The world has seen monumental political changes in the last year. The British exited from the European Union. Alternative Right-wing parties are on the rise throughout much of Europe, threatening to undo the European Union. Marine La Pen seems poised to become the next French leader. Meanwhile, in the United States, the election of Donald Trump has thrown the comfortable assumptions of globalization out the window. China, I believe, is also slated to feel the intense shocks of this negative reaction to globalization throughout the world.
But, one place that is often overlooked is Canada.
However, the shocks that have ripped through the international system will also soon wash over Canada, exacerbating the natural divisions that define the Canadian system. Indeed, the rise of the Wildrose Party in the energy-rich Canadian province of Alberta is a sure-fire way to assess where Canada is headed. It is unlikely to be pretty (for the Canadian government in Ottawa, at least), if trends persist.
The Wildrose Party is yet another Alternative Right-wing party which was created predominantly as an opposition movement. You see, Alberta is the most prosperous province in all of Canada. Yet, it is also the most heavily-taxed province in the entire country (there are ten provinces).
The central government in Ottawa has a predominantly Liberal orientation (this is especially so under Prime Minister Trudeau’s rule). In order to provide the costly social services, the Canadian government very often needs greater sums of taxpayer money. Since Alberta is the most prosperous province of the country, they feel the taxation more. What’s more, Alberta being a distant province in Canada means that the province is under-represented.
This has led to antagonism and resentment on the part of the Albertans toward the government in Ottawa and much of the rest of Canada, whom they believe have placed unfair economic burdens on Alberta. In many respects, the Albertans are not unlike the American colonists who revolted against the British Empire in 1776.
The Wildrose Party rose as a means of trying to end the perceived unfairness and to shed light onto the fact that many Albertans will no longer tolerate being taken advantage of. It makes sense that they’d be angry. It also makes sense that, in the current global climate of localism and nationalism, that many Albertans would turn to a party like the Wildrose Party to guide them to a better future.
The Wildrose Party has, since 2012, made incredible gains that mirrors those of both the La Pen National Front Party in France and the Alternativ für Deutschland (AfD) Party in Germany. Whereas the Wildrose Party was once a fringe political anomaly in Canadian politics, it is now the second-largest party in Alberta’s provincial legislative body. Indeed, going into the 2019 provincial elections, the Wildrose Party seems poised to take power.
As you’ve learned from reading this website, the anti-globalist trend is unstoppable. It is consuming the world. Therefore, Canada will be no different. In his stimulating 2014 book, “Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder”, geopolitical analyst Peter Zeihan speculated that Canada’s Alberta province could eventually secede from Canada. If that were to happen, he posited, that would be the end of Canada. Furthermore, he suggested that if such an event were to occur, the Albertans would likely seek to become the 51st state of the United States.
I believe that Zeihan is more correct than even he realizes (in the book, he adds an equivocation about comfort, nationalism, and culture being unquantifiable things that could make or break any Alberta accession to the United States). While the Wildrose Party has sought to retool its message from that of a pure opposition party to also one of a constructive governing party, there can be little doubt that secession is at the core of their agenda.
Should the Wildrose Party continue on its meteoric electoral rise (as I suspect they will), we can expect the Albertans to increasingly look toward secession as a viable option. While this move will in no way be a unanimous move on the part of Alberta (in much the same way that neither the Brexit vote nor the election of Donald Trump was universally approved), it will be a fait accompli, should the Wildrose Party win electoral victory in Alberta.
As Zeihan analyzes in his book, there are some important factors to consider when looking at the ramifications of Albertan secession. The first is that Alberta is the most prosperous province of Canada. Also, unlike the rest of Canada, Alberta has a vibrant population density that favors youth (the rest of the Canadian population looks disturbingly like the demography of Western Europe: old, dying, and few native born citizens to replace those old and dying workers).
This is not the case with Alberta. It is the energy capital of not just Canada, but if it were to join the United States, it would be the energy capital of all of North America. Indeed, not even potent Texas holds a match to the energy production of Alberta. If Alberta were to join the U.S., it would overnight become the most prosperous state in the country. Consequently, as Zeihan asserts, if Alberta did join the U.S., America’s energy independence would go from being completely theoretical to a very real thing overnight (this, as Zeihan analyzes in his thrilling book, would have profound consequences for America’s view of the outside world).
Some other considerations is that Canada, despite having so much in common with the U.S., is quite dissimilar. Its geography impedes greater unification and impinges on interstate trade. Because of this, the ten provinces of Canada are largely politically autonomous. They are also culturally dissimilar from one another. Lastly, these provinces, due to their geographic limitations, have become increasingly integrated in the American economic system. This is particularly true of Alberta and the various islands of Canada.
Indeed, the Canadian government resembles the old government that the Articles of Confederation created in the U.S. between the Revolutionary War and the enactment of the Constitution in 1789. The reason that the Canadians have had to embrace this confederal system is because there is virtually no way that a more centralized, federal system would work there.
Thus, the government in Ottawa governs in the fashion it does mostly at the largesse of the other provinces. Ottawa has basically used its ability to tax and spend to pay off the old Quebec separatists, for instance. Meanwhile, in 2000, the Ottawa government made secession a legally protected act. All of this does not bode well for the longevity of the Canadian state.
Another factor is the demographics. Canada, despite being the fourth-largest country in the world (in total land area), only has a population of roughly 35 million people. Compare that California, which has a population of 38 million people and you can see that Canada’s population is extremely small compared to its geographic size. With the exception of Alberta, Canada’s population, as I noted earlier, is getting older and dying at a greater rate than there are young people to replace them.
Canada’s fertility rates also mean that, over the long term, their population will become smaller than it already is. Now, Canada has opened the flood gates on its immigration policies. While that has helped to blunt the damage of losing the Canadian population, it has not totally reversed Canada’s general demographic decline, nor has it not come without considerable negative consequences, as I have previously written.
Given the geographic isolation and political limitations, Albertan secession is not only possible, but if it were attempted, it would likely be successful. The Canadian military is not strong enough or designed to prevent a secessionist movement from being successful. What’s more, with 80% of the Canadian population living less than 300 miles away from the U.S. border, it seems unlikely that the United States would simply sit idly by while a civil war consumed their northern neighbor. Besides, the net positives for America embracing Alberta are far too great.
And, once Alberta went, so would all of Canada. The maritime provinces, which are already closely linked to the U.S. economy, would likely follow suit. As would Quebec. Soon thereafter, the rest of Canada would quickly fall into place. Put simply, removing Alberta would essentially end Canada as an effective nation-state. Its component parts would likely soon be subsumed into the United States.
What we are witnessing throughout the world today is the end of the consensus on globalization. We are returning to the traditional standards and practices of the Westphalian nation-state system. Essentially, national priorities are coming to replace international concerns. The same trends affecting the West will very soon impact Canada. Indeed, they will hit Canada very hard. Should trends persist (as I suspect they will), 2019 will be a bumper harvest year for the Albertan secessionist movement.
It would be an irony of the ages, however, if the United States ended up basically absorbing Canada. Donald Trump and many who believe as he does were essentially elected (in large part) because of their opposition to things like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This free trade agreement has lowered the trade barriers between the United States, Canada, and Mexico to create a common trading zone.
Many on the American Right (and some on the Far Left) are understandably skeptical of this agreement, as it has led to much job loss in the U.S. Indeed, over the years, critics of NAFTA have fretted that this was but the beginning of an even greater attempt to unify the U.S., Canada, and Mexico in a North American Union. Such a union, they feared, would become a supranational political entity not unlike the European Union. It has never happened and I suspect that it was unlikely to ever occur, given the competing interests of the three states involved.
However, this anti-globalization wave that will soon impact Canada could eventuate with not only the implosion of Canada, but also with the absorption of Canada’s disparate provinces (notably Alberta) into the U.S. Thus, a political union of sorts would have been achieved under the anti-globalist leadership in the U.S. Of course, this political union would be a wholly American one, as opposed to a globalist supranational union that superseded the U.S. Constitution. Still, it would somewhat ironic that an anti-globalist, largely nationalist, Right-wing movement would end up expanding America’s borders.
Nevertheless, the question over Albertan secession is an important (and overlooked) one. If trends persist, it is likely that the Wildrose Party will be victorious in the 2019 provincial elections. If that were the case, the question of Albertan secession would be answered in a resounding “yes, secede!” This is a geopolitical trend to keep your eyes on. It could have long-lasting ramifications for not only the U.S. and North America, but the entire world. Because the more energy independent the U.S. became, the less willing the U.S. would be at engaging with the outside world. Indeed, the absorption of Alberta into the U.S. would essentially create a superstate. As such, America would have less incentive to involve itself in the world beyond North America.