Adam Zimmerman, who died on Oct. 19 at the age of 89, ran Noranda, one of the largest natural resource companies in Canada. Under his management it shifted its focus from rocks to trees, especially after it bought MacMillan Bloedel in 1981. At the time it was Canada’s largest corporate takeover.
He was the ultimate establishment man, with 41 corporate directorships ranging from TD Bank to Algoma Steel to Canada Packers; he was a member of seven clubs. But he was an establishment man with a twist. As an undergraduate, instead of studying commerce, he did his degree in philosophy; he was a strong Canadian nationalist and unlike most people in the business community, he was against free trade and disapproved of the Bank of Canada pushing the dollar higher in the early 1990s.
He was strong supporter of then-Liberal leader John Turner and his opposition to the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the main plank in his platform for the 1988 election, which Mr. Turner lost. “We would become an appendage of the American economy and the American economic system,” Mr. Zimmerman told the Toronto Star before the election. “It’s not popular for a businessman to say this.”
His major objection to the free trade agreement was that softwood lumber was not treated fairly in the deal. His ideas on free trade and the value of the Canadian dollar were in sharp contrast to the published views of the C.D. Howe Institute, the business-financed think tank, where Mr. Zimmerman was chairman in the early 1990s.
“During this period we were writing positive things about free trade and we agreed with the Bank of Canada reining in inflation. He was a Liberal-leaning guy in a political sense,” said Bill Robson, now president and chief executive officer of the C.D. Howe Institute, but then a junior economic researcher. Mr. Robson remembers getting a note on the subject from Mr. Zimmerman, which at first made him nervous.
“All he said was it would be better if we made the report more readable,” Mr. Robson said. “He certainly had reservations about free trade and monetary policy, but he never interfered in any way.”
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