Abject Futures: The (re)Negotiation of NAFTA and the Canadian Power Elite

Dean Ray


This paper draws upon the critical political economy tradition in Canada to examine the renegotiation of NAFTA and the class interests at work in the final agreement. It draws on a range of ethnographic and media sources in its argumentation. The paper provides a comprehensive review of Canadian Political Economy before it turns to the negotiation and the actions of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. It is argued that Freeland was adept at appearance management and manipulating media presentations of herself to make the negotiation seem more laboured then it was. In the end, the agreement protected Canada's crown jewel, the commercial banking sector, the source of wealth for Canada's Power Elite. This all happened without much discussion of its uniqueness or its important to wealth and power in Canada. Given this, what then are we to do to resist? The final section builds a case for imaging abject futures as a mode of resistance to what might be termed Canada's Power Elite.


Psychoanalysis, Abject, Social Theory, Power Elite, NAFTA, Trudeau, Future

Full Text:



Alexander, Doug. 2018. “Scotiabank Caribbean Retreat Marks Shift After 129-Year Presence.” Bloomberg Markets November 27 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-27/scotiabank-caribbean-retreat-marks-shift-after-129-year-presence.

Berman, Marshall. [1983] 1988. 3rd ed. All that is solid melts into air: The experience of modernity. Verso: London, UK.

Behiels, Michael and Reginal C. Stuart. 2010. Transnationalism: Canada-United States history into the twenty-first century. McGill-Queen's Press: Montreal, Canada.

Blackstone. N.D. “Board and Committees.” Accessed March 1 2019. https://ir.blackstone.com/investors/corporate-governance/default.aspx

Blanchfield, Mike. 2019. “Mexico threw Canada ‘under the bus,’ Liberal MP tells Mexican minister.” The National Observer February 28 2019. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/02/28/news/mexico-threw-canada-under-bus-liberal-mp-tells-mexican-minister

Blanchfield, Mike. 2018. “Trudeau affirms importance of NAFTA amid Rumbling of U.S.-Mexico Deal.” The National Observer July 21 2018. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2018/07/21/news/trudeau-affirms-importance-nafta-amid-rumbling-us-mexico-deal

Bradford, Neil and Glen Williams. 1989. “What went wrong? Explaining Canadian Industrialization.” Pp. 54-76 in New Canadian Political Economy edited by W Clement and G Williams. McGill-Queen’s Press: Montreal, Canada.

Cairns, Alan C. 1994. “An election to be remembered: Canada 1993.” Canadian Public Policy (1994): 219-234.

Carmichael, Kevin. 2018. “When weighing a new NAFTA deal’s potential legacy, think technology, not autos.” Financial Post August 31 2018. https://business.financialpost.com/news/economy/when-weighing-a-new-nafta-deals-potential-legacy-think-technology-not-autos

Caroll, William K. 1982. “The Canadian corporate elite: financier or finance capitalists?” Studies in Political Economy 8(1): 89-114.

Carter, Angela. 2018. “Policy pathways to carbon entrenchment: responses to the climate crisis in Canada’s petro-provinces.” Studies in Political Economy 99(2): 151-174.

Center for Strategic & International Studies. 2017. “U.S. Trade Policy Priorities: Robert Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative.” September 18 2017. https://www.csis.org/analysis/us-trade-policy-priorities-robert-lighthizer-united-states-trade-representative

Chorney, Harold, Wallace Clement, Leo Panitch, Paul Phillips. 1977). “The state and political economy.” Theory 1(3): 71-88.

Clarke, Paul. 2013. “Summerhill LCBO sells world’s most expensive bottle of wine for $168,000.” Toronto Star October 17 2013. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/10/17/summerhill_lcbo_sells_most_expensive_bottle_of_wine_for_168000.html

Clement, Wallace. 1989. “Debates and Directions: A Political Economy of Resources.” Pp. 36-53 in New Canadian Political Economy edited by W Clement and G Williams. McGill-Queen’s Press: Montreal, Canada.

Clement, Wallace and Glen Williams. 1989. “Introduction.” Pp. 3-15 in New Canadian Political Economy edited by W Clement and G Williams. McGill-Queen’s Press: Montreal, Canada.

Cox, Robert W. “Global Perestroika.” Socialist Register 28: 28-43.

Congressional Research Service. 2019. “Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): Frequently Asked Questions.” Committee Report February 2019. Accessed March 1 2019. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43491.pdf

Department of Finance. 2016 “Supporting a Strong and Growing Economy: Positioning Canada’s Financial Sector for the Future.” Consultation Document August 26 2016. Accessed March 1 2019. https://www.fin.gc.ca/activty/consult/ssge-sefc-eng.pdf

Derworiz, Collette. 2017. “Canadian collateral will be “very low” in new U.S. trade talks, says Trump advisor. The National Observer January 23 2017. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/01/23/news/canadian-collateral-will-be-very-low-new-us-trade-talks-says-trump-advisor

Fischer, M. 2009. Anthropological Futures. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UniversityPress.

Freeland, Chrystia. 2018. “Chrystia Freeland says the new trade deal prevented possible widespread economic disruption.” The National Observer October 19 2018. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2018/10/19/opinion/chrystia-freeland-says-new-trade-deal-prevented-possible-widespread-economic

Gunder-Frank, Andre. 1966. “The Development of Under Development.” Monthly Review 18(4): 17-31.

Gordon, Todd and Jeffery R. Webber. 2014. “Canadian geopolitics in post-coup Honduras.” Critical Sociology 40(4): 601-620

Harvey, David. 1990. The condition of postmodernity: An enquiry into the conditions of cultural change.” Wiley-Blackwell: Hoboken, NJ.

Harvey, David. 2012. Rebel Cities: From the right to the city to the urban revolution. Verso: London.

Helwege, Ann. 2015. “Challenges with resolving mining conflicts in Latin America.” The Extractive Industries and Society 2(1): 73-84.

Ratnovski, Lev and Rocco Huang. 2009. “Why Are Canadian Banks More Resilient?” IMF Working Papers. https://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?

Kassam, Ashifa. 2018. “How criminals used Canada’s Casinos to launder millions.” The Guardian October 15 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/15/canada-money-laundering-casino-vancouver-model

Kellogg, Paul. 2015. Escape from the staple trap: Canadian political economy after left nationalism. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, Canada.

Keohane, Robert O. and Josph S. Nye. 1977. Power and Interdependence. Pearson: London, UK.

Laxer, Gordon. 1986. “Class, nationality and the roots of the branch plant economy.” Studies in Political Economy 21(1): 7-56.

Laxer, James and Robert Laxer. 1977. The Liberal Idea of Canada: Pierre Trudeau and the Question of Canada’s Survival. James Lorimer & Company: Toronto.

Layton, Jack. 1976. “Nationalism and the Canadian Bourgeoisie: Contradictions of Dependence.” Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism 3(2): 146-171

Lee, Marc. 2018. “Extracted carbon and Canada’s international trade in fossil fuels.” Studies in Political Economy 98(2): 114-129.

Levitz, Stephanie. 2017. “Justin Trudeau hammered over Bombardier bailout in House of Commons.” GlobalNews April 3 2017. https://globalnews.ca/news/3354398/bombardier-trudeau-hammered/

Maswood, Javed. 2000. International political economy and globalization. World Scientific Publishing: Singapore.

Mcbride, Stephen. 2001. Paradigm Shift: Globalization and the Canadian State. Fernwood: Blackwood, Nova Scotia, Canada.

McCarten, James. 2018. “How Trump’s Freeland broadside factored into getting a trade deal done.” The National Observer October 2 2018. https://www.nationalobserver.com/search?keywords=unhappy+with+freeland+trump&undefined=undefined

McClearn, Matthew. 2019. “Federal government insured Suncor’s Middle East Msadventures.” The Globe and Mail February 7 2018. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-federal-government-insured-suncors-middle-east-misadventures/

McGregor, Janyce. 2016. “$350M Dairy programs to help farmers, processors compete under Canada-EU trade deal.” CBCNews November 10 2016. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/dairy-compensation-announcement-ceta-thursday-1.3845003

McGregor, Janyce. 2018. “Burried behind the cows and cars: key changes in NAFTA 2.0.” CBCNews October 17 2018. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/nafta-usmca-key-changes-1.4845239

McLaughlin, Neil. 2005. "Canada’s impossible science: Historical and institutional origins of the coming crisis in Anglo-Canadian Sociology.” Canadian Journal of Sociology 30(1): 1-40.

McSheffrey, Elizabeth. 2017. “Canada swears in first female foreign affairs minister in 24 years.” The National Observer. January 10 2018. https://www.nationalobserver.com/search?keywords=freeland+minister+of+global+affairs&undefined=undefined

Meyer, Carl and Fatima Syed. 2019. “Wilson-Raybould breaks silence with explosive testimony about Trudeau PMO.” The National Observer February 27 2019. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/02/27/news/we-need-get-re-elected-pmo-told-wilson-raybould-about-snc-lavalin-prosecution

Mudede, Charles. 2018. “‘Recreational’ Vehicles are Seattle’s Growing Floating Slum.” The Stranger Jun 8 2018. https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2018/06/08/27288626/recreational-vehicles-are-seattles-growing-floating-slum

Mills, C Wright. 1956. The Power Elite. Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.

Moldovan, Alex. 2017. “Uneven and combined development and sub-imperialism: the internationalization of Brazilian capital.” Globalizations 15(3): 314-328.

National Information Centre. 2018. “Holding Companies with Assets Greater than $10 Billion.” Accessed March 1 2019. https://www.ffiec.gov/nicpubweb/nicweb/HCSGreaterThan10B.aspx

Nolin, Catherine and Jacqui Stephens. 2011. “'We have to protect the investors’: Development and Canadian Mining Companies in Guatemala.” Journal of Rural and Community Development 5(3): 37-70.

O’Brien, Robert. 1995. “North American integration and international relations theory.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 28(4): 693-724.

Panetta, Alexander. 2017a. “Mulroney on his role helping Trudea, despite rivalry with dad: ’That was then’.” The National Observer April 5, 2017 https://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/04/05/news/mulroney-his-role-helping-trudeau-despite-rivalry-dad-was-then

Panetta, Alexander. 2017b. “No more Mr. Nice Trump: President fires warning to Canada.” The National Observer April 20 2017. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/04/20/news/no-more-mr-nice-trump-president-fires-warning-canada

Panitch, Leo. 1981. “Dependency and class in Canadian political economy.” Studies in Political Economy 6(1): 7-33.

Prebisch, Rául. 1959. “Commercial policy in the underdeveloped countries.” The American Economy Review 49(2): 251-273.

Pineault, Éric. 2018. “The capitalist pressure to extract: the ecological and political economy of extreme oil in Canada.” Studies in Political Economy 99(2): 111-113.

Pratt, Larry. 1982. “Energy: The Roots of National Policy.” Studies in Political Economy 7(1): 27-59.

Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2005. Friction: an ethnography of global connection. Princeton University Press: Princeton New Jersey.

Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins. Princeton University Press: Princeton New Jersey,

Re$earch Infosource. 2018. “Canada’s Top 50 Research University 2018.” Accessed March 1 2019. https://researchinfosource.com/top-50-research-universities/2018/top-research-universities-by-tier

Rogers, Dallas and Sin Yee Koh. 2017. “The globalization of real estate: the politics and practice of foreign real estate investment.” International Journal of Housing Policy 17(1): 1-14.

Simmel, Georg. 1950. “The Stranger.” Pp. 402-408 in The Sociology of Georg Simmel Translated and Edited by K. Wolff. Free Press: New York.

Shieh, Leslie and Jessica Chen. 2018. “Chinatown, not Coffeetown: Authenticity and Placemaking in Vancouver’s Chinatown.” Ch. 1 in Planning AuthentiCITIES Edited by Laura Tate and Brettany Shannon. Routledge: New York.

Smith, Marie-Danielle. 2016. “'We Can’t stop at last mile’: Still home for Canada=EU trade deal as last-minute talks announced.” Financial Post October 21 2018. https://business.financialpost.com/news/economy/canada-trade-minister-chrystia-freeland-walks-out-of-talks-on-eu-free-trade-deal

Strange, Susan. 1986. Casino Capitalism. Manchester University Press: Manchester.

Uechi, Jenny. 2017. “Vancouverites urge TD Bank to divest from Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.” The National Observer December 18 2018. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/12/18/news/vancouverites-urge-td-bank-divest-kinder-morgans-trans-mountain-pipeline-expansion

Watkins, Mel. 1989. “The Political Economy of Growth.” Pp. 16-35 in New Canadian Political Economy edited by W Clement and G Williams. McGill-Queen’s Press: Montreal, Canada.

Watkins, Mel. 1988. “The US-Canada free trade agreement.” Monthly Review 40(4): 34-43.

Williams, Glen. “On determining Canada’s location within the international political economy.” Studies in Political Economy 25(1): 107-140.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.32855/fcapital.201901.005


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2019 Dean Ray

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.