The Spectre of Protectionism: How Not To Go About It

July 1 st 1983

The Ontario government recently ordered the Toronto Transit Commission to buy its subway cars and streetcars from provincially-owned Hawker Siddeley Canada Ltd., in Thunder Bay. Although it is difficult for anyone to argue against the protection of jobs when over 1.5 million Canadians are unemployed, we should not turn a blind eye to the danger inherent in this type of protectionist move. Any country resorting to protectionist measures had better brace itself for similar action on the part of other nations. The cumulative effect of such a course of action would be devastating to world trade, and, in turn, to every nation's economy. In a May 17, 1983 editorial, "No way to spur transit sales," the Toronto Star condemned the dangerous course undertaken by Transportation Minister James Snow—the Ontario cabinet minister who directed the TTC to depart from its usual tendering process. The Star concluded: "If Snow wants this province to have a world-class transit manufacturing industry, he has just provided an excellent example of how not to go about it."

Rumblings of similar protectionist action are heard repeatedly with respect to car imports, and an industry task force has advocated a local content rule for imported cars. Kiyohisa Mikanagi, the Japanese ambassador to Canada, responded by warning of possible "countermeasures" and darkly hinted at a "shrinking of bilateral trade." Mr. Mikanagi reminded Canadians that Oapan bought $4.6 billion worth of Canadian goods in 1982, compared to $3.6 billion worth of goods bought by Canada from Dapan. (Toronto Star, June 15, 1983)


Harry Antonides came to Canada in 1948, initially working as a farm hand and railway labourer. After over a decade working in a chemical plant in Sarnia, Ontario, Harry joined the newly forming Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) in 1962 as a field representative. By 1970 Harry became director of research and education. In 1974, he was a founding member of the Work Research Foundation (now Cardus) and publisher of their sole publication, Comment magazine. A prolific writer and dynamic speaker, Harry delivered lectures all over North America and published numerous articles, reviews, and essays. He is author of several books on Christianity, labour, and economics, including Multinationals and the Peacable Kingdom (1978) and Stones for Bread: The Social Gospel and its Contemporary Legacy (1985). Harry is retired and lives with his wife Janet in Willowdale, Ontario.