Influence of American Culture and Economics on Canadian Politics Thesis

Pages: 10 (2800 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Economics

¶ … American Culture and Economics on Canadian Politics

Merelman notes that the question of culture's role in politics is not a new question. Plato expelled poets from his Republic for fear of their influence. Despite this ancient effort to eliminate cultural influence on politics, today its influence is far-reaching. No longer is just the poets shaping a country's political agenda, but television, magazines, textbooks, corporations, music, movies, books, and the list goes on and on. In addition, the cultural influence of one country does not always simply stay within its own national borders, but its influence can reach beyond into other countries. However, it is not simply culture that can manipulate politics but economics as well.

The old adage -- 'Money makes the world go round.' -- has never been more true. Economics is a primary driving force in most political decisions. Like culture, national economics often affect other countries, especially given the increasingly globalized world. Given the popularity of American culture and the large percentage of the Canadian economy tied to the American economy, American culture and economics have been a significant factor in Canadian politics and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

Historic Influence of American Culture and Economics on Canada:

The American Revolution -- Early 1900s

The American Revolution permanently severed British control of the United States and set it apart from its Canadian brother. Now neighbors instead of kinsmen, the much more populated America would still subtly, and sometimes not-so-subtly, influence its neighbor to the north. In the early 20th century, with railroad development, industrial growth and corporate mergers, Canada not only experienced a time of economic growth and prosperity, but also an influx of outside cultural influence. Six hundred thousand 'New Canadians' emigrated from central and southern Europe at this time and the Americanization of Canada began to take hold. Heavy industrial investment in Canada, by the United States, and the domination of the American Federation of Labor's labor movement saw a strengthening American influence on Canada. In addition, thanks to transportation improvements making it easier to travel between the two countries and decades of Americans flooding Canada in the search of gold, the cities of English Canada began to exhibit the enormous popularity of American culture ("Canada"). The nation was poised for economic prosperity.

The Prosperous 1920s

By the 1920s, Canada was a prosperous nation with cities enticing rural youth to escape the drudgery of the farm and to seek new economic opportunity. Industrial development, especially in forest products from the north and mineral mining, were driving economic forces, during this era. As the economic grew, the labor movement declined, and Canadians began to spend more on personal items, acting as a catalyst for a retail boom. The moral rigor enforced by previous generations began to relax due to several factors including the popularity of organized sports (like hockey and horse racing), increased liquor and tobacco sales, and the increasing enthusiasm for American radio programs and motion pictures ("Canada"). By the next decade, however, this prosperity would come to a screeching halt.

The Great Depression Era

The Great Depression in America stretched its fingers north and scratched deep grooves in the Canadian economy. In 1929, the gross national product of Canada was $6.1 billion. Four years later, in 1933, it had plummeted to a mere $3.5 billion. Approximately 20% of the Canadian labor force was unemployed and commodity prices, such as grains, tumbled from $1.60 a bushel in 1928 to $0.28 in 1932. Exports fell by approximately $600 million, an economic disaster for the country that so much of its economy was based on foreign markets ("Canada"). This American economic impact directly led to a shift in Canadian political priority.

Conservative lawyer, Richard Bedford Bennett, 1st Viscoutn Bennett, was elected on a campaign of promises of swift action to curb the economic disaster plaguing the country, as a snowball effect of the Great Depression that started in America. One piece of legislation Bennett immediately put into place was relief for the growing numbers of Canadian unemployed. Tariffs were also dramatically increased, to protect industry, as well as to force concessions from other countries. In 1932, at the Imperial Economic Conference in Ottawa, Bennett arranged preferential trade agreements with Britain as well as other Commonwealth countries. The Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission, the centralized Bank of Canada, and a Wheat Board were all created during his term, in an effort to enlarge the sphere of government. However, the Canadian economy did not recover. In 1935, Bennett would look to America for a solution and implemented a radical reform package that was very similar to the American New Deal. This reform package included: unemployment insurance, minimum wage, a reduced workweek, industrial codes, and permanent economic planning ("Canada"). After more political turmoil, it would take World War II to fully pull Canada out of its depression.

Post World War II Recovery

Following World War II, Canada once again enjoyed an economic boom. In the later 1930s and 1940s, new natural resources were discovered, in the country, adding to the postwar boost. These included: new oil deposits in Alberta, iron-ore reserves in norther Quebec and Labrador, and uranium resources in northern Ontario. The gross national product in Canada rose from $12 billion in 1946 to more than $30 billion in 1957. The government, during this time, undertook several major federal and provincial projects including the Trans-Canada Highway and the expansion of Trans-Canada Airways. However, much of this economic expansion was heavily dependent on American investment in Canadian natural resources and their control of much of Canadian manufacturing, fueled by America's similar era of postwar economic prosperity ("Canada"). However, the tide against America would quickly turn. Yet, once again, the political ramifications were affected by American culture.

The Vietnam War Era

As the war in Vietnam War began to evolve for America, the early 1960s saw the cultural effects reflected in Canadian politics. The Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), a socialist group, was reborn as the pro-labor New Democratic Party (NDP). This was spurred by a wave of anti-Americanism that spread quickly through English Canada, which led to an attack against American economic and cultural power in the country ("Canada"). American hippies and Vietnam war conscientious objectors escaped to the safety of Canada, where their presence further affected the underlying Canadian culture and the rise of the NDP. Despite these anti-American sentiments, in the 1980s, America would still have significant influence on Canadian politics.

The 1980s and 1990s

In September of 1984, Conservative Brian Mulroney became prime minister of Canada. South of the border, in America, U.S. President Ronald Reagan had been working hard to reduce deficits and reduce social and cultural policies. Inspired by America's economic progress, Canada's new political agenda was to rebuild business ties and privatize government enterprises. This eventually evolved into the signing of a free-trade agreement between the two countries, in 1988. However, the promises of this agreement did not pan out, due to an overvalued Canadian dollar, a new goods and services tax, corporate restructuring, and severe recession with massive job losses. Hoping to benefit from America's strong economic outlook motivated Canada to join with Mexico and the United States to sign the North American Free Trade Agreement, which went into effect on January 1st, 1994 ("Canada"). Time and again, America's cultural and economic realities have affected the politics of Canada. The question then becomes -- Why does America have such a strong influence over Canada?

Contextual and Cultural Factors Underlying the Americanization of Canada:

Overview of the Americanization of Canada

Craig, Douglas and Bennett surmise that the United States is the largest economy in the world and, as such, due to dollar volume, plays a dominant role in world trade. America is not only the largest importer of goods and services, but also the largest exporter of goods and services in the world as well. This gives the United States unrivaled power with potential economic actions including economic sanctions or the provision of economic aid. However, the researchers continue to note that America's influence extends beyond their political and economic might and is also based on the country's 'soft' power. This can be seen in Canadian consumers consumption of products and services which embody American values and lifestyles -- American culture. American iconic corporations such as: Levis, Coca-Cola, Disney, and McDonald's all have been embraced by the Canadian consumer.

With this Canadian absorption of American products, a cultural shift continues to occur to mirror the current American lifestyle. Craig, Douglas and Bennett note that several countries are now currently mimicking the casual, fast-paced tempo of American daily life, including Canada. This has also been facilitated by the film entertainment industry, by American studios. Since the early 20th century, Canadians have enjoyed American movies. This is still true today. Consumption of American movies has a variety of effects. One effect is an increased awareness of American social ideas, values and customs. This can lead to the adoption of the same social ideas,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Influence of American Culture and Economics on Canadian Politics.  (2009, November 11).  Retrieved January 15, 2019, from http://allstarrchiro.net/subjects/paper/influence-american-culture-economics/2291

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"Influence of American Culture and Economics on Canadian Politics."  Essay.  November 11, 2009.  Accessed January 15, 2019.
http://allstarrchiro.net/subjects/paper/influence-american-culture-economics/2291.