The dawn of the Canada-U.S. free-trade era
'After all the rancour and bitter debate,' free trade came into effect on Jan. 1, 1989
"After all the rancour and bitter debate, it's just a matter of hours now until free trade comes into force," the CBC's Knowlton Nash told viewers tuning in to watch the last newscast of 1988.
The push for free trade had begun during then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's first term in power — and it had remained a major ballot-box issue when he and the Progressive Conservatives won a second majority government in November of 1988.
The deal had been announced in 1987 and subsequently signed by Mulroney in January of 1988. But the Free Trade Agreement didn't come into effect until Jan. 1, 1989.
The CBC's David Halton reported that U.S. President Ronald Reagan had called Mulroney on the last day of the year, to congratulate him for getting the free-trade bill passed through the Canadian Senate — just one day earlier.