Harold Innis’s foundational text The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History introduced the concept that ‘the trade in staples … has been responsible for various peculiar tendencies in Canadian development’ (1956, 401). Innis held that Canada’s economic development, its financial institutions and its major corporations are all products of its export markets in staple commodities. He also argued that Canada’s government institutions were shaped by their role in the development of staples industries. Innis surely never intended his thesis to relate to women’s empowerment, but my empirical research suggests that there is indeed a linkage, and that one of Canada’s ‘peculiar tendencies’ has been its inability to get greater numbers of women elected to public office outside the big cities. As we shall see, a detailed analysis of how this linkage works will ultimately lead to conceptual insights that apply beyond rural Canada.