Book Review of The Canadian Century: Moving Out of America’s Shadow

The Canadian Century: Moving Out of America’s Shadow,
by Brian Lee Crowley, Jason Clemens, Niels Veldhuis

The Canadian Century: Moving Out of America’s Shadow is a book that I think people who work in the area of international trade would not only enjoy reading. It also helps to put many of the issues that we’re dealing with today in a historical context.

This book compares the policy thoughts and actions of former Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier at the turn of the last century to the reality that we face today at the turn-of-the-century. Over the span of 100 years a lot has changed, yet when we look at where we are from an international trade perspective, things are strikingly similar.

The book reviews Laurier’s 100 Year Plan in a modern context. It discusses why Laurier’s plan did not happen has he envisioned it, stating that there were many world events that derailed the Canadian Century. There were major events, such as the WW I, that altered the course of not only Canada but many other countries for decades afterwards. The war was then followed by a period of economic prosperity in the 1920s, only to face tremendous economic uncertainty during the Dirty 30s as economies around the world economies collapsed and many people found themselves living in poverty.

The 1940s was again a decade of war, with WW II wreaking havoc on a global scale. Since that time, there have been periods of economic growth within Canada, periods of fiscal deficits and debt, periods of high interest rates. Added to the mix, various political parties were sweeping in and out of power over the decades, with each political party wanting to leave their own unique stamp on Canadian history.

Like many of you, I studied Canadian history in school when I was younger, but I do not profess to be a history expert. I knew who Sir Wilfrid Laurier was, after all he’s the individual that appears on our five dollar bill, but I really didn’t know what his politics were about.

Laurier’s plan was founded on four pillars:
1. Prosperity grows from liberty’s soil
2. Limited government, like taxes, and fiscal discipline
3. Self-confident engagement with the Americans
4. Free trade.

If you work in the area of international trade in this day and age, I would recommend that you read this book. It speaks about free trade agreements, about the role of tariffs throughout Canadian history, and about our important yet complicated relationship with the United States. Most importantly it helps to highlight everything that Canada has going for it. We have so much in our favour, but the one consistent thing that we lack is self-confidence.

Laurier declared the 20th century would be Canada’s Century. He truly believed that Canada would emerge as a superpower both financially and morally. This didn’t happen- in reality the 20th century belonged to the US, not Canada. That said, not all hope is lost. Many of the truths that existed at the beginning of the 20th century are still truths today at the beginning of the 21st century. Canada still has a lot going for it, including our inferiority complex.

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