Thirty years ago, when Canada entered into negotiations on a free trade deal with the United States, opponents of the deal knew, absolutely knew, that our economy could not possibly survive it.
Industries in Canada, they were sure, faced much higher costs than their American competitors, to pay for our vaunted social programs. Without the protective buffer that tariffs provided, they would be decimated — or we should have to jettison the policies that made up our distinctive Canadian way of life, to level the playing field.
It didn’t happen. The immediate effects of the trade agreement are hard to disentangle from the simultaneous campaigns against inflation and the deficit then under way, but the Canadian economy soon after embarked on two decades of uninterrupted growth, boosting median family incomes by a third after inflation.