The Beaver and the Elephant



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The Beaver and the Elephant
“Living next door to the United States,” said Prime Minister Trudeau, “is like sleeping in the same bed as an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt!” If the elephant rolls over in its sleep, the Canadian beaver must be ready to jump. Most of the time, the elephant and beaver get along very well. Once in a while, however, the elephant gets a little grumpy, or the beaver feels threatened. When this happens, these oddly matched neighbours sit down and talk about their problems.


In many ways, the comparison made by Truedeau was a good one. The United States is certainly a giant – one of the richest and most powerful nations in the world. Its population and economic production are 10 times that of Canada. The United States also greatly overshadows Canada as a military power.

Throughout the twentieth century, Canadians have been alarmed over the amount of control the American “elephant” has on our lives. In the 1970s, the issue caused particular concern. Canadians became acutely aware of how our economy, culture, and foreign policy could all be affected by the twitches and grunts of the elephant.


  1. Do you agree that the image of the beaver and the elephant is a good one to describe Canadian-American relations? Why or why not? Provide specific examples to support your answer.

  2. What other images would you suggest? Justify your choices.


Why Study American History?

The U.S. is one of the most pervasive and influential nations in the world today. As one of our largest trading partners and our neighbour to the south, our histories are uniquely intertwined with one another.


Examine the following evidence which demonstrates how much the U.S. influences Canada.
1Our relations with the United States




Canada-USA Economic Ties:

Canada has 30 million people, the USA has 300 million. Canada’s economy made $500 billion last year, the American economy made over $3 trillion. Canada has approximately 75,000 in our armed forces, the USA has over 500,000. Canada is the USA’s number one trading partner and vice-versa, however, almost 50% of Canada’s economy depends on trade with the U.S., less than 10% of the US economy depends on trade with Canada. Canada buys over $205 billion from American sources and sells over $250 billion to the United States. Major Canadian exports to the U.S. include: pulp, paper, timber, auto parts, communications equipment, natural gas and oil. These industries would be crippled if the U.S. cut off trade.


Many of Canada’s largest companies are actually branch plants of American businesses. This means that all major decisions for the company are made in the U.S., and the American parent company often puts the interests of its American business ahead of those for its Canadian branch.

Some examples:


ESSO - 82% American owned Sunoco - 66% American owned

Texaco - 79% GM - 100%

Ford - 94% Chrysler - 100%

IBM Canada- 100% Alcan - 40%

Sears Canada - 60% General Electric - 92%

Nortel - 41% Canadian Pacific - 50%


Local examples of large businesses that are branches of American companies are:

Black & Decker, Proctor & Gamble, DuPont Chemicals, Parke-Davis-Warner-Lambert. American companies have over $150 billion invested in Canadian branches. This is 75% of all foreign investment in Canada. In total American companies own over 20% of Canada’s manufacturing and resource industries. Conversely, Canadians have $125 billion invested in American companies.


Canada-USA Defense Issues:
Canada relies heavily on the U.S. military to defend us in case of a war with another super power. Canada has no defense against nuclear weapons. We have two major defense agreements with the U.S. - NATO and NORAD. The U.S. provides over 80% of the personnel and weapons for both alliance systems. Over 75% of all Canadian Armed Forces equipment is American made, including 100% of our war planes. In the last forty years, every time the U.S.A. has gotten into a conflict, American leaders have put heavy pressure on Canada to help out. Canada sent soldiers and warships to help in the Korean War in the 1950's. We did not send soldiers to Vietnam, but we did sell lots of war supplies to the U.S. When the U.S. became involved in the Gulf War in 1991 Canada agreed to send warships, aircraft, and troops to protect supply bases. Our planes and soldiers were not part of the major battles, however, unlike British and European soldiers.

Canada-USA Cultural Ties:
The U.S. also dominates Canadian culture. Cable and satellite TV allow us to watch all the American sports and entertainment we want. Almost all of our movies and videos come from the U.S., as well as much of our modern music. Consider these:
- How many U.S. TV. shows and TV. stars can you name? How many Canadian TV. shows and

stars can you name?

- How many U.S. movies and movie stars can you name? How many Canadian movies and

movie stars can you name?

- How many U.S. sports stars and teams can you name? How many Canadian sports stars can

you name?

- How many U.S. rock stars and groups can you name? How many Canadian rock stars and

groups can you name?

- How many American news-makers, leaders, celebrities can you name? How many Canadian

news-makes, leaders, celebrity’s can you name?

- How many U.S. magazines can you name? How many Canadian ones?
Roughly ten percent of the U.S. entertainment industry is actually Canadian.
Look at the NHL, as well. To a growing extent the NHL is controlled by American team owners. Canadian teams with small home markets can’t compete for players with big salaries, and the teams end up with a new American home. Quebec and Winnipeg are already gone, Edmonton and Calgary could be gone soon. Hamilton, Ontario has a great arena, and a lot of potential fans, but they won’t pay the huge entry fees that US cities can pay to get a team. Should our governments give these teams multi-million dollar subsidies to make sure that a substantial part of the NHL has Canadian ownership? Should “Canada’s game” be owned and controlled by Americans?
Canada - USA Issues:
Population: USA 300 million Canada 30 million
Military Power USA 1.5 million personnel Canada: 60,000 personnel

$277 billion spending $ 6.5 billion spending


Economy USA $5,000 billion economy Canada $500 billion economy



As Canadians, what are our options?
1. Join the USA
2. Stay independent politically but have even closer co-operation with the USA
3. Keep things as they are
4. Take steps away from the USA

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