Underground Nation: The Secret Economy and the Future of Canada


215 pages
ISBN 1-55013-612-7
DDC 330.971'0647





Reviewed by Randall White

Randall White is the author of Voice of Region: On the Long Journey to
Senate Reform in Canada, Too Good to Be True: Toronto in the 1920s, and
Global Spin: Probing the Globalization Debate.


This energetic book haphazardly points to the need for some major
longer-term rethinking of Canada’s political and economic structure.
The crux of Francis’s argument is that Canada today is in seminally
deep trouble. The culprits are high taxation levels, government
regulatory policies that deter wealth creation, “sucker nation”
social welfare and immigration policies that the country’s economy
cannot sustain, an increasingly destructive and irrational separatist
movement in Quebec, an ideologically motivated (as opposed to
“businesslike”) union movement that inflates costs and restricts
access to labor markets, and a more diffuse statist political tradition
of “polite oppression.”

The book’s strength is that it periodically alludes to some blunt and
unassailable half-truths. Its weakness is that these half-truths are
woven into a fabric of inflated language and highly questionable
assertions that makes one wonder about everything else. As one of a
great many examples, we are told that “French, like Welsh, is a doomed
language” and that “within a generation, the world will mostly speak
English, Mandarin, and Spanish.” (Just to start with here, what about
Hindi, which is now spoken by considerably more people in “the
world” than Spanish?)

In fact most of the more obviously sensible points Diane Francis makes
about the shorter term have already found their way into the mainstream
of public debate. Beyond some apocalyptic rhetoric and vague talk about
Switzerland and reducing the number of Canadian provinces, she doesn’t
really have much of practical consequence to say about the longer-term
future. She is rightly offended when her “American background” is
“held against [her].” But her most positive message does seem to be
that “English Canada is becoming increasingly American,” and the
right thing to do is to keep on this path—even though, as Underground
Nation also quietly allows from time to time, the United States is
increasingly finding itself in rather different but equally deep


Francis, Diane., “Underground Nation: The Secret Economy and the Future of Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/1768.