Discuss the economic and political siginificance of Macdonald's National Policy tariff. (source: Destinies Ch.3) - Essay Example

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Discuss the economic and political siginificance of Macdonalds National Policy tariff. (source: Destinies Ch.3)
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Discuss the economic and political significance of Macdonalds "National Policy" tariff Introduction.
Sir John Alexander Macdonald was the first Prime Minister of Canada who took part in legislation to create a union of provinces called “Canada”. The legislation is known as British North America act. He possessed a genius and creative mind and ensured the expansion of Canada from one corner of sea to the other. Politics set forth by him dominated Canada for over fifty years. He conceived the idea of “National Policy” Tariff for development of Canada into a big nation. Once he took over the Canadian nation was in the stage of infancy thriving to define its National identity and heritage. There was no agreement about the definition of a “Canadian”.
In 1879 MacDonald’s Conservative Government proposed a policy of nation building based on “National Policy” or national tariff (A National Policy). According to his policy three important steps were essential for unity and existence of Canada. Theses were; High protective tariff on imported goods especially from USA to boost local trade, production and economy; the building and completion of transcontinental railway in Canada from end to end; and Settlement of Western Canada through immigration.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of The Policy.
The policy of National tariff brought many advantages as well as disadvantages for Canada. The advantages can be summed up like the following: The trade was shifted from North-South axis to East-West axis which benefited the country as a whole. It provided the Canadians with their own national market as a result of growth in economy and local business and reduced dependence of Canada on United States. The policy gave tremendous job and business opportunities to majority of Canadians. Canadian and foreign businessmen and manufacturers invested in local industry which helped in capacity building and infrastructure development in Canada. The policy helped in building a National image, culture, and common cause by uniting all parts of country through rail network. The policy asked for lowering tariffs for imports from a country that accepted Canadian goods at lower tariff, this helped in expanding overseas trade especially with Britain. Construction of national railway called Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) reduced traveling problems for entire Canadian population who had to travel through difficult valleys, jungles and rivers even for short distances. The length of track was 5000 Kms and it linked 3.5 million people. Construction of railways paved way for confederation of the state “British Colombia” since it was an isolated state and demanded railway link in exchange for joining Canada. The presence of railways helped to keep Canada united and suppression of rebellion since army was moved using rail quickly. In 1869 America threatened to annex the North West Canada due to lack of Canadian control over the area. The railway ensured effective control over territories. Third component of policy was development of West through immigration. Due to this policy 1 Million people migrated to Canada between 1896 and 1914. This helped in cultivating vast fertile lands and development of waste lands. This influx gave boost to Canadian economy, culture and demography. Immigrants included farmers, workers and craftsmen of all types. These people contributed greatly towards development of Canada.
On the negative side the Policy of National Tariff is criticized for few disadvantages. The policy benefited central parts of Canada more than the outer regions of South and North. The people against the policy termed it “National” in name while “Regional” in interest. To some extent it benefited the industrialists of Quebec and Ontario more, which were urban centers. The policy resulted in social inequality to some extent for poor farmers and fishermen living away from centre since they had to pay high costs on both local and imported goods. Areas which provided raw materials for industry were benefited less due to slow pace of development in far-flung areas. Construction of railway costed the nation a huge capital. It also resulted into death of thousands of workers mostly Chinese and became a cause of political deadlock for many political parties. The industrialization of Canada through National Tariff helped in “Americanization of the Canadian” economy, since a portion of expertise and material for industry came from America. The phenomenon was termed as branch-plant economy. The immigrants started growing into ethnic communities and Canadian nation was divided on the basis of origin of immigrants, religion, languages and cultures.
As a whole ere have been more benefits of the policy than the negative impacts. To sum the discussion in the words of an article on Canadian history, Forging A Nation ( Forging A Nation) “ The policy combined a comprehensive system of tariffs with the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway to stimulate Canadian manufacturing industries, settle the west and inaugurate a system of east-west trade. By increasing tariffs on manufactured imports, in order to protect Canadas fledgling industrial sector, Macdonald was also responding to the protectionist policies of the United States and defying the free trade dogmas of Britain.”
Works Cited
“A National Policy?” Destinies Chapter 3. Print.25 September 2011

“Forging A Nation 1867 to 1896- Canada and The World A History”. September 2011. Web. 25 September 2011. Read More
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