The Other Option. Think Big.
What if Québec joined the United States of America as the 51st état?
One of the very few argument for Canadian federalism that actually has any effect on me is the fact that out of Canada, Québec would lose it’s shared position in some more prestigious international forums, notably the G8.
You have to admit that the sight of a country lawyer from Shawinigan hanging out with Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair does make you think twice about trading that seat for the satisfaction of having one of our guys between Quatar and South Korea at the UN.
But if you use that logic, why should Québec satisfy itself with being part of Canada. Why not join the United States?
If Québec is not to become an independent country and if it is to remain a part of a federation, why not join a real one? If you’re a small people destined to be a minority in any political or economic structure, then why not go Major League?
Why vote for the government of a pretend country if you can vote for the real thing? Why send our guys to Ottawa if we could send them to Washington?
The 49th parallel is not real, it’s a fictional line in the sand. In any case the 49th parallel is not even the border between Québec and the US. Nobody actually knows where that border is since most markers were swallowed by the forest years ago.
The economic frontier between the Québec and the US is a just as much of a myth and it ceased to represent anything real since way before NAFTA. Close to half of Canada’s economy is foreign-owned. That’s not a disaster, it’s globalization.
The disaster is pretending the Canadian government can do anything about it. Remember the softwood lumber crisis? It took the Canadian government years to achieve a barely face-saving deal. How long do you think it would have taken to resolve it if Québec had 15 electoral college votes in its pocket?
An État du Québec would be the 12th largest state in the Union, right between New Jersey and Virginia. That means about 12 House seats and 2 almighty senate seats. A real elected senate. A single US senator has about the power of the entire canadian senate plus the provincial legislatures of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and PEI combined.
As it is the Canadian government doesn’t even have enough pull to get a 15 year old kid soldier arrested for throwing a grenade at American soldiers out of jail. If Omar Kahdr had been an American citizen he would never have been in Guantanamo in the first place. The American government didn’t send it’s citizens to Guantanamo.
Actually, if the 7 million Québécois had voted in the 2000 presidential election there would have been no president Bush, no Irak war, no Guantanamo.
Get Québec in the United States. Save the world.
Of course, Québec would have to make some compromises. The American Federal government will not make French an official language all over the US, but since Canadian Official Billingualism is not much more than Welcome/Bienvenue signs outside Québec, it wouldn’t actually be a huge change.
In the US French would not be an official language at all, but then English is not an official language either. Equality at last!
At the provincial – I mean State – level, Québec could keep pretty much the same linguistic regime. There are already 27 states that have made English their official language, Québec would keep French as its official language.
And as a bonus it would be relieved of the appalling constitutional obligation to “promote and protect” the language of it’s English-speaking “minority”.
Joining the US would not be a huge deal for most Québécois in terms of their culture. Not being American is not a central part of our identity the way it is in the Rest of Canada. Feelings and attitudes toward the US change over time but beyond opposition to specific issues like the Irak war, there is not the same type of self-righteous contempt towards the Americans that is very common in other parts of Canada.
Many Americans would welcome Québec into the union with enthouisasm. Hey, seven million Québec votes could actually be just enough to tip the political scale to the the progressive side of issues in the States. The Québécois support the right to choose and universal health care. God knows how strongly we feel about keeping him out of schools.
Québec might be to the left of the American political spectrum (although not quite as far left as it’s neighbor Vermont), it would probably not have such a hard time finding common ground with the boys down south. They certainly wouldn’t have anything against fellow former secessionists joining them in the fight for state rights and the struggle to keep the Federal government out of local affairs.
In fact, I suspect a few of les gars up here would not be against the concept of a constitutionally protected right to form armed militias..
Speaking of minorities, the admissions of French-speaking Americans in the Union can only help the political empowerment of the new linguistic and cultural reality of the United States that is already very real on the ground. American Hispanics will no doubt welcome the arrival of los Latinos del Norte as allies in the struggle for greater linguistic and cultural diversity in the US.
Québec joining the United States could be a good thing not only for Le Bel État, but also for the US and even the whole world! And even MORE important, it would mean -oh yes!- federal funding for the Québec Interstate, from Val-d’Or to Gaspé! (Of course that would technically mean raising the drinking age to 21, but when have people in Québec ever payed mind to drinking laws?)
Happy 4th of July!