Froma Harrop reviews the latest
hare-brained scheme geopolitical notion of Diane Francis:
What country do Americans overwhelmingly like the most? Canada.
What country do Canadians pretty much like the most? America.
What country has the natural resources America needs? Canada.
What country has the entrepreneurship, technology and defense capability Canada needs? America.
Has the time come to face the music and dance? Yes, says Diane Francis, editor-at-large at the National Post in Toronto. Her book Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America Should Become One Country is both provocative and persuasive.
“The genius of both societies is that they are very good at assimilating people from all over the world,” Francis told me. “So why can’t they do it themselves?”
Relatively small differences are why. Canadian intellectuals have long portrayed the United States as their violent, unruly twin. Many conservatives in this country, meanwhile, deride Canada as the socialistic land of single-payer medicine, gun control and other heavy regulation.
“I don’t buy the narrative of American exceptionalism or Canadian superiority,” says Francis, a dual citizen (born in Chicago). “Both have good points and bad points.”
Americans close to the border already think a lot like Canadians, she notes. Some northern states actually have more liberal laws and lower crime rates than Canada’s. “They are more Canadian than Canadians.”
We have a set of alliances that ensure continental security is underwritten by the world’s most powerful military. We have a free trade arrangement between the two countries that also includes Mexico. Our respective intelligence services co-operate (along with the UK, New Zealand, and Australia) at a very deep level — both for good (shared military surveillance, analysis, and security) and for ill (very significant individual privacy concerns).
Our economies are strongly inter-linked, but both are still subject to outside forces and inside stresses that affect each country differently.
In other words, aside from the minor convenience of not having to carry passports when moving from one country to the other (and the way the US is moving, that may no longer be true for Americans travelling domestically in a few years), we already have most of the benefits of a merger with none of the drawbacks: the American legal system is a terrifying beast to behold, US federal and state governments are far more intrusive and undemocratic in practice despite the legal framework of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and the US political system is if possible even more terrifying than their legal system.
Canada’s legal system could benefit from a few key reforms (getting rid of the human rights tribunals would be a good one, for example), but seem to work in a manner that is both faster and more visibly fair than their American counterparts. Our form of government looks (to American eyes) to be dictatorial, yet yields to democratic pressure from the voters most of the time (most recent example: Quebec). Our head of government is just a politician … and that’s all we expect of a Prime Minister. Our head of state doesn’t even live here, and we’re totally okay with that, too. Of course, if such a merger did take place, the head of state still wouldn’t live here…
A merger? I don’t think so.