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Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Don't Mess With ... Alberta-Den Beste has an interesting post on possible future annexation of parts of Canada, but he was a bit off his legendary signal-to-noise ratio last night.
We Americans have a strong national identity. We disagree about a lot, but there's even more we all deeply agree on. But there's no equivalent agreement up north. And perhaps that's why if you ask an American what it means to be American, he will talk about the Constitution and our shared values. If you ask a Canadian what it means to be a Canadian, he'll talk about all the ways Canada is different from the US. Canada is a contiguous territory, but it isn't a single people. The preamble to the Constitution of the US begins We the people of the United States, and we Americans think that way. But there's not really any "we" in Canada. It's one of the many nations which was created in Europe out of disparate elements because it seemed to make sense on a map, just as with most of Africa and the Middle East, where all the people in the area were shoved together. Canada is a single nation now pretty much only because it used to be a single British colony. And that means that there's not all that much that really ties Canada together, just as is the case in a lot of African nations. The pieces don't really fit.
If you take Quebec out of the mix and look at anglophone Canada, the two North American countries look rather similar. Think of anglophone Canada as the US without the South. The Maritimes are New England with its aging economy and secular mind-set; this is the native habitat for RINOs in the US and the RINOesque Conservative Party up north. Ontario is a combination of New York and Pennsylvania, the urbanized, secular-leaning Rust Belt. Manitoba and Saskatchewan are the Dakotas and Iowa, home of prairie populism with a bit of a religious streak; the populism can swing left or right. Alberta is Montana-Idaho Big Sky conservative, while British Columbia has the characteristics of Washington state, a bit left-leaning but open to good conservatives. Thus, when you ignore Quebec, Canada is about as diverse as the northern US. Canadians may not be able to define what it means to be a Canadian well, without a Constitution and Founding Fathers mythology, but there's roughly the same culture. Western Americans are often resentful of Washington's heavy-handed centralized regulation and high taxes, just as western Canadians are resentful of Ottawa. However, with Quebec independence in play, other provinces are taking advantage of that to renegotiate Canadian federalism and take a serious look at whether they want to stay in Canada Here's another area where Den Beste isn't quite on target historically
The Oregon Territory was a sort-of joint possession of the US and Britain through most of the early part of the 19th century but became American exclusively in 1846. Oregon became a state in 1859, Washington in 1889 and Idaho in 1890. Oklahoma became a state in 1907, the last part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase to do so. Statehood isn't something we tend to rush into; it's an critical decision and we don't want to fight any more wars about it with states which change their minds. (One was enough.) So we're going to wait until everyone is really sure it's the right thing to do, even if it takes fifty years. We do not want our own version of Northern Ireland. (Which is part of why Puerto Rico still isn't a state, more than a hundred years on.) If one or more of the western provinces asked for secession from Canada, that might conceivably happen rapidly. That's a Canadian issue; we're not involved in it. But if they applied for US statehood, they'd have to expect to be territories for at least 20 years before statehood was even seriously considered, just to make sure they truly wanted to join us and really did share our values. Territories have no representation in Congress and do not vote for the President. The people there are citizens and have all the rights and responsibilities of citizens, but they have no right to self-government. Article IV of the Constitution gives Congress full power to rule over territories. Territories are often granted limited self-government but there's also usually an appointed governor. In some cases historically all judges and law enforcement authorities were federally appointed. The degree of self-government is totally at the discretion of Congress and could be unilaterally revoked at any time. That would be politically distasteful for the people of the western provinces, I think, and might be seen as an insult by proud Canadians. ("They don't think we're good enough to be full Americans? They want us to be second class citizens, ruled by them but not fully participating? To hell with the bastards.") The only thing they'd accept, I suspect, would be immediate full statehood, and there's no way. Canadians already have a chip on their shoulder about us; I can't see them actually accepting formal political subordination to us just for the chance to be considered for statehood in 30 years.
If I remember my frontier history correctly, territories became states when they had a large enough population to do so; there were some cases where statehood was a bit delayed during the Missouri Compromise era when matching slave and free states were added (for instance, Michigan and Arkansas were such a matched set), but the general rationale for territory status was lack of population rather than of a cooling-off period before statehood. Oklahoma's Indian Territory status delayed its inclusion, but that's the one key exception. I think the strongest historical analogy for Canadian provinces becoming states right off would be Texas, who was its own country for about a decade after breaking off from Mexico. There was no Texas Territory; it got statehood from the get-go, and the same would likely be true for Alberta or other provinces wanting to join the US. The annexation deal might require more than one popular vote, or a two-thirds majority approving statehood, but I don't think we're going to see the Manitoba Territory. The one exception might be if Canada's three northern territories wanted to join; they might be small enough to justify old-school territory status. [Update 10:30PM-Nice wave of traffic from the USS Clueless and good add-on comments from Behind The Net, giving some good Canadian provincial Poli-Sci background]

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