December 7, 2005


Canada's dominoes could tip our way (SCOTT SCHAFFER, 12/07/05, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Canadian pollster Michael Adams believes that if a referendum were held in Quebec today, it would pass comfortably. While this would not necessarily mean outright independence for Quebec -- the more popular versions of sovereignty maintain some association with Canada -- any separation of its second-largest province could wreak havoc in the dominion and weaken the tenuous hold Ottawa has over the lightly populated, 5,000 mile-wide nation.

Americans take most things about Canada, including its existence, for granted. Most have viewed the Quebec sovereignty battle as little more than a curious ethnic-linguistic sideshow. In his 1998 book, "An Empire Wilderness," however, Robert Kaplan suggests that withdrawal of Quebec will result in other regions -- notably British Columbia and Alberta -- asserting independence from a distant imperial capital, and further disintegration of the Canadian federation as we know it. Kaplan further points out that without a stable and unified entity to its north, the United States could face unexpected stresses of its own. Regional ties in North America run north-south rather than east-west, as the map implies. Washington and Oregon are more closely linked socioeconomically with B.C. than with D.C., and a similar pattern is true across the continent. Kaplan foreshadows eventual weakening of both national governments' influence within their current borders, and the breakup of one may well hasten that process in the other. This future may be much closer than we suspect, and Quebec could be the catalyst.

What would a new North America based on regional interests look like? Some U.S. nationalists have assumed the United States inevitably will absorb Anglophone Canada, but Canadians have a long history of declining such integration. An intriguing alternate possibility is decentralization of the current nation-states, which could ultimately merge into a single confederacy with characteristics of the European Union and Canada: regional autonomy, a common currency, open trade relationships and a multilateral foreign policy.

Should such changes come to pass, future historians may note with irony how they were triggered by a little-noticed scandal that failed even to remove the offending party from power.

As Islamicism is defeated, China, Cuba, and North Korea fall apart and the Long War finally comes to an end, it may well provide a security comfort zone that allows the devolution from larger states to the smaller sort that couldn't defend themselves military very well but afford a preferable model for economic growth and social cohesion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 7, 2005 2:06 PM

1) I had a political science back in the 60's who was big on the breakup of Canada. I wonder what hwe would say now.

2) The military angle on the whole "small state" business is signifcant. Remember, massive retaliation trumps atomic weapons, and high-tech trumps everything else. The result is empire.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 7, 2005 2:31 PM

I've always thought that the Maritimes, cut off from the rest of Canada, would seek some sort of arrangement like the one Puerto Rico enjoys— Considered US citizens when in US, but no rep in Congress, no Federal taxes, their own international sports teams, subsidized by the rest of US, able to keep own cultural institutions (like language), etc. We should even consider offering a similar deal to a de-Castroed Cuba. I could see adding parts of a fractured Mexico , too.

The end result would be an Inner US and an Outer US. The question is, would that be a good thing?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 7, 2005 2:37 PM

Alberta's got the oil, what's Quebec got to keep them afloat? Martin was talking about nationalizing their oil for the good of the country.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 7, 2005 4:47 PM

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog comes to mind, "You're in North America, speak English!"

And the 1sters can open more casinos...............

Posted by: Sandy P at December 7, 2005 4:48 PM

A US breakup is unlikely for one big reason: the Civil War. That decided there is no legal basis for disunion. It would take a prolonged crisis to awaken feelings of separatism. The only possible exception is the existence of a "Spanish Quebec" in the US caused by multiculturalism and illegal immigration. Avoid that, and we have no problems.

The big issue Canada has with its western provinces is that they could never outvote Ontario. That would not be an issue in the US because of a) the Senate, and b) the large number of similar states.

The main issue the US has with Canada is security. If Canada breaks up, we just need to assert that the US will be solely responsible for hemispheric defense instead of trying to work with multiple statelets north of the 49th. In effect, Canada would become a protectorate.

I think that regardless of Canadian identity, if Canada breaks up the inevitable result would be incorporation into the Union. Any statelets have little chance of affecting US policy on their own. They would have a much better influence on policy by admission as a state.

It may take a while, but eventually a greater sense of "North American" as opposed to Canadian would be the result. Canada was a creation by the UK in the late 19th Century. Newfoundland only joined in 1949. Future generations will likely look upon the Canadian state as a noble, but doomed experiment.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at December 7, 2005 6:50 PM

"...what's Quebec got to keep them afloat?"

Ever been on St. Catherine Street? I'm not saying I approve, but flesh peddling has always been a moneymaker. They've always been the Amersterdam of the New World, all they need to do is legalize weed and smack (which they pretty much have done) and they'll have gone all the way.

Posted by: Bryan at December 7, 2005 6:52 PM

Too bad the invasion in the war of 1812 didn't suceed. Would have saved a lot of unecessary bloviation. Canadian independence is really an illusion.

Posted by: jdkelly at December 7, 2005 7:13 PM

So you say that Montreal aspires to be the Vancouver of the East? Or that they are twin cities, separated at birth?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 7, 2005 11:28 PM