Diane Francis has a charming idea, one that Detroit area residents may instantly respond to. Her modest proposal would create a merger. Call it the United States of Canada.
To Francis, a Toronto-based/Chicago-born business journalist who dedicated four years to research her argument, the obstacles are merely emotional, not practical. If Germany can reunify two wildly different halves into a successful nation, why couldn’t North America fight off the malaise of its own continent and muster renewed emotional and financial might?
Sure, the Canadian national animal is the toothy and diligent beaver while ours is the soaring, predatory eagle. And while one of my colleagues sniffs that “O Canada” begins unimaginatively, it is a tune that doesn’t require Celine Dion’s pipes to sing along. And yes, their Thanksgiving falls on a Monday — this Monday, in fact. (Who knew?)
But the countries have many similarities, especially among border states like Maine, New York, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington, whose people toil in similar industries and tend to like each other, rather than engage in warring, factional skirmishes common on other borders.
A marriage between the two countries would instantly improve traffic flow over the bridge and through the tunnel — a problem Francis identifies in her book, “Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America should become one country.” Such a union would create an economic powerhouse spawning millions of jobs and unleashing untapped resources.
“I know Diane Francis and respect her, but the Canadians will never go for it,” says James Blanchard, Michigan’s ex-governor and former ambassador to Canada. “The Canadians value their sovereignty every bit as much as we do.”
Francis, who has dual citizenship, recognizes the psychic obstacles but urges us all to think bigger. “What are you guys going to be when you grow up?” she says. “What are you going to do when China is bigger, more ruthless, and vastly wealthier? ... Whatever you think of the Chinese regime, they’re going to get iPads, bicycles and cars. And they’re going to recognize that Canada holds the world’s biggest buried treasure.”
Alas, the Canadians are for the moment putting nationalism over pragmatism. Edward Chung, a Canadian citizen who is now a marketing professor at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, points to subtle but strong cultural differences. “Your Constitution promises liberty and freedom ...we don’t really have a constitution, and what we have promises good government,” he notes. “By and large, Canadians are more trusting of government.”
At least, they trust their own government. A merger would, as Blanchard and Francis recognize, inevitably be colored in Democrat blue, yet another obstacle to implementation. Blanchard, a legal expert on Canadian trade, points to already strong connections between the countries. “We share an electric grid. They are our largest providers of oil ... we take for granted our wonderful partnership with Canada.”
This is precisely the Francis argument: Shouldn’t two nations that are already so close and interdependent take a step toward a more serious commitment? “It’s not realistic,” Blanchard says.
To those of us who miss the pre-2001 days when you could zip across the border for a dollop of politeness, loonies and lunch without facing customs, one can always dream.