Historically, Conservatives didn’t boast much about Canada.
Indeed, being less dynamic and less obsessed with material success than Americans was one of the cornerstones of Canada’s identity. They were British loyalists—living alongside a larger, rapidly growing federation. They were in the resistance business, fending off a glamorous liberal civilization to the south.
Today, America doesn’t run as fast as it used to. But its earliest liberal ways have prevailed at home and have captured the Conservative imagination in Canada. Today, Canadian Conservatives label the past “royal” and measure their country’s worth in terms of future economic growth—once America’s most recognizable, albeit philistine, virtue.
Commodity markets, futurists, and statistics now support a new patriotism that thrives on numbers.
The latest send up is by Scott Martin, a post-graduate at LSE and former aid to Canada’s minister of foreign affairs and minister of finance. Using a forecast by HSBC Global Research, he exclaims in “Bigger than France?”:
“When you modestly adjust for HSBC's conservative projection for Canada's population growth, it is not inconceivable that our country might reach 2050 with a larger economy than that of La République. And on that path, we would be well placed to even approach Britain in economic weight by the time Canada celebrates its bicentennial.”
Staying number ten in the world, with one percent of the population of the world—and, conceivably, passing France and Great Britain economically—Canada’s economy will stamp out any remaining questions about the logic of living in a separate northern country. Canada needn’t feel left out for not being American; now, it can also be great. Martin prods us forward.
“Are Canadians even prepared to outshine France? Are we really ready to be bigger than Britain? Very few of us have started to think in these terms, but we are not without some good reasons to. Our world mid-century will be very different place than it is today, that is certain, but there are promising indications that Canada's influence in it can increase dramatically. The sooner we begin to work towards much more ambitious goals than we are used to setting, the more successful we will become at transforming ourselves in order to fulfill this country's limitless potential.”
There’s something sad and funny about this scenario.
Martin could have been an Anglican seminarian in the summer of 2007, deciding to go into high finance and study how to bundle and re-sell mortgages.
Tories used to explain that sticking with Canada was the only way to preserve conservative virtues in this vulgar world. The chance of being richer than France and Britain is a philistine argument and as elusive as being a good Tory.
All projections about Canada’s future economic success rest critically on the continuing economic vitality of the United States and its continuing inclination to champion and protect open and orderly international trade. No long-term forecast makes Canada a great exporter without a robust North American home market. No forecast of Canada as an energy and resource export super-power allows Canada to be great without a US market and, as important, continuing support for open trade—American-style—in China, India and other young capitalist economies.
Even if the present world order purrs along for another forty years and Canada’s GNP catches up with several former European giants, Canadians will not “outshine” the French or the Italians or the British as citizens of the world—as people with political power able significantly influence regional and global events.
Those Europeans will be citizens of a decentralized Europe Union. They will have political sway within a one of the world’s great civilizations and economic machines.
Canada’s new nationalists seem content to win at statistics and live politically outside of North America’s political drama.