Canada’s Economics vs. the American Model
1 Mark Steyn
It is a pleasure to be here. This is the second time I’ve been invited to address a Hillsdale audience. The first time was at the Churchill Dinner a couple of years ago when I was reviewing the big geopolitical picture, surveying the distant horizons, grappling with the macro issues and all that kind of thing. So, I was a bit stunned: I naturally assumed that I had been asked back to discuss the big issues of the day. I was a bit stunned to discover that the topic was the Canadian economy. I thought it must be a leg-pull at first. I said, what happened, did the guy who was going to give a talk on the Belgian economy cancel? It is a Saturday night. The Oak Ridge Boys are playing the Hillsdale County Fair, but it is an honor to be asked.
I’m an immigrant to this country. As the President likes to say, one of those immigrants doing the jobs Americans won’t do. And if giving a talk on the Canadian economy on a Saturday night when the Oak Ridge Boys are in town isn’t one of the jobs Americans won’t do, I don’t know what is.
I’m pleased to see, by the way, that in anticipation of my remarks tonight the Canadian dollar is at par with the U.S. dollar for the first time since the mid-1970s, which is an amazing feat. If you recall, a couple of years back the loonie—which is what we call the little Canadian dollar
coin with the Queen on one side and a loon on the other—was getting close to just half a
greenback. It had hit 60 cents and was still heading down, 59, 58, 57 cents. I don’t know
whether you remember the Salt Lake winter Olympics in 2002. There was a terrible scandal where the duplicitous French judge stiffed the Canadian pair of ice skaters and gave the gold to the Russians. The duplicitous French judge got fired and if memory serves, I think she went on to serve as French ambassador on the U.N. Security Council during the big Iraq vote. Anyway, it was a disgrace. The Russian guy should never have gotten the gold; he almost fell, or as the commentator put it, he stumbled on a double axel at the front end of a combination. And let’s face it: the one place you don’t want to stumble on a double axel is at the front end of your combinations. But I remember seeing the CBC news around that time, and the screen flashed up the Canadian skater’s scores, which were 5.8, 5.8, 5.9, 5.8, 5.8, 5.9. And then the Finance Minister of Canada appeared and for a moment I got confused and assumed that the 5.8, 5.8, 5.9 must just be the latest exchange rate and he was about to offer the usual justifications, such as, “Well, I’ve always said that the Canadian dollar would eventually stabilize and this is a rate that is good for Canada and leaves us very competitive internationally, but on the other hand, if you’re planning on visiting Salt Lake Olympics over the weekend, I’m happy to give a speech and talk it up over 6 cents.” That’s where the Canadian dollar was just five years ago.
What a turnaround! Right now as I speak, the Canadian dollar is worth more than the U.S. dollar. To buy a Canadian dollar you need a buck and half a cent U.S. And if you’ve ever worked in Canadian newspapers you’ll know that moment when you’re editing the op-ed page
and you call up - let’s say Alan Greenspan - to ask him to write a piece on the global economy
1 Presented at Hillsdale College’s Free Market Forum, September 29, 2007.
and he says how much will you pay me and you name the sum and he says, very suspiciously, that’s U.S. dollars, right? No one will be saying “That’s U.S. dollars, right?” anymore. Alan
Greenspan will be saying we’d better be talking Canadian dollars here.
If you live on the U.S.-Canadian border, you’ll know that on the U.S. side, if you go into a bar,
the cigarette machines, the coke machines, all the vending machines, have big signs saying “Do
not attempt to use Canadian coins in this machine,” whereas up north the parking meters all take
U.S. quarters because they were worth more. At one point some experts concluded that Canadians only got upset about the exchange rate because their currency had the same name as the Americans. If it was called the pound or the yen or the euro, you wouldn’t expect it to have the same values. The people said maybe we should come up with a new name for the Canadian dollar. And I suggested renaming it the quarter.
So the rise in the Canadian dollar is good. Don’t worry; the rise in the Canadian dollar is good for the U.S. economy. Right now workers in depressed, moribund border communities in upstate New York have all the work they can handle unscrewing the “Do not attempt to use Canadian
coins” signs off all the vending machines and replacing them with “Welcome Canadian nickels.” On the other hand, it’s bad news for the Canadian economy. A lot of us guys who made a pretty nice living for years doing jokes about renaming the Canadian dollar the quarter have all been laid off now.
The point to understand is which economic indicators reflect permanent features, as opposed to those that have more to do with the broader disposition of a society. Canada is a resource economy. The U.S. imports resources and Canada exports resources. Canada has the second largest oil reserves in the world. People don’t think of Canada like that. The Premier of Alberta has never been seen back at the Bush ranch in Crawford. He’s never been photographed holding
hands and strolling through the rose bower together as the President and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia were. But Canada is nonetheless an oil economy—a resource economy. Traditionally, in
America when the price of oil goes up, Wall Street goes down. But in Canada when the price of oil goes up, the Toronto stock exchange goes up, too. So you can have relatively compatible neighbors whose interests diverge on one of the key global indicators.
Now, as we know from September 11, in Saudi Arabia the Wahabbis use their oil wealth to promote their radical destructive ideology to every corner of the world. And this is what we Canadians do also. What is our radical destructive ideology? Well, if you look at North America it would seem obvious that of the two continental nations, it’s the United States that has
the big global influence. Not so. If you take the last forty years, fundamental American ideas have made no headway in Canada, whereas fundamental Canadian ideas have made huge advances in America and the rest of the Western world. Multiculturalism and socialized health care—both pioneered in Canada—have made huge strides down here, whereas American
concepts—strange American concepts such as non-confiscatory taxation—have made absolutely
no advance whatsoever up north. They remain as foreign as ever.
My colleague at National Review, John O’Sullivan, once observed that post-war Canadian
history is summed up by the old Monty Python song “I’m a Lumberjack and I’m OK.” If you recall that song, it begins as a robust peon to the manly virtues of a rugged life in the north woods as the intro goes, “Leaping from tree to tree as they float down the mighty rivers of
British Columbia.” But the song ends with a lumberjack having somehow gradually morphed into a kind of transvestite pickup who sings that he likes to wear high heels, suspenders and a bra
and to dress in women’s clothing while hanging around in bars. Now John O’Sullivan isn’t
saying that Canadian men are literally cross-dressers—certainly no more than 30-35 percent of
us and me only on alternate weekends—but what he means is that a once manly nation has
nevertheless undergone a remarkable psychological makeover. If you go back to 1945, the Royal Canadian Navy had the third largest surface fleet in the world, the Royal Canadian Air Force was one of the most effective air forces in the world, and Royal Canadian troops got the toughest beach on D-Day. In the space of two generations, a bunch of tough hombres were transformed into a thoroughly feminized culture that prioritizes all the secondary impulses of society—rights and entitlements from cradle to grave—over all the primary ones. Now in that,
Canada is obviously not alone. If the O’Sullivan thesis is flawed, it’s only because the lumberjack song could stand as the post-war history of almost the entire developed world. Today in the typical election campaign in your typical industrial democracy, the political platforms of at least one party in the United States and pretty much every party in the rest of the Western world are but exclusively about those secondary impulses—about government health
care—which America is slouching toward incrementally—about government daycare, which was
supposedly the most important issue in the 2006 Canadian election, government this, government that. If you have government healthcare, you not only annex a huge chunk of the economy, you annex a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of junkie and pusher, and you make it very difficult ever to change back. Americans don’t always appreciate how far gone down this path the rest of the developed world is. In Canadian and Continental cabinets, the defense ministry, for example, is now somewhere an ambitious politician passes through on his way up to important jobs like the health department. I don’t think that Donald Rumsfeld, for instance,
would have regarded it as a promotion to be moved from the Pentagon to Health and Human Services. But it seems to me, if you listened to that Democratic debate at Dartmouth this week, that American attitudes to economic liberty are being Canadianized and that Canadian attitudes to economic liberty are not being Americanized at all.
These differences were present at the creation. We heard today about the Founders attitude to the economy, but you can divine a lot just from the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” By contrast, the equivalent phrase at Canada’s founding is this: “peace, order and
good government.” And you can see why people would rather spend Saturday night with the Oak Ridge Boys. It’s not just that those words are drier and desiccated and stir the blood a lot less, but that they presume a degree of statist torpor. Ronald Reagan famously said, “We are a
nation that has a government, not the other way around.” In Canada it too often seems like the other way around.
Now all that said, if you remove health care from the equation, when we focus on differences we are focusing on the marginal in the big global picture. If you look at the Annual Report on Economic Freedom in the World that is available at this conference, you’ll see that the U.S. and Canada are pretty much ranked the same. They’re tied in fifth place along with Britain. In fact,
if you look at the top ten most free economies in the world, they’re Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Estonia, Ireland and Australia. What do those places have in common? Well, with the exception of Switzerland and Estonia, they’re all British derived; they’re what Jacques Chirac dismissively calls les anglo-saxon. And
he and many other continentals make it very clear that they regard free market capitalism as some sort of kinky anglo-saxon fetish.
The historian Andrew Roberts, the author of A History of the English Speaking Peoples since
1900—a sequel to Churchill’s great work—points out that the two most corrupt jurisdictions in
North America are Louisiana and Quebec. What do they have in common? Well they’re both
French-derived. Mary O’Grady said at one of this morning’s panels, “No government, no corruption.” So to conflate Mary and Lord Acton, all government tends to corrupt, but French government corrupts very Frenchly. Quebec has a civil service that employs the same number of people as California’s, even though California has a population getting on for five times the size and even without that, represents what very few Americans would regard as the idea of small government. And so with what one might call the institutional frenchification of Canada that Pierre Trudeau greatly advanced, the country is no longer quite as anglo-saxon in its approach to
matters of economic liberty as one might wish.
In the province of Quebec for example, it’s taken more or less for granted by all political parties that collective rights outweigh individual rights. For example, if you own a store in Montreal, the French language signs inside the store must, by law, be at least twice the size as the English signs—by law. And the government has a fairly large bureaucratic agency whose job it is to go around the province measuring signs and prosecuting people who’ve written the English translation too large. There was a famous case a few years ago of a pet store owner who was targeted by the Office De La Langue Francais for only selling anglophone parrots. The language commissar had gone into the store and heard the parrot saying, “Who’s a pretty boy then?” and decided to take action. I keep trying to find out what happened. I’d love to hear the end of the story. I keep trying to find out what happened to the parrot, but nobody seems to know. He was taken away, presumably sent to a re-education camp and emerged years later with a glassy stare saying in a monotone voice, “Qui est le joli garcon?”
The English minority in Montreal gets annoyed by this, but the point to remember is that it is consonant with the broader disposition. A couple of years ago it emerged that a few Quebec hospitals in the eastern townships along the Vermont border were, as a courtesy to their English-speaking patients, putting up hand written pieces of paper in the corridor saying “emergency room this way” or “obstetrics department second on the left.” But in Quebec, you’re only permitted to offer health care services in English if the English population in your town reaches a certain percentage. So these hand-written pieces of paper were illegal and had to be taken down. And I got a lot of mail from indignant Canadians upset about this, and I responded as follows: If you accept that the government has a right to make itself the monopoly provider of healthcare, it surely has the right to decide which language it’s prepared to offer the healthcare in. So this isn’t just about Quebec separatism; it’s part of a fundamentally different way of looking at the role of the state.
So, granted the caveat that the economically freest countries in the world are the English-speaking democracies, within that family there are some interesting differences, and I would say between America and Canada there is as follows:
One: the Canadian economy is more unionized. According to the Fraser Institute survey, since the beginning of this century, the new century, the unionized proportion of the work force in the United States has averaged 13.9 percent. The unionized proportion of the work force in Canada has averaged 32 percent. That is a huge difference. The least unionized state in America is North Carolina—3.9 percent of the work force there are members of trade unions. The least unionized province in Canada is Alberta, where 24.2 percent are members of trade unions. That’s a higher percentage than every American state except Hawaii and Alaska and alone in the
lower 48, New York State. In the province of Quebec, 40.4 percent of workers are unionized, and if you regard as the evidence suggests that unionization is a major obstacle to productivity, investment and employment growth, that is a critical difference between Canada and America. One way to look at it is this: if you’ve ever gone into a government office in the United States to stand in line for a permit or a license for this or that, you will notice—no disrespect—that
you’re often being served by someone who would have extreme difficulty getting anything other than government work. If you go into the government office in Quebec and stand in line for 8 or 9 hours, you notice very quickly that every counter is staffed by some incredibly hot looking choir girl of 22 or 23 and you think to yourself, why isn’t she a super model or a movie star? Why is she just standing there handing out forms for benefit checks eight hours a day? And the reason is that 40.4 percent unionization rate. In a statist protected economy, that’s what there is
to do and that’s what everybody does. I drive a lot between Quebec and New Hampshire and you don’t really need a border post to tell you when you’ve crossed from one land into another. On one side the hourly update on the radio news lets you know that Canada post workers are thinking about their traditional pre-Christmas strike—because the Canadians have gotten used to
getting their Christmas cards round about Good Friday, and it’s part of the tradition now.
Employees of the government liquor store are already on strike, the nurses are on strike, the police are on strike, sometimes you’re held up at the border because the custom officials are on
strike. Strike! Strike! Strike! You could listen for years to a New Hampshire radio station and never hear that word outside the baseball play-by-play. So that’s what happens when everything
Here’s a news item from last year that gave me a headache just trying to follow it. An Ottawa panhandler says he may have to abandon his prime panhandling real estate on a downtown street corner because he is being shaken down by officials from the panhandlers union. Thank about that. There’s a panhandlers union which exists to protect workers’ rights or in this case, non-
workers’ rights. If the union-negotiated non-work contracts aren’t honored, the members will
presumably walk off the job and stand around on the sidewalk. No, wait; they’ll walk off the
sidewalk and stand around in some factory building. That’s Canada—over-unionized and with a
bloated public sector. Sample statistic: in the last days of the liberal government in Ottawa, I heard a CBC news anchor announce that Canada had “created 56,100 new jobs in the previous month.” And he said this is that “now for the good news voice” that anchors adopt when they’re reading an economic statistic—56,100 new jobs. Sounds great? The old economy is positively
roaring along. And just for a change, I thought I’d look at the numbers myself. Of those 56,100 new jobs, 4,200 were self-employed, 8,900 were in private businesses, and the remaining 43,000 were on the public payroll. That’s why they call it creating jobs. Seventy-seven percent of new
jobs were government jobs paid for by the poor slobs working away in the remaining 23 percent. So it’s not good news; it’s bad news. It’s about the remorseless transfer of human resources from the vital dynamic sector to the state. So, that’s the first difference.
The second difference is that the Canadian economy is more protected. I’m sure you’re had
this experience: After President Bush’s re-election, I got into an argument with a California lefty
who’d seen some BBC documentary claiming the Republican party was full of fanatical
Christians waiting for the rapture. And he was mocking the rapture, “Oh this rapture, this
rapture. You’re going to ascend up to heaven. Yeah, when’s the estimated time of arrival?” Now, I just sat through the usual election campaign in which Democrats had said “Oh, if the Republicans win again, that’s it, I’m moving to Canada.” So I said to the guy, “That’s the left-
wing rapture. You guys promise after every election you’re all going to ascend en masse to
Canada. And that’s seems to be a little behind schedule, too.”
I was talking to this guy from the Bay area. He ran a gay bookstore and he swore to me he’d had it with Bush and the Republi-Fascists and he was going to move up to Vancouver and reopen his bookstore there. And I said to him, “Yeah, well good luck with that. That’s illegal in
Canada.” And he got very huffy and he said to me all indignantly, “What do you mean it’s illegal? It’s not illegal for a gay man to own a bookstore in Canada.” I said, “No, but it’s illegal for a foreigner to own a bookstore in Canada.” He can move to Canada, but he’ll be like those
22-year-old cuties in Quebec, he’ll be working at the DMV. And his face dropped for a moment,
and I thought of pitching one of those soft-focused TV movie-of-the-week things to the Lifestyle Channel telling the heartwarming story of a Berkeley gay couple who flee Bush’s regime to live their dream of running a gay bookstore in Vancouver, only to find that Canada’s got ways of discriminating against them that the homophobic fascists in the United States hadn’t even begun
to consider. So, Canada’s economy is more protected.
The third point: It’s also more subsidized. Almost everything in Canada is taking government money in some form or other. And that’s particularly relevant to Hillsdale. Let’s say you’re offered a job in Montreal, and you’ve got an eighth grade child. Now, in the province of Quebec, you’re not allowed to send your child to an English public school unless you yourself were educated in an English language school in Canada. So, if you immigrate from the United States with an eighth grade daughter, she can’t go to an English language public school; she’ll have to
go to a French public school. And you’ll think, “Well, maybe she can’t handle it; she doesn’t
really speak good French. She couldn’t handle doing physics in French, chemistry in French,
history in French, whatever, so I’d like to send her to an English language school.” So, you send
her to private school and that’s fine, until she gets to the ninth grade when you can’t even send
your child to an English language private school because the private schools all take government money, so it’s illegal for you as a U.S. citizen immigrating to Canada to take a ninth grader to that school. She’d have to leave the school. Everything is on the government payroll.
If you watch a Quebec separatist documentary arguing that Quebec’s culture is being trampled on by the Canadian oppressor, right in the credits at the end, there will be a little maple leaf logo saying that this film was brought to you by the Canada Council or Telefilm Canada or some such. The Quebec separatist artists’ view is that the Canadian state is entirely illegitimate, but
fortunately its checks aren’t.
I was at the Summit of the Americas held in Canada in the summer of 2001 with President Bush and the presidents and prime ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean. And naturally it attracted the usual anti-globalization anarchists who wandered through town, lobbing bricks through any McDonald’s or Nike outlet that hadn’t taken the precaution of boarding up
the windows. And I was standing inside the perimeter fence in the charming swirl of tear gas, enjoying the mob denouncing Bush and Coe just a few feet away on the other side of the wire, when a riot cop suddenly grabbed me and yanked me backwards and a nanosecond later a chunk of concrete landed precisely where I had been standing. And I did the usual, “Oh my God, I could have been killed” thing for a few minutes and then I went to have a café au lait and while
reading the paper, I learned that not only had Canadian colleges given their students time off to come to the Summit to riot, but that the Canadian government had given them $300,000 to pay for their travel and expenses. It was a government-funded, anti-government riot. It was a government-funded piece of concrete that had some winging over the fence at me. So then I
stopped bleating “Oh my God, I could have been killed,” and I started bleating, “Oh my God, I could have been killed at taxpayer expense.” I went back to the chunk of concrete to see if it had
the maple leaf logo and the message “This tragic death brought to you by the government of Canada.” Say what you like about the American trust fund babies at that Summit who swarmed in to demonstrate from Boston and New York, but at least they were there on their own dime. Canada will and does subsidize anything.
Fourth point: The Canadian economy is significantly more dirigiste. A couple of years ago it
was revealed that the liberal government had introduced a fast-track immigration program for exotic dancers—that’s strippers. Now as a general rule, one of the easiest things to leave for the free market to determine is the number of strippers a society needs. But for some reason, the government concluded the market wasn’t generating the supply required and introduced the
special immigration visa. You know, to go back to President Bush’s line, presumably this is one of those jobs that Canadians won’t do, so we need to get some Ukrainians in to do it. Naturally
the exotic dancers are unionized, so it’s only a matter of time before the last viable industry in
Quebec grinds to a halt and American tourists in Montreal find themselves stuck in traffic because of huge numbers of striking strippers. What governmental mind would think of an exotic dancer immigration category? And that’s another difference, by the way: Canada has the
highest per capita immigration in the world.
Fifth point: The Canadian economy is more heavily taxed. This spring I was at the trial in Chicago of Conrad Black, my old boss at the Chicago Sun Times and the Daily Telegraph in
London and the National Post in Canada. The entire trial hinged on whether Conrad Black and
his fellow directors should have availed themselves of something called a non-competition payment. And the prosecutor’s opening statement was a very lurid peroration culminating in the following sentence, “And here’s the beauty of it: If you’re Canadian, it’s tax free.” If you’re Canadian, it’s tax free. That’s what the Chicago prosecutor said. I’ve lived a lot, I’ve seen a lot, but I don’t believe the English language has ever before put those words together in that order. If you’re Canadian, it’s tax free. The prosecution had instantly transformed the land of
confiscatory taxation into the northernmost Cayman Island—a land of buccaneering capitalists, th parallel like the Mongol hoards. I wish it red in tooth and claw, who ride down over the 49
were true: total revenue for every level of government in the United States is 27 percent of GDP, approximately. In Canada, it’s 37 percent of GDP. And yes, obviously that 37 percent includes healthcare, but you would have to be having an awful lot of terminal illnesses each year to be getting your money’s worth from what you’re giving to the treasury for that.
So Canada’s economy is more unionized, more subsidized, more protected, more dirigiste,
more immigrant dependent, and more taxed. And what’s interesting is the intersection of those features. Essentially what it means is that economic protectionism leads to monopoly. There is no anti-trust mentality in Canada, just an anti-foreigner mentality. And if you artificially limit the pool of people you can sell something to, you run out of potential buyers and you wind up with extreme consolidation. I mentioned that bookstore earlier. If you walk through a big Canadian city, you’ll see outlets of various bookstore chains—there is one called Chapters,
there’s one called Indigo, there’s Cole’s, there’s Smith Books—they’re all part of the same group.
Imagine if Borders and Barnes and Noble and Books a Million and everything else were all part of the same chain but just with different names to keep you on your toes. And the person who runs all those bookstores is a single lady who orders books for just about every bookstore in Canada—she’s a very nice lady and she gets annoyed when I mention her in public—but I can’t
see what benefit it is for Canadians to have the same woman ordering books for every bookstore in the land. For every branch of Chapters, every branch of Indigo, every branch of Cole’s, every
branch of Smith Books and every other wholly independent operating unit of Canada’s multi-
alias monopoly bookstore chain, all the way down to Mom and Pop’s Authentic Home Style
Village Bookstore in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. That’s where economic protectionism leads
If you artificially limit the pool of people you can sell something to, you run out of potential buyers and you wind up with extreme consolidation. Canada has one national bookstore chain, one media conglomerate, one airline, on and on. And that’s what a protectionist economy dwindles down to every time: government regulation in aid of corporate monopoly. What these monopolies then do is move south. America has thousands of banks. Canada has the same handful in every town. No American bank ever buys a Canadian bank because they’re not
allowed to, but Canadian banks buy American banks every year, and it’s hard to spot because
they’re very cunning about it. In New England you see branches of TD Bank North all over the
place. The TD stands for Toronto Dominion. They’ve become one of the biggest bankers in New England. The Royal Bank of Canada bought a bank in the U.S., and I forget what it was - the First National Bank of Dead Horse, Arizona, or something - and they instantly changed the name of the group to RBC after their rebranding consultant told them that the name of Royal Bank of Canada tested poorly in America.
Hard to believe you’d pay money to learn that, but apparently the word “Royal” reminded Americans of Prince Charles, the word “Bank” reminded them of one lone, surly teller, long rope
lines and wasted lunch hours, and the word “Canada” reminded them of Canada. So, they changed the group’s name to RBC and that’s very telling, too. Canada expands into the U.S. as a
kind of stealth operation, there’s no cachet to the national flag, there’s no Canadian who’s
become a global brand the way that Germany’s Herr Daimler or Japan’s Mr. Matsushita have.
Most would-be global behemoths from Canada have stumbled or self-destructed when they take to the world stage, and it’s not just because you’re used to operating as part of a protected market:
it’s hard to make the go in a genuinely competitive one. I think it has to do with the basic nature of the Canadian economy. And having run down Canada’s economy in various features, let me say one good thing about it: It doesn’t have the agricultural subsidies that we do here—the
insanely wasteful federal agricultural subsidies that America has. In fact, if a Canadian wants to get big-time agriculture subsidies, he’s more likely to get them from the U.S. government. I’m sure most people here know about this racket down here. As far as I can tell, no actual farmers—that’s to say guys in denim overalls and plaid shirts and John Deere caps with straws in the stumps of their teeth—no farmers get any benefit at all from U.S. agricultural subsidy. Almost three-quarters of the subsidies go to 20,000 multi-millionaire play farmers and blue chip corporations with some canny land investments. Farm subsidies are supposed to help the farmbelt. But there’s a map of where the farm subsidies go that you can find on the Internet. And judging from the beneficiaries, the farm belt runs from Park Avenue, down Wall Street, out to the Hamptons, and then by yacht over to Martha’s Vineyard, which they really ought to rename Martha’s Barnyard. Among the farmers piling up the dollar bills under the mattress are Ted Turner, Sam Donaldson, the oil company Chevron, and that dirt-poor, hard-scrabble, sharecropper David Rockefeller. But also among their number is Edgar Bronfman, Sr., who isn’t just any old billionaire, he’s the patriarch of Montreal’s wealthiest family. They’re the Seagram
Whiskey guys who subsequently bought Universal Pictures. So the U.S. taxpayer in his boundless generosity is subsidizing the small family farms of Canadian billionaires. Edgar Bronfman, Senior: just another seasonal agricultural worker doing the jobs Americans won’t do.
As a Canadian and a broken-down, loser New Hampshire tree farmer myself, I wondered whether I could get in on the U.S. farm program, but as I understand it, its only for fitting a helicopter pad on top of the barn and an en suite marble bathroom in the grain silo. All these billionaire agricultural workers: it’s like the old song says, how are you going to keep them down in Paree after they’ve seen the farm?
In a poignant way, Edgar Bronfman’s dependence on U.S. tax payers is very symbolic,
because that’s the big thing to take away. There is no such thing as the Canadian economy. The
Canadian economy is a branch plant for the U.S. It’s a subsidiary for the U.S. Over eighty
percent of Canadian exports go to the United States, and from time to time, nationalist politicians pledge to change all that and start shipping stuff to the European Union or wherever, but they never do because they don’t have to, due to the fact that they’ve got the world’s greatest market right next door. So when people talk about the Canadian model, it only works because it’s right
up close to the American model.
The guy who invented the Blackberry is Canadian—that’s the little thing you get your emails
on that’s also a cell phone—not real blackberries; I don’t know who invented that, and that’s
probably not Canadian. But the guy who invented the Blackberry is Canadian, and it’s been a
gold mine for him, not because he’s selling a lot of them in Labrador or Prince Edward Island, but because he’s selling a lot of them in New York or California.
The Canadian economy’s performance is defined by access to the American economy. That’s all that matters. For example, until the 60’s, there were two separate car economies—the
Canadian economy was sealed off from the U.S. automobile industry, completely sealed off. They merged them into one North American automobile industry in the 60s and one result of that is that today the province of Ontario produces more automobiles than the state of Michigan. I bought a Chevy truck last year in New Hampshire. It was made in Oshawa, Ontario. And the salesman told me that proudly as if it were a selling point—I don’t know why. But the fact of
the matter is that access to America is what defines the Canadian economy. And that means that Canada gets to have its cake and eat it. It’s as anti-American as France or Germany. According
to one poll, forty percent of Canadian teens regard America as “evil.” Evil—that’s not even one of those categories that’s open to interpretation, such as, “Oh, I misunderstood; I thought they
were talking about the softwood lumber dispute or something.” It’s something evil, evil. Let’s
just cut to the chase.
That’s the good news. When it comes to francophone Canadian teens, the number who regard America as “an evil global force” is 64 percent. But unlike the Belgians and the Swedes and all the rest, the Canadian economy is only one customer. And you’d think that would make anti-
Americanism a might psychologically unhealthy. If we feel they’re evil, why don’t we close the
border? Why don’t we put our money where our mouth is? Well, because we’d all starve. So the gap between our money and our mouth widens every year and we’re entirely at ease with it. Polls show a huge chunk of Canadians regard America as “a force for evil in the world,” but
simultaneously we take for granted our privileged access to the American market. So we ought to remember when we talk about the Canadian model, that in effect, its distinctive features are funded by America --that in fact, Canada’s Canadianness depends on America’s
Americanness. And that’s true in almost all particulars, but it is particularly true in healthcare,
which is the most eminent Canadian idea looming in the American context. Public healthcare in Canada depends on private healthcare in the United States, and I’ll be happy to go into that if
anyone wants to ask me questions on that. But just let me give you a small news story from last month that will tell you—this is Canadian healthcare in a nutshell: “A Canadian woman has
given birth to extremely rare identical quadruplets. The four girls were born at a U.S. hospital because there was no space available at Canadian neonatal intensive care units. Autumn, Brook, Calissa, and Dahlia are in good condition at Benefice Hospital in Great Falls, Montana. Health officials said they checked every other neonatal intensive care unit in Canada, but none had space. The Jepps, a nurse and a respiratory technician were flown 500 kilometers to the Montana hospital, the closest in the U.S., where the quadruplets were born on Sunday.” That’s socialized healthcare. After all, you can’t expect a G-7 economy of only 30 million people to be able to
offer the same level of neonatal intensive care coverage as a town of 50,000 in remote, rural Montana. And let’s face it, there’s nothing an expectant mom likes more on the day of delivery than 300 miles in a bumpy twin prop over the Rockies. Everyone knows that socialized healthcare means you wait and wait and wait—6 months for an MRI, a year for a hip
replacement. But here is the absolute logical reductio of a government monopoly in healthcare:
the ten month waiting list for the maternity ward.
I’d just like to say in conclusion, I’m not optimistic about Canada for various reasons—from
the recent Chinese enthusiasm for buying up the country’s resources to the ongoing brain drain, but also for more profound reasons. The biggest difference between Canada and the U.S. is not that you crazy, violent, psycho Yanks have guns and we caring, progressive Canucks have socialized healthcare, but that America has a healthy fertility rate and we don’t. America has 2.1 children per couple, which is enough to maintain a stable population, whereas according to the latest official figures, Canada has 1.5 children, which puts us on the brink of steep demographic decline. You do the math: 10 million parents of 7.5 million children have 5.6 million grandchildren and 4.2 million great-grandchildren. So you can imagine what shape those lavish Canadian social programs will be in under that scenario, and that’s before your average pimply burger flipper gets tired of supporting entire gated communities and decides he’d rather head south than pay 70 percent tax rates just to prop up the government healthcare system so Gramps and his buddies can enjoy shuffleboard for a couple more generations.
So to produce the children we couldn’t be bothered having ourselves, we use the developing world as the maternity ward. Between 2001 and 2006, Canada’s population increased by 1.6
million. 400,000 came from natural population growth kids; 1.2 million came from immigration. That’s to say native Canadians—already a small minority of 25 percent in the country’s population growth—and there will be a small and every smaller minority in the Canada of the future. It’s like a company in which you hold an every diminishing percentage of the stock. It might still be a great successful company in the years ahead, but if it is, it won’t have much—if
anything—to do with you. In a decade or two the real difference will be that America will be a lot younger and Canada will be a lot older. When 75 percent of your population growth comes from immigration, you’ve effectively taken a decision to outsource your future and the Canada
of tomorrow will be determined by who that 75 percentile is.
That’s the point: you’ve outsourced the future. U.S. progressives are wrong. Not only is Canada’s path not a model for America, it’s not a viable model for Canada, as Canadians are
about to discover, because the future belongs to those who show up for it.