The three most important lessons about the economy from 2016

Pipelines took central stage at home, while protectionism came back into play abroad, with the election of Donald Trump heralding a new phase for free trade

Trudeau isn’t breaking the economy

“Unicorns and rainbows,” is how then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper dubbed the economic policy of Justin Trudeau during the last days of the 2015 federal election. One year into the Trudeau government, the fairy tale has yet to materialize, but the economy hasn’t turned into a horror story, either. Sure, Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau angered fiscal conservatives with a $30-billion-odd budget deficit. And environmental groups didn’t like the recent approval of two major pipeline projects. But ideological gripes aside, all indicators suggest the economy is trundling along just fine under Trudeau, making a solid case that it’s always best to start with low expectations.

Protectionism is back

In June, citizens of the U.K. voted to extract themselves from the European Union, a move that spawned the portmanteau “Brexit.” They did so despite warnings like the one from London’s non-partisan National Institute of Economic and Social Research, which predicted that the British economy would be 3.2% smaller by 2030 as a result. Whatever their reasons—anti-immigrant jingoism, a desire for more control over their money and laws—Brexit’s effects are beginning to unfold, and they don’t look promising. The pound plunged, hitting a three-decade low against the dollar in October, with some investors predicting the two currencies could soon switch places on the price chart, especially if Europhile Scotland attempts to make its own exit from the U.K. Fears of recession linger, and few analysts expect a bright long-term forecast. Economics 101 textbooks may teach that people act rationally in their own self-interest, but that theory is looking a little shabby in the cold, hard light of Brexit.

Trump trumps everyone

We don’t think there’s much a forward-thinking executive ought to learn from Donald Trump, the person. But the president-elect’s shocking victory on Nov. 8, and the nasty, brutish and long campaign that preceded it, leave us with several clear takeaways. First, market research as we know it is terribly flawed and, arguably, broken, especially where polling is involved. Second, fear remains an incredibly powerful selling tool. Third, the so-called glass ceiling is harder to break than anyone expected, especially Hillary Clinton. And, finally, the cozy relationship Canada has counted on for decades with our largest trading partner is about to change. Bigly.