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Copyright 1996 FDCHeMedia,
Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Clearing House Congressional Testimony
September 25, 1996, Wednesday
SECTION: CAPITOL HILL HEARING TESTIMONY
LENGTH: 1776 words
HEADLINE: TESTIMONY September 25, 1996 ANDREW W. MELLON PROFESSOR OF
INTERNATION RELATIONS NITZE SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATION STUDIES, JOHNS
HOPKINS UNIVERSITY HOUSE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS WESTERN HEMISPHERE SITUATION
Charles F. Doran
Andrew W. Mellon Professor of International Relations
Nitze School of Advanced
Johns Hopkins University
September 25, 1996
House Committee on International Relations
Subcommittee On Western Hemisphere
Will Quebec secede from Canada?
secedes, will English Canada unravel?
What's the impact on U.S.
interests of Canadian fragmentation?
How should the United States respond?
WILL QUEBEC SECEDE FROM CANADA?
In the Fall 1995 referendum on Quebec separation, the ruling Parti Quebecois government came within about 50,000 votes
of a majority in favor of secession. Quebec separatists claim that independence is necessary
to preserve Quebec
language and culture. This claim has created political tension within
the province of Quebec between federalists and the separatists and
as a whole.
Premier Bouchard has indicated that the top priority for
the PQ government is, for the present, fighting the large financial deficit
and governing effectively. He argues that Quebec
will not call another referendum before the next Quebec election scheduled for 1999 or
earlier. But he has also and he promises that Quebec voters will insisted that separation remains on
his government's agenda, he promises that Quebec voters will get another opportunity
to decide this issue.
Prediction of future political events with any degree of
confidence is impossible. There are many reasons, however, for
believing that the threat of Quebec
separation ought to be taken seriously. According
to The Globe and Mail,
Canada's leading English
newspaper, 52.5 percent of Quebec
voters currently support separation. Each generation of Quebec voters has become more supportive of secession,
especially in the aftermath of the unsuccessful attempts at
country-wide constitutional reform during the
Lake and Charlottetown accords. Younger voters
are more independence-minded than older voters, and
as each generation ages, it tends to retain this profile of preference for
Ottawa has made bold
efforts to meet the demands of Quebec
interests, while at the same time trying to satisfy the concerns of mostly
English-speaking voters living elsewhere in Canada. Prime Minister Chretien's government has
introduced legislation to address some of Quebec's
concerns regarding the acknowledgment of Quebec
as a "distinct society," regarding the creation of a veto for Quebec and other
provinces over constitutional change, and regarding
worker retraining. The problem is that as large a majority is against
these provisions elsewhere in Canada
as is supportive of them in Quebec.
Hence, Ottawa has an extremely difficult
time getting the changes entrenched in the
constitution and unless they are so entrenched, Quebec rejects them as ephemeral.
Canada is thus faced with a dilemma of how to meet Quebec demands without
antagonizing the rest of the country and without undermining the capacity to govern
effectively. Language issues, educational policy, immigration rules,
joint Federal-Provincial funding of public programs all have inflamed opinion
between the anglophone minority and the francophone
Many things can happen to affect future Outcomes in
Quebec, including a return of the pro-federalist (but nationalist) Liberal
Party to power, a downturn of the business cycle that temporarily could shock
voters, and new policy initiatives on all sides. But
the seriousness of Quebec separation remains
a priority issue for Canada
and indeed for all of North America.
IF QUEBEC SECEDES, WILL ENGLISH CANADA
Quebec secession is normally
regarded as the only conceivable event that could lead to an unravelling
enjoys nearly a century and one-half of formal integration as a
confederation. Its political institutions are sophisticated and deeply
committed to democracy. Consistently, Canada is ranked by Opinion Surveys as the number one polity in
which to live. Despite all of these advantages, Canada would receive a sharp political jolt if
to opt out.
English Canada undoubtedly would attempt to reconstitute
itself politically after Quebec
separation. The central question is whether Such reconstitution would
satisfy both the voters in Ontario,
largest, most populous, and
richest English-speaking provinces. Quite a few hurdles exist.
First, the eastern Maritime Provinces
would be cut off from Canada
by an independent Quebec.
Despite the best of intention by of Canada a sense of being alone and
distant in geographic avoided. The Maritimes themselves might regroup politically,
but loss of geographic propinquity with the rest of English Canada would not
be easy to adjust to.
Second, large financial transfer payments currently pass
from the rich industrial and oil-abundant provinces to the poorer, less
industrialized provinces like Newfoundland
and Nova Scotia.
Once federation collapses, the voters in the rich provinces may have
second thoughts about continuing to support the less prosperous provinces.
If transfer payments disappear, the "glue" that has
traditionally held the country together in public policy terms might dissolve.
Third, the Canadian West has historically suffered from
what analysts call "Western alienation." Some 12 percent of voters
in British Columbia,
for example, say they should become a separate country. This sense of
alienation from the Canadian heartland has many causes, some of which like
tariff inequities are either fanciful or have disappeared. Yet the
sense of disenchantment with the industrial and political center of Canada lives
on. A difference in electoral and party preference, combined with
problems of political representation in the major governing parties, all have
contributed to the feelings many Westerners have of being "left
Fourth, in a Canada
bereft of Quebec, Ontario would tower over its neighboring provinces in terms of virtually every measure
including political clout. Surely, Alberta, for instance,
would demand a new Senate in which every province has equal representation.
Smaller provinces would probably need to regroup on a larger regional
basis. The constitution would require re-drafting. Ontario, of course, would be expected to
yield substantial sovereignty and
political leverage so that all of these far-reaching
constitutional changes would be allowed to go forward.
The problem is that, in the end, some provinces might
decide to go their own way politically. Ultimately
could fragment into three, four, five, or more entities, each independent,
but also relatively weak and isolated. No one would consciously seek
the unraveling of Canada,
could unravel just the same, as the unintended result of a failure to
overcome the fissiparousness of government action
and the monumental challenge of political reconstruction.
WHAT WOULD BE THE
IMPACT ON U.S.
OF CANADIAN FRAGMENTATION?
Accustomed to "peace, order, and good
government" above the 49th parallel, Americans have a difficult time
imagining a situation in which a number of small, disparate states would
occupy the space that once was a united Canada. Should such an agent occur,
the interests of the United
States would be at stake.
Political, economic, diplomatic, administrative, and defense concerns would emerge. What once was a
well-governed polity would become in the parlance of international politics
something of a political vacuum.
Administrative interactions would become more numerous,
complex, and burdensome. Coalitional arrangements might arise with non-
hemispheric powers. Defense arrangements would
require multiple participation by independent actors
theoretically capable of vetoing policies adopted by the majority representation.
How all of these innovations and changes would evolve is beyond the
ability of the analyst to systematically explore and delineate.
While all of the actors undoubtedly would prefer
membership in NAFTA, keeping NAFTA whole and vigorous might prove demanding.
Once individual political borders arise, trade, commercial, and
financial obstacles often follow. Continuation of effective trade
liberalization on a regional basis is the challenge.
In short, the goal of many to see North America evolve
into a broad, open liberal trade order might stumble in the face of an
unravelling of Quebec
and English Canada.
HOW SHOULD THE UNITED STATES RESPOND?
must be allowed to decide for itself, without
interference, according to democratic principles, what political fate it
prefers. Farsighted leadership in Ottawa,
and in Quebec City, as well as in the other
provincial capitals, may
well head-off imminent break-up and create a new foundation for a united Canada in the
twenty-first century. Yet enough indicators presently exist to suggest that
this set of initiatives will not come easily or with large guarantees of
It is time for the United
States to take Canada's
problems seriously and to begin to consider how its own interests will be affected by an unravelling of Canada.
At a minimum, the United States
ought to consider various contingencies, and, without precipitating the
outcome that it seeks to avoid, work out the responses that will be in the
best interest of each of the polities of North America.
(1) The United States
might, in the event of Canadian unraveling,
offer the isolated political fragments a kind of regional affiliation
with the United States.
They would pursue their independent domestic policies. But they would forgo building their militia and attempting
to establish unique foreign policies. Terms could be
established to promote mutual security for all of North
(2) Difficult though the path to statehood would be both
for the United States and
for a Canadian fragment attempting such a venture, the United States
should be prepared to consider such requests if regional affiliation proves insufficiently
attractive. Proud of Canada,
most Canadians rightly reject any thought of alternatives to Canadian
citizenship. But if English Canada fragments, all of
the political cards will have been shuffled. It is very difficult to
see what preferences might then eventuate. Better that the United States
keep an open mind regarding its options than to rigidly foreclose some of them
now based on presently inadequate information and an imperfect understanding
of what a very different kind of North America could require.
LOAD-DATE: September 26, 1996