Some form of political union with the United States within the next quarter century is said to be inevitable. Canada might maintain some distinct identity with a power-sharing arrangement--much like Quebec within Canada or Scotland within the United Kingdom. Notes for a speech to the 72 annual Couchiching Couchiching Conference, Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs conference, Geneva Park, Ontario, August 7, 2003.
To begin, I have no idea what kind of North America Canadians want, and I doubt that most Canadians know, beyond the broadest generalities--Peace, Order, Good Government, Life, Liberty and Happiness--and the real thing and not just the pursuit.
But I do know what I think they are going to get. And that's union with the United States, in one form or another, and within the next quarter century--by which time I shall no longer be available to kick around if events prove me wrong.
One more cautionary note: this is obviously not the best time to make this case, but all things shall pass, even George W. Bush next year, with any luck.
I think political union is the future for several reasons.
It will be the logical outcome of a trend clear in history. Ever since the Europeans first arrived, North America has been moving toward unification in one political state. First, hundreds of native nations were collapsed into a score of colonies. Next, the colonies were gathered into three nation states.
Why should this trend continue ? Because it has been driven, principally, by the competition for resources, power and profits, and has been made possible by new technologies--firearms to overcome the aboriginals; railroads and telegraphs to link the colonies and create markets for industrialization, and now the electronic networks of post-industrialism.
The tide of technology is still flooding, and in a capitalist economy, when technology offers a way for capital to earn a higher return, business must seize the opportunity--or give way to competitors who do.
Continental unification is already far advanced, and not only in economic terms. Think of defence, entertainment, professional sports, media, of information and ideas.
But economic integration alone urges us toward political integration. In Canada, as in other Western democracies, the elected government both regulates the capitalist economic sector and redistributes the wealth it produces--making us social democracies, even the US.
No major party proposes to change the system--to full-blooded capitalism or outright socialism. So the only significant difference between mainstream parties, certainly in Canada, is how much to regulate and how much to redistribute. The voters make that choice, and hold the government they elect responsible for the economic and social outcomes.
The idea that two or three national states can regulate the same contintental economy is hardly practicable. There will have to be one regulator, one political authority, and if we want to play a part in that authority we shall have to seek some form of political power-sharing. The alternative would be to leave management of the economy to the United States.
A political union could take many forms, and it will depend largely on what the United States will eventually accept. It may be that it will take some calamity--another Great Depression, perhaps, or terrorist onslaughts requiring a drastic tightening of continental borders, or an environmental collapse--to move the United States to accept some modification of its perfect union. …