal government recently ousted, newly elected Prime Minister, Joe Clark, postponed total national conversion. That was short lived with Trudeau regaining power, and in 1982 he quickly reinstated full conversion. To that point, it had now been more than a decade since the changes were first put forward.

So Canadians had been asked to gradually assimilate this new system of weights and measures into their everyday lives, and try to forget a system ingrained since childhood. Needless to say, this created anxiety, frustration, and plenty of confusion. One of the most glaring examples opponents used to argue their case, was in 1983, when an Air Canada flight from Montreal to Edmonton had to make an emergency landing in Manitoba, because it ran out of fuel. The cause: a miscalculation when converting the fuel to metric only gave the plane half of the fuel it needed.

Going metric was supposed to put us in step with the global market, however, our neighbour and biggest trading partner isn’t metric. If you are taking a trip south and trying to calculate your fuel costs, good luck. We use kilometers, they use miles. We use litres, they use gallons. Oh, and by the way, a U.S. gallon is different than an imperial gallon.

Canadians love pints of beer, ten yard football, and building with two by fours, but almost a half century after the metric idea was hatched, there’s still confusion and frustration. If you’re looking for a farm, it’ll be in hectares. The lot for a residential home is measured in feet, so are the dimensions of the rooms and the square footage of the house.

Fabric is sold in meters, gas in litres, and medicine doses in millimeters. Recipes still use ounces, lumber is sold by inches and feet, and ask anybody how much they weigh or how tall they are.

You might want to take a calculator and a conversion chart when you go to the supermarket for groceries. Produce and meats are still advertised by the pound, yet the cash terminals only calculate prices in metric. The few weigh scales for public use have both measurements, but good luck reading it.

Understanding the metric system is confusing enough for most of us, but dealing with the inconsistent and ambiguous methods of marketing products is worse.

Isn’t it time to go all in?


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