Globalization Unplugged: Sovereignty and the Canadian State in the Twenty-First Century


234 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-3799-2
DDC 330.971'072




Reviewed by Graeme S. Mount

Graeme S. Mount is a professor of history at Laurentian University. He
is the author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable
Kingdom, Chile and the Nazis, and The Diplomacy of War: The Case of


Unlike many others who discuss the subject, Urmetzer minimizes the
consequences of globalization. Although he discusses globalization
around the world, he uses Canada as a case study—because, he says, if
an open country like Canada can survive globalization, other countries
have little to fear from it. (Undoubtedly the choice of Canada as a case
study also had something to do with geographic convenience.)

Urmetzer thinks that to date, globalization has had little impact on
Canada. Indeed, he says in his introduction, “[g]iven the present
threat of Quebec sovereignty and western alienation, the more pressing
issue [Canada] is facing is one of more borders, not fewer.” Later he
states that “[m]ost of what Canadians consume is produced within
Canada’s borders, and this will likely continue for some time.”
Despite globalization and the lowering of tariffs, what Canada buys from
Third World countries with lower wages is “relatively
insignificant”—between 3 percent and 4 percent of GDP. Graphs
demonstrate that Canadians invest little in the Third World, some in
Asia, an increasing amount in Europe, and a declining amount in the
United States. In proportional terms, Canada is less important to U.S.
investors than in the 1950s but still a major part of their operations.
Urmetzer attributes the collapse in the early 1970s of the Bretton Woods
arrangements to the cost of the Vietnam War, not to globalization.

Urmetzer rejects the argument that the marketplace is replacing
democratically elected governments in terms of decision-making. While
government spending has declined from 50 percent of Canada’s GDP to 40
percent since the implementation of NAFTA (to the levels of 1975–80),
it remains well above earlier post–World War II levels. Government
remains an important player, and Canadian governments continue to
provide goods and services for Canadians.

Few can argue with Urmetzer’s figures, only with his interpretations.
While not quite globalization, is Canada’s increased dependence on the
U.S. market a problem, an opportunity, or a matter of indifference?
While government has not disappeared, is its decreased role beneficial
to Canadian interests? Urmetzer provides evidence that readers can
evaluate in different ways.


Urmetzer, Peter., “Globalization Unplugged: Sovereignty and the Canadian State in the Twenty-First Century,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 18, 2024,