Regional Development and the European Community: A Canadian Perspective
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
Phillip J. Wood is an associate professor of political studies at
During the 1950s and 1960s, despite high rates of growth in most western industrial economies, little progress was made in eliminating internal regional inequalities. Furthermore, in the generally depressed conditions of the decade after 1973, these persisting inequalities have undoubtedly contributed to political conflict and the growth of regional separatism in a number of countries, including Canada.
The impression left by Professor McAllister’s Regional Development and the European Community is that he is more concerned with limiting these political consequences than with the eradication of the regional inequalities themselves. His review of some of the regional development policies of the European Community makes it clear that they have been inadequately funded, subject to disagreement among the E.C. members and, consequently, poorly defined. Furthermore, they have been dwarfed by the Common Agricultural Policy, which accounts for 75 percent of the E.C. budget and aggravates regional disparities by encouraging concentrated large-scale production and regional specialisation. As a result, whatever small reduction in regional disparities may have occurred in the 1960s was wiped out by the late 1970s, as the relative gap (measured in terms of gross domestic product per capita) between the ten wealthiest and ten poorest regions widened from 2.9:1 to 4.0: 1.
From a strictly economic point of view, there seems to be little for Canada to learn from the regional development policies of the E.C. In recommending the creation of a Canadian Development Bank similar to the European Investment Bank and the incorporation of part of the strategy of the European Regional Development Fund, Professor McAllister therefore suggests that such “flagship” institutions may perform a valuable political function by engaging provinces in common projects, generating discussions about policy goals, and generally contributing to a stronger federation. What Professor McAllister seems to be saying is that even if such innovations in regional development policy cannot be used to eradicate Canada’s glaring regional inequalities, they may help keep the lid on potential political fallout.