Yesterday I received an invitation from the Economic Club of Calgary to hear and have breakfast with Diane Francis, who published last September Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America Should Become One Country. Two months ago I received the same invitation to hear Francis from the same speakers club in Toronto.
I won't be able to hear her in Calgary, but could have taken the subway to the Toronto event — if it hadn't been cancelled. No explanation was offered. None was needed: speakers clubs need paying audiences as well as clever speakers with something to say.
Four months after releasing Merger of the Century, Francis has finally landed: on January 31, flesh-and-blood Canadians will hear her try to reopen the first, supposedly, most noble option of our forbearers: building a parallel country separate from our rebellious brothers and sisters to the south.
There’s something poetic, if not significant, about Francis’s tepid reception in the book-buy center of the country.
Francis is a first-rate entertainer, successful author, and well-known Toronto–New York economic journalist. She has contended with mainstream editors and bosses all her professional life. She knows how to talk to influential Central Canadians. Indeed, CBC National Radio and TVO interviewed her about the book. Also, conservative and liberal papers have reviewed it. (My review is in this month’s Literary Review of Canada. Buy it — we’re almost fellow travelers, but it’s the most critical I’ve read so far.)
Justin Trudeau could slip his new canoe through gaps in the detailed chapters of Francis’s book. Nevertheless, it’s straightforward, full of concrete suggestions, and, by the way, highly relevant to those who worry about the US and geopolitics, and who study diligently the virtues of living apart.
Still, silence in Central Canada.
We worry about reports that Harper’s Canada is shrinking from the world; we insist we’re an example of how to do politics; we pack assembly halls and hotels to hear public intellectuals debate dangerous ideas about other places. We call ourselves secular.