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72nd Annual Summer Conference, August 7–10, 2003

What Kind of North America do Canadians Want?

Left to right: Anthony Westell, Anthony dePalma, Judith Maxwell

Summary by Rosalyn Yake

Anthony Westell

  • What Canada is going to get, whether we like it or not: political union with the US in the next 25 years.
  • Canada’s history can be characterized by a process of consolidation. The search for resources, profit and security are still motivating forces today. They drive us toward continental integration.
  • Today’s economic integration with the US is urging Canada towards a new political integration.
  • If we’re going to have one integrated continental economy, how can we think of having two or three nation states. There will have to be one form of government. If not, we will have to leave the US to regulate the economy, as it sees fit.
  • A separatist force in Canada may encourage our nation to join in a political union with the US.
  • Maybe one day Canada will become the Scotland of the US. We will be part of the political and economic union, but with differences. We will still fight to retain a distinct Canadian identity.
  • Perhaps in the future, Canada will be more influential as citizens of a NA union, than as citizens of a sovereign nation.
  • Union doesn’t mean becoming the 51st state, it could take many forms.
  • Should we really be trying to reduce our rate of integration and dependence on the US economy, or should we now start working towards union, while still trying to preserve our national identity and bilingualism at the same time?
  • Maybe Canada will start to adopt some of the same struggles of Quebec: can we succeed in preserving our culture and identity in a political and economic union with the US, just like the plight of the Francophones in Canada?

Anthony dePalma

  • Most Canadians want a perfect triangle, three equal triangles, from sea to sea. A continental trinity.
  • In the future, and in this triangle, we will want democracy, a liberal immigration policy, and citizen rights.
  • A political elite in all three nations will make governing decisions.
  • In this way, NAFTA was passed as a trade deal, without debate about social and cultural ramifications.
  • NAFTA raised questions about the future of NA, but the debate was snuffed out after Sept. 11.
  • Mr. dePalma believes the US government has no plan to take over the continent, but an elite core of academic policy makers is starting to think of this question, and an effective way of getting there.
  • But this discussion is going on without public participation, despite the fact that public support will be integral in supporting such a union.
  • EU: they too are asking what kind of continent do we want, but in a much more lively debate than in North America.
  • Conferences like CIPA’s, and public discourse, are critical.
  • Lessons we’ve learned about political union, using the EU as an example: sacrifice and compromise are inevitable.
  • Although there will be benefits of a Canadian–US union, there will also be costs. The problem with Canada is that we often want the benefits, but not the costs.
  • Our borders in NA don’t need to be fortified against each other. Ours can exist as fine lines between nations, binding us together just as effectively as they keep us apart.
  • Political union is not inevitable. There’s also no impetus for a monetary union, like there was when the European Union was formed.
  • Without needing to protect ourselves, like the EU, we don’t have to act with the same urgency. We have space to explore, to look at other alternatives and means of cooperating.
  • The bottom line is we’re in for a period of political realities, far different than they were before Septeber 11, 2001.
  • Fine lines exist between us, in all senses. But nonetheless, they are still distinctions.
Judith Maxwell
  • Citizens’ dialogue on Canada’s future (pub. Dialogue on health care, quality of life)
  • We are a resilient country. We were nervous when we entered free trade, but we made a choice, and there’s been a momentous amount of change on the economic front as a result of that decision.
  • But now, Canadians have come to accept the fact that we are a part of a more integrated continent. We see the faults, the drawbacks, but we also see the benefits.
  • At the same time, a lot of other changes were going on that increased integration in North America. Technology, the Internet, immigration policies, and a low birth rate also increased the integration rate.
  • Despite the strong force of immigration, there are other ways in which the two countries are diverging (an idea that has come out of the citizens’ dialogue and other scholarly works)
  • Main findings drawn from the dialogue on Canada’s future: what we will want for North America is what we want for Canada right now: we want to be good citizens of the world. We want to participate in a market economy. We want a legitimate role for business, and to take advantage of what capitalism brings us in terms of jobs and wealth. It’s important to bear in mind that the conception of business for the future of the country is quite different from rash capitalism. Canadians still want to put brakes on economic forces. The collective interest is important in Canada.
  • Canadians are beginning to clarify what they think is unique about Canada. Four examples: people and organizations need to be accountable for their own actions (bad example: private sector (ENRON) and spending scandals in the federal level of politics). We work from the idea that we have mutual responsibility, that we belong to a community. Our core values are equality, justice, respect for diversity, accountability and transparency.
  • There is very big difference in our understanding of the relationship between government and the market. In Canada, the role of government is to protect our rights and services; in the United States, it is to act as a cop and watchdog.
  • There is a difference in the way we perceive individualism. In Canada, we reject gross inequality, but in America that sense of individualism is rejected.
  • In Canada, social morality encompasses the idea of shared norms. In the US, it is more legal and religious.
  • Attitudes towards other countries is different. In Canada, we have a deeper sense of obligation towards other countries. The Americans take a much more unilateral approach to things, and use their power independently of world opinion.
  • Canada’s history has been one of compromise. We have learned to accommodate different cultures, and colonies throughout our nation’s past. In that way, we are more pragmatic than is the US. We have a greater capacity to react and adapt. We are more resilient.
  • In the future, Canadians will want to reap the benefits of integration and harmonize when it makes sense. But there are some things we won’t want to give up. We will still have our differences.