Harry Gordon Johnson was one of the post-WWII era’s preeminent economists, and–while not a Nobel prize winner–“was the people’s choice within the profession” according to 1981 Nobelist James Tobin. (Source: William Watson, Introduction to the Carleton Library Series Edition.)
Below are the thoughts of one of Canada’s most prolific economist on what Canadian nationalists of the 1950 and 60s miss in their criticism of America’s role in Canada’s economy. These words continuing relevance is a testament to Johnson’s enduring academic legacy.
With respect to the threat to Canadian independence, the nationalist usually points to the proportion of imports from the United States, and of American ownership of Canadian enterprises, as if these themselves were a proof of “domination” by the United States; in some ways, on the contrary, they represent Canadian exploitation of the United States. For example, the half-billion or so dollars of corporate income taxes that Canada collects from American direct investments here comes more or less directly at the expense of the United States Treasury; and the United States government has heavily subsidized Canadian resource development through depletion allowances. Aside altogether from that sort of question, neither imports of American goods nor imports of American capital acquire voting rights in Canada, so Canadian independence as embodied in the sovereignty of Parliament can hardly be threatened that way; and it is very hard to see why the economic dependence of the United States on Canada which is the other side of Canadian economic dependence on the United States–that is, the interdependence between the two–should make the American Government more rather than less anxious to put pressure on Canada.
From Problems of Canadian Nationalism, originally published in International Journal, Vol. XCI, No. 3, Summer 1961, pp. 238-50. Excerpt taken from The Canadian Quandary: Economic Problems and Policies, Harry G. Johnson, Carleton Library Series Edition, 2005.