Friday, April 2, 2010

Rethinking the Canada US Border

Last week, at a speech in Alberta, Ann Coulter called for the the annexation of Alberta by the USA. Ann Coulter is an American right wing celebrity who was on a speaking tour of Canada.

I can remember when I was still working for a living, talking to one of our coop-students. He was from Taiwan, studying at the University of Waterloo, and we were discussing his feelings towards the USA versus Canada. Basically, he was planning to move to the USA, as it seemed a much more attractive place than Canada to him. Now what were the points in favour of the USA?

First of all, there was the value of the Canadian dollar, which for some reason was very important to him. At the time, the Canadian dollar was only worth about 65 cents US, after a long slide in value. So that must have been around 1996 or so. Back home in Taiwan, his father was very wealthy, and so I guess he was thinking that his family wealth would be diluted if it was converted to the constantly sinking Canadian dollar.

Some of the other attributes of the USA that appealed to him were its warmer climate, and more job opportunities. Also, less of a tax burden on the rich people, and lower prices for things like fuel. And he did have a gas hungry car.

I don't remember exactly why I was trying to persuade him to stay in Canada, I guess it was just a natural instinct to defend my own country that kicked in. But here were some of my lame arguments. I said that he might get killed by a stray bullet in the USA because they had guns everywhere. I insisted that there was more racism in the USA. Well neither of those arguments really held any water, as he had already encountered racial hostility in Canada, in fact right in our workplace. And of course some people in Canada were getting killed by stray bullets too, as we all know today with a couple of stories on the news even last night.

But some things actually changed to tip the balance in Canada's favour in the last thirteen years. For one thing, our dollar is now at par with the USA, and so obviously his main reason for going there would be more than cancelled. If he had converted his trust fund to US currency in 1997, he would have lost about 30% of it today. But if he had converted to Canadian dollars he would have gained about 45%. Well, those are the dangers of foreign currency speculation.

What about job opportunities? Hard to say for an individual, but generally Canada has done better in the recession than the USA.

Is the USA still warmer? Last night I noticed that Kitchener, Ontario is warmer than Phoenix Arizona. Within the last few months, the north Eastern part of the USA was socked in with snow, while Ontario hardly had any. And with global warming, Canada's climate may actually be preferable to the US.

My advice for any Albertans thinking of taking Ann Coulter up on her generous offer is: don't do it, it's a trap.

Right now, I think one of the strongest signs that the US is in distress, is the amount of religious extremism going on. And Ann Coulter is one of those religious extremists. Chris Hedges has written an article about it from January 19, 2007, but still applicable today, maybe even more so. "The Radical Christian Right Is Built on Suburban Despair"

Picture: I have attached a proposed map of a realignment of North America based on who hates/loves Ann Coulter, rather than who stole what land from the Indians. I suspect that in this realignment, Canada would be the preferable place to live. Freedom of religion, more democratic, more liberal, better health care, and Arabs get to fly in planes just like everyone else. Rush Limbaugh would not have to make good his promise to move to Costa Rica if Obamacare is implemented. However, border changes like this do tend to be very messy, as Yugoslavia, India, and Nazi Germany found out. So maybe it should be just kept as a fantasy, or a delusion for the likes of Ann Coulter.


  1. Much of the early economic activity in what is now Alberta (at the time, the 'Northwest' acquired from the Hudson's Bay Company) was based on cattle ranching, and numerous American ranch hands came to Canada for work.

    The Dominion Lands Act of 1872 offered any male over the age of 21 a homestead of 160 acres for the payment of a nominal $10 registration fee.

    With the contemporary closing of the American frontier, this attracted still more Americans to Alberta. In the period 1900-1915 over 80,000 Americans settled in Alberta - a very significant number, given the total population of Alberta at the time.

    With them, the Americans brought not only their knowledge of the cattle business, but also many of the prevailing attitudes from their former republic. As English speakers, their social mobility was higher than those of recent European origins, and their influence on the developing Albertan culture was significant, and that influence persists to this day.

    So it's perhaps not surprising that Coulter's bizarre remarks would find some receptive ears in Alberta.

  2. That little history lesson does explain a lot about the unique character of Alberta within Canada. I used to think it was all about the oil industry being based in Texas.

  3. Well, the oil thing certainly doesn't help.