America and Canada: One Helluva Country

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Some things are meant to be united as one, like milk and cookies, or cream pie and the face of a sad clown, or—Canada and the United States? Les Horswill concludes as much in the Canadian culture quarterly Maisonneuve (Winter 2009), arguing that the “Canada-U.S. border blinkers our thinking, even when we believe we’re thinking big.” He proposes that Canada form a greater North American federation, with Washington, D.C., as the capital, Canadians eligible to run for office (including president), and congressional representation extended northward.

The border between the two countries, Horswill argues, simply sets artificial limits. “Which is more ambitious,” he asks, “a Canada-wide electricity grid, or one that seamlessly integrates adjoining regions of the entire continent?” Additionally, the Toronto-based author says, the national boundaries separate one natural environment into two artificially distinct ones. How can we legislate well on issues like climate change in North America when there is no such thing as broad-based North American legislation?

The union of Canada with the United States is not without historical precedent, Maisonneuve argues. Texas was a sovereign republic when it was annexed to the United States in 1845, and Newfoundland became a Canadian province in 1949; a huge northern swathe of real estate called Alaska and a string of Pacific islands named Hawaii were granted statehood in 1959. Advocates for the creation of an independent Cascadia envision combining the British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon state economies.

Horswill envisions federation as an economic boon to Canada, since the “strength of the American economy and the global trading system it supports, not the Loonie, have been central to the growth of [Canada’s] resource exports.” Money saved by abandoning a meaningless border could also contribute to the Canadian and U.S. economic systems, removing the need for free trade negotiations and reinforcing regional financial ties that already exist. And perhaps Canada’s stance on issues like same-sex marriage and government intervention in health care could nudge North America in a progressive direction.

If none of this sounds particularly radical, perhaps the time has come to swap maple syrup recipes.