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Continentalizing Canada

Continentalizing Canada: The Politics and Legacy of the Macdonald Royal Commission

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    Continentalizing Canada
    Book Description:

    Free trade has been a highly contentious issue since the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney negotiated the first deal with the United States in the 1980s. Tracing the roots of Canada's contemporary involvement in North American free trade back to the Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada in 1985 - also known as the Macdonald Commission - Gregory J. Inwood offers a critical examination of the commission and how its findings affected Canada's political and economic landscape, including its present-day reverberations.

    Using original research - including content analysis, interviews, archival information, and surveys of relevant literature - Inwood argues that the Macdonald Commission created an atmosphere and political discourse that made the continentalization of Canada possible by way of free trade agreements with the U.S. and Mexico. Through the use of a suspect research program, and with the aid of a select oligarchy within the Commission and the government bureaucracy, opposition to continentalism from both the majority of the Canadian population and even several commissioners was ignored. Accessible to readers interested in Canadian politics, policy, or economy,Continentalizing Canadaoffers a thorough examination into the Macdonald Commission and the resulting discourse in the Canadian political economy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7336-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Tables and Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    Royal commissions are as Canadian an institution as one can imagine. Over 450 of these inquiries have been struck since Confederation on virtually every subject imaginable. Many commission reports languish in obscurity, collecting dust on the shelves of the Parliamentary Library, but every once in a while, broad-based programmatic royal commissions have profoundly influenced the political landscape and set the parameters of the policy agenda for generations of Canadians.² Yet the politics and legacy of these important idea-generating bodies are vastly understudied. Few detailed analyses exist of the internal machinations of royal commissions and their impact on Canadian society.


  6. CHAPTER 1 Setting the Stage: Canadian Economic Development in the Post-War Years
    (pp. 17-45)

    This chapter examines the historical development of the Canadian political economy in the post-war years, when the ideology of liberal continentalism reached its zenith. It maps the development of the Canadian economy in the shadow of a hegemonic neighbour, and examines the impact of the decline of that hegemon. It then looks at subsequent attempts to reorder policy making in light of the difficulty the last Trudeau government experienced in establishing a national mode of regulation in the framework of an increasingly continentalist regime of accumulation.² Finally, it briefly examines some of the processes within the Canadian state leading to...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Macdonald Commission: The Struggle Engaged
    (pp. 46-75)

    This book argues that the transformative change in public policy resulting in the embracing of free trade was the consequence of a coalescence of certain requisites which found a temporary institutional site in the Macdonald Commission. To appreciate the role played by the commission an elaboration of the nature of this type of inquiry is required, thus the present chapter briefly examines the legal basis of royal commissions in Canadian politics and the historical and political roles these inquiries have traditionally played. It also examines the origin of the idea to stage a Royal Commission on the Economic Union and...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Seeking a New Consensus
    (pp. 76-96)

    This chapter examines the process by which the Macdonald Commission carried out its work. As such, it sketches the interplay of ideas, institutions, and interests. It first notes the strains engendered by a variety of political factors at the outset of the inquiry. It then briefly outlines the three main components of the commission before concluding with a short review of the recommendation for free trade in the commission’sReport. In so doing, the chapter notes the manner in which the public submissions to the commission contributed to the generation and evolution of political viability; the ways in which the...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The Public Submissions: Reflections in the Mirror of the Macdonald Commission
    (pp. 97-129)

    This chapter examines the ideological belief systems underlying the arguments presented in written briefs to the Macdonald Commission. The briefs, while not always wholly coherent, were sufficiently articulate to make it possible to outline the main characteristics of two broad paradigms and to ask how the commission arrived at its recommendation for free trade in light of them. The two paradigms are herein referred to as neoconservatism and democratic socialism, and this study draws explicit links between continentalism and neoconservatism, nationalism and democratic socialism. Representatives of these paradigms engaged in an ideological struggle to impose their own views on the...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The Battle of the Paradigms
    (pp. 130-151)

    Close examination of the arguments over ideas presented to the Macdonald Commission sheds light on the choices before the commissioners. Though it consulted with more Canadians than any other inquiry, no comprehensive study exists of the contributions of social actors to the Macdonald Commission.² Still, a conventional wisdom has emerged centring on two broad views. Some argue that this inquiry was virtually predetermined in its outcome, and that it was ‘captured’ by corporate Canada. Others suggest that there was only one model on the table for the commissioners to choose from in their deliberations – the mainstream liberal economics model....

  11. CHAPTER 6 (Mis-)Using Social Science Knowledge: The Research Program of the Macdonald Commission
    (pp. 152-178)

    It was noted in chapter 1 that the struggle over political discourse and the delineation of legitimate identities and ideas in a royal commission plays itself out largely through public consultation. But it also occurs within the research programs of royal commissions, as scholars draw upon symbols and concepts that provide shared definitions of reality and circulate them through the instrument of the inquiry. A dominant academic discourse is established that typically favours the interests of particular social actors; state and societal institutions then articulate that discourse. Those intellectuals who seek to achieve significant reform or radical change are forced...

  12. CHAPTER 7 The Rout Is On: The Influence of the Research Program
    (pp. 179-198)

    As the Macdonald Commission research studies began pouring in throughout 1984 and into 1985, the commissioners started to formulate their conclusions. Presented with conflicting and contradictory positions both within the research itself, and between the research and the public submissions, they had somehow to distil the data and arrive at a consensus position. Ultimately, this process involved rejecting some arguments and favouring others. The question arises: What research impressed and influenced the commissioners?

    The manner in which the creative intellectual output of academic, research, and policy “experts” is acquired, assessed, and accepted (or rejected) is a key element of transformative...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Ideological Homogeneity in the Research Program
    (pp. 199-223)

    Both the division of labour within the social sciences and the creation and reinforcement of particular political discourses by social scientists had an impact on the Macdonald Commission. The lack of cross-fertilization between the three research streams, coupled with institutionalized claims to discrete forms of knowledge, afforded the economists an influential position within the commission research program, and were important factors shaping the output of this process. The economists enjoyed a near monopoly on economic policy prescriptions. The empiricism of the discipline, based on methods of so-called scientific inquiry, left it in an influential position. The ideological homogeneity of the...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Royal Commission Politics: The Triumph of the Policy Group
    (pp. 224-242)

    Chapter 5 revealed the differing ideological roots of the economic development strategies suggested by the public for the commission as part of the search for viability for transformative change. It also showed that the majority of the public submissions went largely unheeded. Chapters 6, 7, and 8 uncovered the ideological contours of a research exercise of epic proportions, revealing that economic viability was derived from scholarly contributions emanating from those privileged academics within the social science pantheon, the economists, as well as the ideological homogeneity that overshadowed the work of the research teams. But a third factor in shaping the...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Leap of Faith: Ideology in the Chair
    (pp. 243-270)

    The central role played by the policy group in drafting theReportbegs the question: what influence did the commissioners have at this important stage of the inquiry? Surprisingly, the answer is relatively little. Chapter 11 will examine the limited capacity of the titular heads of the commission to shape its decisions concerning economic development strategies. The present chapter will first explain the role of the chairperson, focusing on Donald Macdonald’s leadership in driving the free trade agenda to further illustrate the role of political and bureaucratic leadership in this story. It will also reveal the evolution of Macdonald’s thinking....

  16. CHAPTER 11 The Commissioners’ Role and the Final Report
    (pp. 271-297)

    The role of the chairperson of a royal commission can only be understood in the context of the working relationship of the commissioners as a whole. As noted in chapter 2, royal commissions are granted considerable leeway in their design and execution. The chair and his or her chief advisers often enjoy broad discretion in translating the imprecise terms of reference into action. This chapter examines the role of the other commissioners. It looks at the drafting of the commission’sReportfrom the perspective of those commissioners, and shows that debate over Macdonald’s free trade declaration was muted and controlled....

  17. CHAPTER 12 Continentalizing Canada: The Politics and Legacy of the Macdonald Commission
    (pp. 298-324)

    An editorial cartoon in theOttawa Citizen² depicted the Macdonald Commission as a massive elephant with a $20 million price tag on its side. Around the elephant were four blind men representing a New Democrat, a Liberal, a Conservative, and a taxpayer, each trying to discern what the creature was by touching it. The New Democrat suggested it was a ‘big business hobbyhorse’; the Liberal called it a ‘paper tiger’; the Conservative felt it was ‘a gift horse, perhaps’; while the taxpayer proclaimed ‘It is an elephant! And I’m pretty damn sure it’swhite!’

    The analogy of an elephant was...

  18. APPENDIX A: Written Briefs Examined for This Study
    (pp. 325-333)
  19. APPENDIX B: Categorization of Topics from Macdonald Commission Content Analysis
    (pp. 334-336)
  20. APPENDIX C: People Interviewed
    (pp. 337-338)
  21. APPENDIX D: Commissioners’ Biographies
    (pp. 339-344)
  22. Notes
    (pp. 345-418)
  23. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 419-450)
  24. Index
    (pp. 451-472)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 473-474)