Some Comments on Earl Fry's Discussion of the Economic Dimension of Quebec, Canada, and United States Relations

By Proulx, Pierre-Paul | American Review of Canadian Studies, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

Some Comments on Earl Fry's Discussion of the Economic Dimension of Quebec, Canada, and United States Relations


Proulx, Pierre-Paul, American Review of Canadian Studies


Although some readers of ARCS may well take issue with some of the comments I offer here, and others will want to supplement what is readily acknowledged to be inadequate analysis, I do hope that most will agree with my sense that Earl Fry's presentation of the economic dimension of the "neverendum" debate in "Quebec, Canada, and the United States: The Economic Dimension" (25: 497-517), is only partial.

My comment aims to supplement the discussion of the economic dimension by introducing some of the analysis and elements of the debate which apparently did not come to Professor Fry's attention. Moreover, his presentation is typical of what is generated by economists from English Canada and American colleagues who rely primarily on their writings and ignore those of sovereignty-oriented economists, most of whom write in French. (1) And although Fry is astute, meticulous, and a sharp shooter when it comes to data on certain aspects of the economics debate, his disciplinary training is political science, and his incomplete treatment of the economic dimension of the debate reveals as much. His article is, in fact, a good example of the limitations displayed when a political scientist deals with economic questions. I quite agree that economics is too important to be left only to economists, political science to political scientists, engineering to engineers, politics to politicians, and so forth, but I hope nevertheless to persuade that Fry offers a typical federalist-oriented and inadequately documented treatment of the question. Fry would have benefited from the work done by economists supporting the sovereignty cause, for he does not refer to widely distributed and oft-quoted documents and articles.

Fry does not refer to, nor address, arguments presented in publications--whether in pamphlet, book, or Le Devoir--of the "Intellectuals pour la Souverainete." Numbering more than three hundred during the Referendum, this group is still active and growing in numbers. Their manifesto contains many economic arguments for sovereignty which are not raised in Fry's article. (2) Criticism and debate would have been better than silence on these arguments in an article on the "economic dimension." In addition, pamphlets distributed very widely by the "Partenaires pour la Souverainete" (over a million members received the pamphlets or heard speeches based upon them) and some of the articles published in the IRPP Quebec-Canada series, among them mine, brought to the debate elements which are not mentioned or assessed in the Fry article. (3) That these sources were not discussed in the Anglophone press and ignored by most English-speaking Canadian economists is par for the course, since such work is often so ignored. Anglophone scholars who know this should therefore strive to go beyond their conventional sources in trying to discuss Quebec questions. (4)

A Few Comments of a General Nature

In my IRPP article, I suggested that a more acceptable and balanced treatment of the Quebec-Canada question called for analysis from an individual and social perspective, of the short-, medium-, and long-term economic, social, cultural, linguistic, and political costs and benefits of the question. Quebeckers are not pondering the purchase of an automobile or the conclusion of a routine contract. The decision has to do with their individual and collective survival as a nation in North America.

The costs of the current constitutional uncertainty to Quebec and English Canada have been accumulating at least since the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. Quebec and English Canada will continue to suffer from this uncertainty until Quebec becomes sovereign. The great majority of Anglophones and immigrants in Quebec and approximately 35 percent of Francophones still believe that federalism can be renewed with the same effect. This is a conclusion which, for many reasons, some of which I will mention presently, I abandoned in the late 1980s while working for the federal government as an assistant deputy minister in Ottawa. …

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