EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 22, 2013

Blame Canada? Or should we merge instead?

Ann McFeatters
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — In the 1995 movie “Canadian Bacon,” the U.S. president (Alan Alda), distressed by low opinion polls, starts a war with Canada on the theory that the public rallies around war-time presidents.

Recently we have seen that theory isn’t necessarily true, but the movie was funny because comedian John Candy was in it and the idea that America would care enough about Canada to go to war seemed ludicrous.

But now there is a new idea floating around that President Barack Obama, fighting plummeting opinion polls, might consider: a new country containing both the United States and Canada. It would be bigger than Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase! It would relegate Obamacare to yesterday’s news!

Of course, the first obstacle to reflect on is what to do with Toronto’s bad-boy mayor, Rob Ford, the man with the unfortunate proclivities for crack cocaine and strip clubs while being incredibly inebriated, according to his explanation.

But assuming that Canada’s richest city can be put out of its misery by the eventual departure of the bawdy Ford, the idea of merging the two countries is intriguing to many.

Diane Francis, a respected journalist and author who lives in Toronto and New York City, has laid out serious arguments for a mutual union in a new book, “Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America Should Become One Country.”

She argues, “A merger will provide millions of Canadians and Americans with new jobs, exponential resources, enormous capital increases, and protection against conflict with countries including China and Russia, among others.”

Presumably, good-natured Canadians would keep hot-tempered Americans from starting new wars and possibly help end current ones, such as the 12-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Referring to forecasts that China’s economy will be larger than the U.S. economy by 2018, Francis suggests a U.S.-Canadian merger would make the new country the world’s undisputed economic superpower. In exchange for its huge, untapped natural resources, Canada would get the protection of a larger military.

Francis worries that both Canada and the United States are showing signs of decline, which could be prevented by a merger, she says. She is concerned that despite sharing geography and values, the U.S. and Canada have a border that has become “more clogged than ever, hurting trade and tourism” because of security controls, terrorist threats, drug smuggling and regulations.

The templates for a merger come from the reunification of East and West Germany and the European Union, which offers economic and security advantages while letting disparate cultures survive.

Since the War of 1812 ended, Canadians and Americans have been friends. They mostly sound alike, except for some words such as “about,” believe in democracy, don’t think of each other as “foreigners” and take pride in each other’s movie stars. Their political parties are similar, although Canada has managed not to have a tea party.

One challenge is that Americans almost never think of Canada, while Canadians spend too much time thinking of, and being slightly resentful of, the United States.

Other problems are Americans’ affection for guns, which many Canadians find appalling, and America’s rejection of national health care, of which Canadians are very proud.

If the two countries merged into the U.S. Canada Alliance, the new leader would be expected to approve the controversial northern leg of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline down through the Midwest instead of waffling over it as Obama is doing, worried about climate change versus more oil.

On the other hand, Quebec separatists still would be unhappy.

As for what the name of the new country would be, why, isn’t it obvious?

AmeriCan.

The new flag would have maple leaves instead of stars. Canadians already have bought second homes in Florida. Millions of Americans who went ape over Baby George and generally are possessed of royal envy, would get a queen by proxy.

Hollywood, at least, is salivating at the possibilities.

Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail amcfeatters@nationalpress.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.