Every 20 years or so, this wacky idea rolls around: Let’s merge the United States and Canada. Now beating this trans-border drum is Diane Francis, a journalist and management professor at Ryerson University in Toronto. Francis has just published “Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America Should Become One Country.”
Well, why not? Canadians could enjoy some balmy weather for a change, and Americans could get some decent health care, without worrying about a kludgey website that may or may not be up and running by the next election cycle.
Writing on the New Yorker web site, the all-but-Canadian Adam Gopnik (went to McGill; must be smart) warmed to Francis’s proposed merger with Snow Mexico: “Match American gee-whiz with Canadian let’s-see, and it will produce a super country,” Gopnik wrote, “rather like a marriage between a dull, stable person who owns a nice chunk of land . . . and a slightly crazed but still attractive one who needs some stability after a wild stretch.”
If we formed one great nation with Canada’s 10 provinces — let’s call it the US of Eh? — lunatic Toronto mayor Rob Ford would be just another overweight crackhead vying for airtime on the nightly TMZ broadcast. Drug-addled pols? They’re a dime a dozen down here. Did someone mention cocaine-busted Florida Congressman Trey Radel? Yes, I just did.
I can’t tell if anyone plans to read Francis’s book — they might be better served by the great Canadian novelist Timothy Findley — but people certainly love to talk about it. I’ve seen Francis defending her “thought experiment” on Fox Business News and heard her on public radio in New York. “Should Canada and America become one country? Really?” a bemused Brian Lehrer asked her on WNYC.
Really. Francis makes a simple argument. Canada has the resources that America needs, and the country is labor-poor. The Immigration Canada website says our northern neighbor welcomes 250,000 new permanent residents annually. America’s wildly over-funded military-industrial complex can afford to protect Canada from the greedy Russians, who are bent on an Arctic undersea land grab, and from the expansion-minded Chinese, who want to swallow up Canadian mining companies the same way they gobbled up the US Treasury.
Francis argues that Canada and America need to pool their interests, open their borders, and embrace each other like two not-so-close cousins forced to play together during the Thanksgiving holiday. “I’m trying to shock Canadians into realizing that they can’t hang on to their real estate forever,” Francis told me. “If the Europeans can form a union after centuries of slaughtering each other, we can do it, too,” she said. “It’s crazy to not at least start the conversation.”
But the Canadians don’t like us, do they? “The facts don’t bear that out,” she insisted. “There is a residue of that British attitude, that Canadians are superior to Americans, but I think that’s dissipating among young people.”
How great is Canada? It’s so great that their prime minister, Stephen Harper, has just published a 370-page book about . . . hockey! The New York Times calls Harper’s “A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs and the Rise of Professional Hockey” “a finely detailed history of the struggle between professionalism and amateurism in early 20th-century Ontario hockey.”
Harper, a member of the Society for International Hockey Research, devoted nine years to researching and writing “Game,” prompting this comment from a writer for the Canadian newsmagazine Macleans:
“Governing Canada — now almost a full-time job.”
How great is Canada? So great that it has no interest in welcoming me as one of its quarter million new residents. I filled out the government’s online application form and received this brusque response: “Based on your answers, it appears that you are not eligible to immigrate to Canada at this time.”
To paraphrase Groucho Marx’s famous observation: Any club that doesn’t want me must be worth joining. Merge now!
Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. He can be reached at email@example.com