Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This study explores the responses of labour in English Canada and in Quebec to the Canada - U.S. Free Trade Agreement [FTA]; to the North America Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA]; and to the neo-liberal agenda of business and (federal) government for whom labour saw free trade as "the centrepiece." The thesis challenges conventional theories, principally that labour's response to free trade is governed by economics. Rather, political outlooks are key to labour's very different responses in English Canada and Quebec.
In the anti-FTA campaign, both union movements adopted positions of opposition, though for different reasons and with important differences in emphasis and approach. In the anti-NAFTA struggle, Quebec labour modified its opposition. It participated in the process of trying to inject a social dimension into the NAFTA's side deals, while English-Canadian labour rejected any accommodation to NAFTA, which it treated as a "conditioning framework". Neither approach worked: the side deals approved were cosmetic. However, following the 1993 election and proposals to turn NAFTA into an hemispheric agreement, English-Canadian labour came around in 1995 to the Québécois position.
The thesis points to major errors made by English-Canadian labour including: adopting the nationalist outlook of the anti-free trade coalition it helped to build and finance, yet over which labour lost control; de-linking itself from the NDP and undermining it in two federal elections, 1988 and 1993; and limiting its options by posing free trade as a "doomsday" issue.
The thesis also examines the connection between free trade, full employment, and independence in Quebec. The proposition is analyzed that, for Quebec labour, free trade may yet turn out to be a "liberating framework".
The argument is developed with reference to union documents, union newspapers, and interviews with union and political leaders.
Stone, Kenneth Everett, "Canada and Quebec: Different Responses by Labour to Free Trade, 1983 - 1995." (1995). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6684.
McMaster University Library