In this commentary, originally published in the National Post, AIMS Senior Fellow Brian Lee Crowley explains how Canadians can prosper and leave America’s shadow, fulfilling the dream of Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier of Canada leading the world.
In the period immediately following World War II Canada and the United States together trod Laurier’s path—open societies that welcomed investment, people, goods, and services; that kept the tax burden tolerably light, the public debt on a downward course, and government relatively small; and that encouraged and rewarded work, savings, investment, and entrepreneurship while discouraging dependence.
Fast-forward to the 1960’s: In a paroxysm of nationalist fervour, we threw up barriers to the free flow of capital looking to invest in Canada. The big-government zeitgeist in the Western world embraced our growing unemployment and fear of Quebec nationalism; the offspring of this union was social welfare programs enriched to the point where we were having major problems with welfare dependency and strong growth in low-performance public employment. Our productivity, the real key to rising standards of living, grew at a much slower rate than in America. In short, we did everything that Sir Wilfrid thought would deny us success.
In Laurier’s Unfinished Symphony, Crowley writes that if we succeed in completing the Laurier plan while America continues to founder, our reward will be that we will leave America’s shadow and enter into the Canadian century, fulfilling Sir Wilfrid’s dream for the country he believed would lead the world.
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