The Canadian Economy: A Regional Perspective
David E. Smith is a political science professor at the University of
Saskatchewan and author of Jimmy Gardiner: Relentless Liberal.
The editor of this book, who is also the author of five of its papers, is a leading scholar of regional economic policy in Canada. His reputation will be enhanced by this coherent multiauthored work which brings together eight other authorities whose shared concerns and expertise illuminate a complex subject. The essays are indispensable reading for two reasons: their succinct account of regional development policies in Canada over the last five decades and their lucid analysis of successive and often competing theories of economic development from within the country and from abroad.
The heart of the debate is the persistence of regional economic disparity and dependency; its ingredients the conflicting remedies — “megaprojects,” “growth poles,” cash and tax incentives, and other prescriptions — intended to narrow the gap between have and have-not.
Chrome disease in the face of a plethora of cures might breed cynicism, but these papers are admirably free of that sterile tone. Instead, their careful dissection of policy and theory underlines the truth that regional disparity is less a matter of economics than it is of political choice. Few of the authors are able to avoid for long the cautionary tale of the federal government’s organizational response (in the form of a welter of acronyms: ARDA, FRED, DREE, MSRED and more) to this stubborn problem and none disputes the political imperative that has fueled that response.
Professor Savoie concludes that “the Canadian government has come full circle in fifteen years in organizing itself for the promotion of regional development” (p. 279). The contribution of these essays is to remind government and the public where we have already been and what stops along the way we did not like. The next journey — and there will be another — in search of a remedy will be better acquainted with regional disparity because of this book of essays;, it is a Baedeker for the professional economist and administrator.