Skip to comments.Union -- but what kind? (Canada The 51st State?)
Posted on 10/14/2003 6:05:19 AM PDT by Loyalist
Here are two propositions that will startle most Canadians: Canada's destiny lies in political union with the United States. And far from being the end of the Canadian identity, such a union could begin a golden age in which our values and ideas spread around the globe. Union we believe to be inevitable, within 25 years. The critical question will be what form the union takes. That depends on Canadians' realism when facing our future.
Why inevitable? Borders are constantly evolving, often as states merge. Two examples: Led by Prussia, Germany became a unified nation state only in the late 1800s and is now merging into a European superstate. Britain is the union of two formerly sovereign kingdoms, England and Scotland (plus Wales and Northern Ireland). If the means to that union were sometimes bloody, the ends for the Scots were prosperity and global influence, while at home they retained their national identity -- an example for Canadians to consider.
When Europeans settled in North America, there were hundreds of native nation-states. The Europeans forced them into larger colonies, which coalesced into today's three nation states. Now, Canada and the U.S. are moving toward union, and Mexico may join later.
What drives unification? Since the industrial revolution, the goal in every democracy has been economic growth. New technologies drive growth, intensifying the struggle for markets and resources and making larger states logical. Railways and telegraphs in the 19th century made Canada and the U.S. possible. Now, businesses are structured on a continental, even global, basis for greater efficiency.
Part of this process has been the integration of the Canadian and U.S. economies. In Canada, government after government has tried to slow the process, without success. Admitting that its measures failed to reduce our dependence on the U.S. market, Pierre Trudeau's government reversed direction and proposed continental free trade in some sectors. The U.S. said no. Prime minister Brian Mulroney opted for full free trade only after it was recommended by a Trudeau-appointed royal commission.
Since then, the free-trade agreement and NAFTA have accelerated continental integration. The value of cross-border trade now far exceeds interprovincial trade; our two economies are increasingly a single entity. A continental common market agreement will be the next logical step. It will be resisted, but less strongly than before, because many sectors of Canadian society are already effectively continental. Think of professional sports, mass entertainment and continental defence.
When there is effectively one continental economy, how can there be two regulators with different goals? Most Canadians think of political union in terms of hauling down the Maple Leaf flag, and losing Medicare. It could happen that way -- if we simply drift until union is forced upon us by circumstances. But other forms of union may be possible.
If Canada gradually breaks up, as it almost did in 1995, individual provinces may seek a Puerto Rico-style association with the U.S. It's not hard to imagine the U.S. accepting Alberta and its oil and gas reserves, or Quebec with its hydro power. More desirable would be a country-to-country deal in which Canada becomes a partner in a United States of North American, electing representatives in Washington, enjoying joint citizenship and an open border, yet retaining control of social and cultural policy. Too good to be true?
Here, the example of British union is instructive. With the Treaty of Union in 1707, the Scots ceased their struggle for political independence. They retained control of their church and banks, a superior system of education and, to some extent, laws. After a tough transition, union's benefits became increasingly evident, especially after the middle of the 18th century, when there was an astonishing burst of progress. Scotland entered the 18th century as one of Europe's poorest independent countries and ended it as one of the richest and most innovative.
It was luck that the union occurred just when an expanding British Empire provided opportunities for enterprise. But much of the credit rested with the pragmatic Scots, who took advantage of new opportunities without losing an awareness of their national identity.
Union provided Scots with two ways of defining their national allegiance, Scottish or British. Many readily accepted the duality, mixing national definitions in ways that foreshadow 21st-century values. Could Canadians travel the same route?
Pollster Michael Adams, in his book Fire and Ice, shows how, despite economic integration, Canadian and American cultural values have diverged over the past decade. Accelerated integration need not cause the disappearance of Canadians' defining characteristics; indeed, the opposite could happen, with "postmodern" Canadian values exerting a powerful impact throughout the U.S. "empire," just as Scottish values did after union.
Neither Canada nor the U.S. is now interested in union, and probably won't be until some critical development occurs to force new thinking. The fragmentation of Confederation remains a possibility, forcing provinces to consider whether their best interests would lie with the U.S., or in a shaky Canada. More terrorist attacks could cause Washington to so tighten border security that Canada would have to decide whether it wished to be inside or outside Fortress America. If terrorists attacked the U.S. from Canada, the U.S. might demand the right to control security at Canada's borders (remember, for half a century the U.S. has been in charge of our air defence).
Within 20 years, China is forecast to have an economy rivalling that of the U.S., and no doubt armed forces to match. For a worried U.S., Canada would appear a valuable reinforcement, and Canada would be looking to the U.S. for defence. Or a continent-wide environmental crisis -- perhaps a water shortage in the U.S. -- would require a continental response.
Suppose there is no crisis -- union may still emerge from a thousand non-critical events, appearing not at all radical, but simply commonsensical. Should we wait upon events, or take charge and move toward the sort of North American union that best suits our needs?
Mark Lovewell, an economist, is co-publisher of the Literary Review of Canada. Anthony Westell, former Ottawa bureau chief of The Globe and Mail, is author of the Couchiching Conference paper Continentalism: What's in it for us.
You bet. Let's trade most of New England for Alberta, BC, the Yukon, and NWT. As an extra added bonus we could throw in New York and start them off with their very own Queen.
Sounds like a deal to me.
Oh, I don't know.
I think of the Maritimes as being sort of like West Virginia.
Only better educated, but with a lower standard of living.
And far from being the end of the Canadian identity, such a union could begin a golden age in which our values and ideas spread around the globe.
I'm not sure that we Americans are willing to compromise on our beliefs about our God-given rights in order to accomodate the spread of Canadian-style state socialism.
Ontario as a whole is equally balanced between conservatives and liberals. If you look at the Ontario equivalent of electoral maps, you will see that the Toronto area is predominantly Liberal and the rural areas are predominantly Conservative.
Agreed. Then the Anglophone Canadians would no longer be forced to be bilingual in that beastly Quebecois dialect of French. They would have to learn Spanish instead.
Vancouver certainly is, but I wouldn't be so sure of the rest of the Province. Alberta is by far the most conservative. The Yukon and NWT would be similar to Alaska in that they don't like stuff like gun control or oil drilling bans coming from somewhere far away.
Except for NWT I've been through all these areas (but not for quite some time) but that's been my impression.
At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress passed a law offering admission to the Union to any Canadian Province that chose to join. The purpose, of course, was to pry them away from British hands, and keep them from being an untouched base of operations against the Americans. THAT LAW IS STILL ON THE BOOKS.
Therefore, all that is necessary for any Province to become a state is for them to request that with a proposed constitution for their new State, and for Congress to give its approval to that constitution. Well, there IS the little problem of what the other Provinces and the Government of Canada might have to say about that. LOL.
And, as the second poster pointed out, there are certain Canadian Privinces that the United States wouldn't want on a bet. But that question is down the road.
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