Dancing Around the Elephant: Creating a Prosperous Canada in an Era of American Dominance, 1957–1973.


323 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-8020-9016-4
DDC 327.71'73'09'045




Reviewed by Graeme S. Mount

Graeme S. Mount is a history professor at Laurentian University and
author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable Kingdom.


Muirhead says that the Diefenbaker, Pearson, and Trudeau governments protected Canadian interests rather well. Diefenbaker launched wheat sales to the People’s Republic of China when it was still a pariah to Americans. Pearson’s government negotiated the Auto Pact and kept aloof from the Vietnam War. Trudeau’s challenged the Nixon administration on sovereignty over the Northwest Passage and the Law of the Sea, and when an energy shortage followed the Yom Kippur War of 1973 the Trudeau government enacted measures to protect Canadian interests. Although the Canadian economy did become increasingly dependent upon sales to the United States during those years, there was little choice. Europeans and Japanese were not interested in Canadian exports other than raw materials. Muirhead’s thesis challenges conventional wisdom as exemplified by George Grant’s Lament for a Nation or Kari Levitt’s Silent Surrender.


Levitt and Muirhead are both right. Levitt was right to sound the alarm over the willingness of Canadian financial institutions to lend money to foreigners seeking to buy Canadian businesses and transfer their head office jobs and research-and-development operations elsewhere. Muirhead provides a necessary message to our era when the tendency is to transfer authority from Ottawa to the provinces. Could Saskatchewan have arranged the wheat sales to China? Could Ontario have negotiated the Auto Pact? If an oil spill in the Northwest Passage had forced Inuit to relocate to the provinces, would provincial governments have cheerfully financed the relocation costs? How concerned would Albertans have been in 1973 if other Canadians had had to freeze in the dark?


Muirhead confirms earlier reports that the Auto Pact may well have been Canada’s reward for co-operating with the Johnson administration on Cyprus, and that once Richard Nixon became president, Canada–U.S. relations became a nightmare. Amazingly, there is no mention of trade with Cuba or of the Avro Arrow. The most serious flaw in this well researched book is the size of the print, which is much too small. A photo caption says that Nixon visited Ottawa in May 1972; the visit happened in April.


Muirhead, Bruce., “Dancing Around the Elephant: Creating a Prosperous Canada in an Era of American Dominance, 1957–1973.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28263.