NOT FOR EXPORT: TOWARD A POLITICAL ECONOMY OF CANADA'S ARRESTED INDUSTRIALIZATION
Volume 11 Number 6.
Glen Williams is a political science teacher at Carleton University. Not For Export, a well researched and thought-provoking book is his analysis of the weaknesses in Canada's industrial economy.
Most of what Williams tells us is not new. We have all heard many times that Canadians are hewers of wood and drawers of water, that we have a nagging balance of payments problem, and a great deal of foreign investment. What is challenging is his presentation of the historical reasons for our current problems and his criticism of the various economic arguments traditionally used to justify our lack of development.
The problem, as Williams sees it, and he offers some convincing arguments, began in the early years of post-Confederation Canada. At that time, Canada adopted a policy of import-substitution industrialization. Our factories, operating behind a tariff wall and using foreign technology produced goods that had previously been imported. They could not export because foreign factories produced the same goods.
What was wrong with this approach was that Canada relied on American technology and American branch plants that reproduced goods made in the United States. This prevented our factories from ever becoming competitors in world markets and prevented us from developing useful products of our own. This becomes all the more tragic when compared with the records of Sweden and Japan, two countries that today export highly sophisticated technological goods all over the world. Should there not also be a Canadian Volvo and a Canadian Sony? The reason there isn't is that we never, with rare exceptions, tried to make goods for export.
Another interesting aspect of William's book is his discussion of the two rival schools of economic thought that try to explain Canada's lack of industrial development. The nationalists, today supported by the Science Council of Canada, argue that we cannot export because the branch plants are prevented from doing so. The solution lies in buying back our branch plant economy and allowing our firms to produce for export. The rival continentalist school, supported by the Economic Council of Canada, believes our lack of industrial development is the result of the tariff structure that shelters our small industries from world competition. Continentalists consider the adoption of free trade with the United States to our economic salvation because our efficient firms would then have access to a much larger economy, something they have previously lacked.
This is not an easy book to read, but those who give it a chance will have a better grasp of the reasons for Canada's poor economic performance and be better prepared to assess and debate the issue.
Thomas F. Chambers, Canadore College, North Bay, ON.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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