Join the USA, I think not
Steve Den Beste, as always, writes a thoughtful piece on Canada's prospects. He writes in response to Mike who suggests,
The Confederation of Canada is dying. Most of our Prime Ministers have hailed from eastern Canada (provinces of Ontario and Quebec) and the vast majority have been lawyers (something's wrong with that picture).
link et seq uss clueless
Mike goes on to predict,
It is this that I foresee happening. The bureaucrats of each future Quebec provincial governments will continue to lobby the federal government for more and more money and favoritism. If this doesn't happen, some future Quebec premier will threaten to hold another public referendum on separating the province from Canada, again (so far this has happened once every decade, starting with the FLQ Crisis in 1970). One or more future western provincial premiers (with the support of the public) will become so fed up with the constant demands and bickering of the Quebec government, that a formal request by that future western provincial premier will in all, most likely be forwarded to the USA for annexation. Why? In Canada, it is not against the law. Once that happens, the other provinces will follow. The big winner in all this, The United States of America. The loser, Canada-a nation no more. Quebec will finally get what it wanted all along. A single, distinct society in a sea of red, white and blue stretching from the Arctic Ocean all the way to the Caribbean Sea.
Den Beste responds by pointing out that a province knocking on America's door would, at best, be granted "territorial" status for at least several decades before statehood and full political representation are an option. He suspects, rightly, in my view, that our own pride would not allow that.
So I think that formation of an independent confederation among the western provinces would be more likely. I think that if Canada ultimately succumbs to its internal paradox and lack of cohesiveness, what we'd see would be more like the breakup of Czechoslovakia.
Being from beyond the mountains, from British Columbia, characterized by Evan Kirchoff rather nicely:
I'm not sure any of us felt much in common with B.C.; like Middle Americans discussing California, we generally dismissed it as that place on the coast with the crazy politics (crazy-left or crazy-right, take your pick).
I have a different take entirely.
First, joining the US is not on the table. I happen to love Americans (enough that when the dolts in Ottawa were whinging about Iraq I set up www.canadianfriendsofamerica.net
) but I have no interest in becoming one. Nor would I want to have British Columbia join up with Alberta, Saskachewan and Manitoba. Nope, if Canada splits up British Columbia would finally get a chance to see if we could make it as an independent nation.
For the last century there has been a cult surrounding vast geographical and political structures. The USSR was one delightful example, another is the European's dotty idea of a United States of Europe. (After all, what could be better than a European wide edict setting height limits for swings.) In fact, as Jane Jacobs pointed out in her vital book, The Question of Separation
, nations need not be large to be successful. And, as Singapore, Hong Kong and Switzerland all illustrate: small, coherent nation states may well be the wave of the future.
There is no particular reason to believe that British Columbia, blessed with resources and lots of bright people, could not do very well on her own. Leaving Confederation she would receive an immediate dividend simply because she would no longer be paying more to the Central Government than she received in benefits. (Not as big as Alberta's, but attractive.) As the overall Canadian national Debt is declining she would likely have a relatively small portion of the Canadian National Debt to bear - especially if she were clever in the separation negotiations and fought for net rather than gross numbers.)
Most importantly, British Columbia, for all of her weird politics, has a degree of regional identity which is not dependent on negative definition. Our position as a great port city, our vast and variegated interior, our weirdly efficient multi cultural environment and our attraction to international tourists have all made us more than a little cocky. If we get the Winter Olympic Games in 2010 I suspect we will be unbearable.
At the moment we are barely part of Canada - occasionally a central Canadian politician pops in for a speech. We send politicians to Ottawa where they immediately find that to get along they have to pretend to represent a riding in Toronto. (Which allows us to forget them as fast as they forget us.) For those of us living in Vancouver Spring begins two full months earlier than it does in the rest of the country. And we barely notice winter. Our regional identity is not about cold, or anti-Americanism; rather it is about living well, working intensely rather than hard (and there is a difference) and generally living and let live.
As a nation we would probably do pretty well at things like scientific research, computer game development, movies and tourism along with our more traditional businesses.
We would also have the opportunity to experiment with social and economic models which might offer a huge competitive advantage in the global economy. British Columbia's politics look loonier than they are. The fact is that we have a fair number of really innovative politicians who are more than a little out of sync with the prevailing left liberal, "gently, gently"Central Canadian pre-occupations. I suspect that an independent British Columbia would not have a Ministry of Indian Affairs and I suspect that our Immigration policy would be a little tougher - yes, we'd deport the illegal Hondurans who run the downtown crack trade (one arrest and out you go.)
What would be more interesting would be creating free ports in Vancouver and Prince Rupert, offering really serious tax incentives for innovative industry and creating a mixed publicly and privately funded medical care system. Given that the pots laws are barely enforced now in British Columbia it seems reasonable to assume that they would be struck off entirely if we separated. Stoner tourism could be as significant as grow ops are today.
It might also be interesting to see how effectively BC as a nation could reduce and eventually eliminate its debt. At the same time it would make great sense to seek to remain inside NAFTA and to see what other trade agreements we could negotiate.
A small nation has to live by her wits. But she has the advantage of social cohesion and a very quick response time.
British Columbia has no great desire to leave Canada; but if Canada were to fracture BC would likely set out on her own. A great friend of America, a cousin of Alberta and the plains provinces; but her own country.