Staples Theory

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Question: Focus on one particular Political Economy Theory studied during the Course and apply it to the economic history of Canada. Criticize and/or Support its explanatory power and suggest possible avenues to improve the theoretical framework?

To understand, the history of Canada economically, it is important to examine the reasons why the country’s economy formed into its present form. The Staples theory is the most appropriate theory to use when looking into the economic history of Canada due to our vast use of natural resources over time. The theory is very relative and easy to analyze when it comes to the Canadian economy, because of the fact that it can still be used today as an explanatory tool for the Canadian economy. The Theory does have a few flaws that will be outlined and explained. There are suggestions in order to change the theoretical framework of Staples theory from these criticisms. To help understand the strengths and weaknesses it is important to look at the views of both early theorists Harold Innis and W.A. Mackintosh The purpose of this paper is too to take Staples Theory and its explanatory power and apply it to the economic history of Canada.

The economic history of Canada is based on the Staples theory and the use of natural resources over time. Staples theory basically outlines how a country

Staples Theory Pg.3
uses a natural resource which they center their economy around. In Canada the progression from resource to resource went from: fish, furs, lumber, minerals, wheat, to oil (Migone, 2008). The staples are exported out of the country into international markets where the value of the material is high. The exports were used to pay wages and import other goods into Canada (Migone, 2008). The first communities in Canada revolved around cod fishing, with this being the main source of food and export back to Europe in the early 1600’s (Easterbrook et al, 1988). The small communities were established at first, as places where the fish would dry out before being exported, with the communities eventually reaching several thousand people. The fish supply eventually became depleted due to the over fishing at the time. Shortly after the fisheries began to cease in production, a positive shift in demand for furs in Europe occurred (Hayter et al). The furs became much more fashionable in Europe at the time, and Canada was home to many animals that the Europeans had not even seen yet. This caused a dominant staple shift; the country went from primarily fisheries to basing its exports on furs. Subsequently, the fur trade did not encourage a lot of settlement, as most of the workers were transient, trading with first nations. The first nation’s peoples controlled a lot of the fur trade, as they were the driving force behind retrieving the furs (Innis, 1935). With the increase in the fur trade, the Hudson’s bay company was developed, which created many trading posts and forts across Canada. As with everything, eventually the novelty of furs wore off in Europe, and the animals themselves became more scarce and harder to Staples Theory Pg.4

gather. This caused a new dominant staple to emerge in Canada in the early 19th century. This was lumber, it emerged because the British had exhausted most of their timber supplies with the creation of their royal navy (Innis, 1935). This forced Britain to find a source of lumber elsewhere, and Canada was the seeming fit. Small groups of men were gathered up and set up in camps around the country to cut down trees, and send the timber to Quebec City, where it was then exported to Europe via the St. Lawrence (Hayter et al, 2001). The importing into Canada was down during this time; however Immigration rates went through the roof. Timber ships were selling places on their ships for their return voyage to Canada for extremely cheap, giving people a chance to start a new life. For example, in the mid 19th century there were over 15,000 Irish...
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