Canada's three major parties now endorse Free Trade. Tom Walkom writes:
Free trade is now orthodoxy in Canada. It used to be debated fiercely. It no longer is.
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives embrace free trade. So does Justin Trudeau, the new Liberal leader.
As part of their ongoing effort to pretend that they are not New Democrats, so do Tom Mulcair’s New Democrats.
The problem is that politicians have reached this consensus just as the evidence confirms that free trade isn't working. The problem is that what sounds good in theory never works in practice:
The 19th century theory of competitive advantage that lies behind free trade is a venerable one. And in some instances, it makes sense. Canada is probably better off trading lumber in exchange for bananas than producing both.
However, theory is only theory. In the textbook version of free trade, time does not exist and all parties always win immediately. But in the real world of free trade, entire generations can be savaged as jobs and capital slosh around the world.
In countries ranging from Greece at one extreme to Canada at the other, this is what’s happening now.
It didn't used to work that way. Canada used to insist that trade support manufacturing:
Previously, Canada had a more nuanced approach to trade. We were happy to sell resources freely as long as some refining was done here. We protected some fruit and vegetables from foreign competition (which, among other things, encouraged food processing). We protected most manufacturing, which gave rise to factories throughout southern Ontario.
In the auto sector, trade was managed between the U.S. and Canada in a way that ensured production in both countries. Japanese firms like Toyota and Honda were enticed to set up plants in Canada in part by making it harder for them to ship finished autos here.
The people who tout free trade don't believe in fair trade.