Canada's Three Solitudes

By Dunsky, Dan | The National Interest, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Canada's Three Solitudes


Dunsky, Dan, The National Interest


EVERY COUNTRY has its problematic national story: race in the United States, class in Britain, empire in Russia. Canada's problem is its perpetual identity crisis, a collective neurosis bred of being a confederation of English and French peoples--what the novelist Hugh MacLennan once called the country's "Two Solitudes"--and the small neighbor to one of history's few great nations. Canadians alternately worry about too much American attention--of being overwhelmed by the United States--and, as suggested by the title of a recent book, Invisible and Inaudible in Washington (2000), of being ignored by the United States. (It didn't help that the New Republic once judged the most boring headline ever to be "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.")

These twin pressures have always existed as an immutable fact for Canadians and likely always will. But American policymakers need to be far more interested in how Canadians deal with these questions, since their answers will largely determine whether Canada is likely to remain a trusted ally in the unpredictable post-9/11 world or become a dangerously exposed northern flank.

The United States cannot "wall itself off" from Canada. Traffic across the 5,061-kilometer U.S.-Canadian border, which Ronald Reagan once hailed as "a meeting place between great and true friends", cements the most comprehensive bilateral trading relationship in history. A truck crosses the U.S.-Canadian border every 2.5 seconds. Approximately $1.3 billion in two-way trade crosses the border every day--or $500 billion a year. More than 200 million two-way border crossings occur yearly, making the shared border the busiest international boundary in the world.

Nearly 25 percent of American exports go north to Canada. More significantly, Canada is now America's largest source of crude oil and petroleum products. This may grow more important, both because of continuing instability in the Persian Gulf and because, according to the Oil and Gas Journal, Canada now contains, at 180 billion barrels, the world's second-largest proven reserves of oil. "Anyone watching what is happening up north will recognize that, before long, Canada will inevitably overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's oil giant", said Utah Senator Orrin Hatch recently. While chastising Canada for "irresponsible" talk of favoring China with increased oil exports as payback for the ongoing U.S.-Canadian softwood lumber dispute, Hatch nevertheless said that "we in this country don't want to be on Canada's shit list, ever."

Despite the senator's fears, however, Canada has much more to worry about than the United States. Quite simply, the border is Canada's economic lifeline. Owing to the absence of a large domestic market and an abundance of natural resources, Canada must export to survive. And today the United States consumes fully 85 percent of Canada's exports, accounting for an astounding 40 percent of the country's total GDP. In addition, many high-value Canadian products and services--for example, Canada's contribution to the U.S. space program--are designed to piggyback on existing American initiatives.

The signing of the U.S.-Canadian free trade agreement in 1988 (and NAFTA in 1993) accelerated the vertical integration of Canada's economy with that of the United States. Some 50 percent of Canadian foreign direct investment (FDI) is now aimed at the United States, while more than 60 percent of inbound FDI is American. According to Export Development Canada, a federal crown corporation, "the import content used to make Canadian exports has been growing steadily and now averages around 35 percent, and in many manufacturing industries [exceeds] 50 percent." This integration has, in turn, increased Canadian productivity. In short, it is no exaggeration to say that Canada's primary national interest is located south of the border.

The shock on Canadian economic activity of the effective closure of the border after 9/11 demonstrated the country's vulnerabilities and highlighted Canada's interest in safeguarding its southern frontier.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Canada's Three Solitudes
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?