by Austin Bay
April 27, 2005
A political specter haunts North America -- the specter of the
world's next failed state.
We can still call it Canada, at least for a couple years. And
who knows, like news of Mark Twain's demise, my cheeky pessimism may be
greatly exaggerated. Our northern neighbor's polyglot populace of beer
drinkers, peaceniks, Mounties and socialists may yet dump their crooked
politicians and craft a new, more robust deal with Quebecois separatists.
If you don't know about Canada's crooked politicians, you're not
alone. Democracy and free speech are breaking out in Beirut, but they're
both taking a beating in Ontario. The Canadian government has a press clamp
on an investigation into the ruling Liberal Party's "Adscam" kickback
scheme. A "judicial publication ban" is the term. It may soon rank with the
Watergate rhetoric like "modified limited hang-out." Canadian Prime Minister
and Liberal Party leader Paul Martin is implicated in the Adscam fiasco, and
he's starting to look like the northland's Richard Nixon.
In the Internet Age, clamps and bans crack quickly, and the
Liberals have seen their popular support go poof. A U.S. Web site
(www.captainsquartersblog.com), run by Minnesotan Ed Morrissey, started
posting leaked statements from the judicial hearings. The Web site instantly
became Radio Free Canada and Deep Throat combined, with hundreds of
thousands of Canadians going online to read the damning evidence. Now
Canadian newspapers are on the story, but it's another case of major media
following the Internet's lead. On his Web site, Morrisey sums up Canada's
Adscam as "... transfers of cash to the Liberal Party as part of the
money-laundering effort ..."
Linda Seebach of the Rocky Mountain News, in a column about
Morrissey's coda of Watergate's Woodward and Bernstein, observed that
there's "hardly any coverage of what the Canadians call 'AdScam' in the U.S.
press, although something that could cause the Canadian government to fall
ought to be of interest to that country's southern neighbor ..."
But "federal" Canada remains an iffy proposition, and becomes
iffier as the separatist Parti Quebcois (PQ) gains political clout at the
expense of the corrupt Liberals.
Bewitched by a Never Land notion of a francophone French Quebec
freed from the yoke of "English-speaking" Canada, the PQ radicals regard
themselves as culturally unique, prime ethnic candidates for their own
nation state and United Nations seat. It's not a new concept. Charles De
Gaulle, in a 1967 act of French unilateralism, gave Canadians the jitters
when he quipped, "Vive Quebec libre."
What happens to Canada if Quebec secedes? Canadians are once
again pondering this question -- live on the CBC -- and given Canada's
status as America's number one trading partner and continental neighbor,
U.S. citizens should consider the ramifications.
Canadians in the western and maritime provinces already dread
the political power of populous Ontario. (Quebec serves as a political
balance to Ontario.) If Quebec bids adieu, "remnant" Canada's political
rules will be subject to revision. Subsequent regional bickering could lead
to further fragmentation.
What might a grand Canadian breakup look like? Jim Dunnigan and
I, in the 1991 edition of "A Quick and Dirty Guide to War," played
speculative cartographer and redrew Canada's political map.
Here's a thumbnail sketch of that analysis: Say Quebec does
become a separate European-style nation-state -- a "people" with cultural,
linguistic, religious and historical identity (never mind the objections of
Mohawk and Cree Indians living in Quebec). Quebec has the people and
resources to make a go of it, though the economic price for its egotism will
be stiff. British Columbia also has "nation-state" assets: Access to the
sea, strong industrial base, raw materials and an educated population.
Oil-producing Alberta might join the United States and instantly
find common political ground with Alaska, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma.
Canada's struggling Atlantic provinces might find statehood economically
attractive and extend the New England coastline. A rump Canada consisting of
"Greater Ontario" -- with remaining provinces as appendages -- might keep
the maple-leaf flag aloft. As for poor, isolated Newfoundland: Would Great
Britain like to reacquire a North American colony?