This City Once Made Much of What Canada Bought. But No More.

But Mr. Corp nevertheless contrasted the promises of prosperity made in 1989, when Canada signed a trade deal with the United States that became Nafta, with the pending G.E. shutdown and Peterborough’s unemployment rate, which spiked at 9.6 percent last summer, Canada’s highest at the time.

His views about Nafta — for which the latest round of talks begins in Montreal on Tuesday — echo those of labor leaders in declining industrial communities in the United States.

“They said it was going to be great,” said Mr. Cope, who looks younger than his 57 years. “If this is great, then maybe nothing would be better.”

Photo

The river in Peterborough. The city has had to reinvent itself amid the closing of many plants.

Credit
Aaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

Peterborough isn’t an isolated example among industrial communities in Ontario. The Mowat Institute, a research organization focused on the province, calculates that between 2000 and 2011, Ontario as a whole lost about 300,000 manufacturing jobs. Those that remain are concentrated in food processing — Peterborough has both Quaker Oats and Minute Maid juice plants — and in production of cars and car parts, a sector that was never dominant in this city.

But Peterborough doesn’t fit the image of a down-at-the-heels Rust Belt town. It sits at the heart of a spectacular series of lakes that draw vacationers from urban centers like Toronto. A canal popular with recreational boaters winds through the city and raises boats 65 feet in a massive lift lock, an aquatic elevator that has become a local landmark. North of town, the campus of Trent University is widely considered one of Canada’s most important collections of mid-20th-century architecture.

Despite its industrial woes, Peterborough has been growing. Many of the newcomers are people at or near retirement age who have sold their houses…

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