Looking West: Regional Transformation and the Future of Canada

By Flanagan, Luke | British Journal of Canadian Studies, January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Looking West: Regional Transformation and the Future of Canada


Flanagan, Luke, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Loleen Berdahl and Roger Gibbins, Looking West: Regional Transformation and the Future of Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), 192 pp. Cased. $67. ISBN 978-1-4426-0875-7. Paper. $29.95. ISBN 978-1-4426-0645-6.

For scholars studying provincial politics, a publication like Looking West has been a long time coming. It would be naive, however, to frame this book as primarily about provincial politics. The questions that the authors raise are relevant to Canada as a whole. Their main thesis is that the political and economic centre of gravity in Canada is moving west. The economic strength of western Canada is now challenging the established norms of Canadian economic and political life, notably the economic dominance of Ontario and the political dominance of Quebec. Canada under Harper is led by a Prime Minister from Calgary who need not rely on Québécois MPs to form a parliamentar y majority (at the time of writing). As the authors make clear, while the growing population in the west may result in a greater number of MPs over time, it is the economic implications which could be most important in altering established norms. The economic interests of the west, which are focused on natural resources like oil and potash, will necessitate a revised outlook towards Asia rather than the United States and will inevitably heighten questions of Aboriginal governance given that a large proportion of Aboriginal peoples live in western Canada.

The authors are right to attach at least two major caveats to their thesis: the orientation of the western Canadian economy towards natural resources is problematic because, apart from the fact that they are non-renewable and will eventually run out, there is a strong reliance on external markets for both pricing and selling. …

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