Writer’s idea that Canada and U.S. should merge likely DOA

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew
Travellers can expect long wait times during the holiday season at the U.S.-Canada border.

If Canada has a cultural boogie-man it's the fear that the country will be absorbed by the United States, either invaded outright or disappearing within an economic union that eventually leads to political anschluss.

After all, the Americans tried to invade Canada during the Revolution, and again in the War of 1812, now touted by the Conservative government as a historical watershed in the creation of an independent Canada.

Despite those rebuffs, some think the Yanks still covet Canada for its vast natural resources, empty spaces and water supplies. Annexation is a long-term goal, this article on the web site Global Research argues.

For the hand-wringers who think the North American Free Trade Agreement and more recent continental security deals are the opening moves in a plan to make us the 51st state, Diane Francis's new book "Merger of the Century" could give them a fresh set of the jitters.

The longtime business writer and columnist, who was born in the States, argues a Canadian-American union is the best way to counter the economic threat of countries like China and Russia, which use use state-controlled sovereign wealth funds to buy control of resources and key industries of other nations.

[ Related: Should the Harper government allow Chinese ownership of Alberta’s oil sands? ]

"The best option for the U.S. and Canada to survive the new economic reality would be to alter course by devising protective policies and to merge into one gigantic nation," Francis argues in an excerpt of the book published in the National Post.

"This book, a thought experiment, details the economic benefits of joining forces, the way a deal could be structured in fairness to both nations, the political obstacles littering its path and, lastly, strategies if a merger is impossible."

Francis sees major economic benefits from a merger, giving the United States energy security and the new entity (What would we call it, anyway?) would have serious clout in the global marketplace. For Canada, the higher U.S. birthrate would slow the aging of our population.

As for all the scary aspects of American culture, vastly higher murder rates, political polarization, gangsta rap, Francis says the stats are worrisome but perhaps overblown.

"Besides, the United states is not the dangerous, wacky place depicted by Hollywood or by television shows, as the millions of Canadians who study, work, retire, travel or live there can attest," she writes.

Francis's colleague at the Post, Jonathan Kay, was quick to shoot down her "thought experiment."

In a weekend column, Kay said there are too many stumbling blocks to the marriage.

For instance, he said, Francis says a merger would leave Canada's hallowed universal health-care system intact, but only for Canadians.

"Americans would not be entitled to this benefit," Francis suggested.

"The notion that U.S.-born citizens would tolerate living in a society in which they have fewer government-given rights than their Canadian-born neighbours is just one of the many eyebrow-raising assumptions contained in this book," Kay observed.

In return for what would be essentially a huge land grab that dwarfs the Louisiana Purchase, the United States would pay Canada $17 trillion in debt bonds, to be paid out over 20 years. Right.

Kay pointed out the current U.S. public debt stands at $12 trillion. More than doubling it would rocket the country's debt-to-GDP ratio. Francis argued repayment could be financed via a gas tax, something Kay noted has run into bipartisan opposition in the past.

[ Related: U.S. state department says it doesn’t have a 'secret' plan to invade Canada ]

Francis told Kay that Republican opposition could be overcome by stressing the economic opportunities and greater continental security of a merger.

“As for Democrats, they’d be happy by the prospect of 35 million [Canadian] Democrats becoming voters," she said. "There would never be another Republican president again.”

As for Quebec, which would likely head for the exit before the ink was dry on the merger to create this giant anglophone state, Francis argued it could get commonwealth status in the new country, like Puerto Rico.

But Kay said the problem with Francis's concept goes deeper. The idea is pitched like a business plan, he argued, with benefits outweighing the costs.

"It's an analogy that feels clunkier and clunkier as the chapters march on," he wrote. "

"Corporations exist to make money. But nations exist principally to give expression to some guiding ethno-religious identity or creed. In Canada’s case, much of its identity can be traced to an almost neurotic fear of being subsumed within the United States."

Which is where we came in.