April 2007: Integration or disintegration?

April 1, 2007

Powerful business and political leaders on both sides of the border are working hard, both openly and stealthily, to bind Canada more closely to the United States. It’s billed as an economic partnership, but inevitably, if successful, it will transform this country into a political appendage of the southern “superpower.” Canada may retain a semblance of sovereignty, but in most practical ways it will be a U.S. vassal state.

In such a servile relationship, much of what makes Canada different from--and arguably still better than—the United States will inevitably be lost. The would-be empire won’t permit a colony to provide public services that are superior to its own—programs that might arouse envy and unwanted political demands at home. If there is to be any “harmonizing” of social programs between the U.S. and its vassal, it will be a levelling-down for Canadians, not a levelling-up for Americans.

We’ve already seen this harmonization of Canada’s unemployment insurance coverage to match the lower U.S. rates, and mounting pressure to bring our other social programs in line with inferior U.S. standards. Our resistance to this coercion, such as it is, will be swept away if our élite’s planned continental integration is realized.

It might be argued by some that becoming part of the American empire would not necessarily be disastrous. They might point to the benefits that eventually accrued to the nations that were conquered by the ancient Romans and later thrived under Rome’s advanced political and economic systems. The centuries of “pax Romana” have been rated the most prosperous and peaceful in human history.

Even if this were true, the Roman empire at its peak shouldn’t be compared to an aspiring U.S. empire that is already in decline in almost every sphere, except the military. To strive to become a satellite of such a decaying country is to display an IQ lower than that of rats, who at least are smart enough to swim away from a sinking ship.

We may be accused of blind anti-Americanism, but the statistical evidence of U.S. socioeconomic decline is overwhelming.

Over 47 million Americans can’t afford basic health insurance. The World Health Organization ranks the U.S. 37th in the world in “overall health performance,” 41st in infant mortality, and 54th in the fairness of health care services.

Childhood poverty in the U.S. is ranked second highest among 23 developed nations, and at least 12 million Americans struggle daily to feed themselves and their families. Requests for food aid jumped by 7% in 2006, following a 12% rise in 2005, and requests for shelter also rose by 9% in 2006.

The U.S. prison population is the highest in the world at 2.2 million, and is increasing by another 1,000 a week. Half the prisoners are black, and half of all inmates are there for non-violent offences.

More than 2 million high-paying industrial jobs in the U.S. were eliminated by outsourcing since 2002, and another 3.3 million white-collar jobs are estimated to go to low-wage developing countries over the next eight years. A labour movement now reduced to only 13% of the workforce (lowest among the industrialized nations) is powerless to stop the job haemorrhage.

Oblivious to the need for more social spending, the Bush administration has raised the Pentagon’s budget to a staggering $470 billion on top of another $100 billion needed to maintain the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More tens of billions are allocated for “homeland security” and a growing number of “spy agencies.”

Far be it from us to take a holier-than-thou approach to our relations with the U.S. Poverty, hunger, and homelessness stalk this land, too, as does a growing gap between the rich and the rest of us. Canada has not yet sunk to U.S. levels of social inequality, but we are slipping in that direction instead of climbing closer to the far superior levels attained by many countries in Europe.

The first step to reversing Canada’s decline, surely, would be to resist Uncle Sam’s embrace instead of rushing into it.

(Ed Finn is the CCPA's Senior Editor.)