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Why the U.S. needs Canada 1

I’ve had this debate many times over the last 10 years or so with several different people. The debate usually starts out with the statement “Canada would be nothing if the United States weren’t there to protect her“. The common perception for some is that Canada wouldn’t be able to protect itself if it didn’t have Big Brother the United States right next door.

The question goes well beyond whether Canada would be able to protect itself if it were attacked. The answer is much more complicated than a simple yes or no. If Canada were attacked by a powerful army, it wouldn’t likely defend itself alone. The same applies to any other country in the world. If the Canada were attacked, its allies would be there to help her. The United States is by no means Canada’s only ally.

In 1914 and in 1939, Canada sent its troops overseas to defend its European allies, including the French and the British. Canada’s population was just over 10 million people in 1939. By September 1939, more than 58,000 Canadian men and women had volunteered to serve in the Canadian Forces [1]. More than 1 million Canadians served in World War II and 45,000 had lost their lives. With Canada stepping up to defend its European allies in World War I and II, those same allies would be there for Canada in the unlikely event of another country attacking Canada.

The last time Canada was attacked was in the War of 1812 by the United States. This was before Canada was officially a confederation and included the British colonies of Upper Canada (Ontario), Lower Canada (Quebec), Nova Scotia and Bermuda. The Americans declared war on Britain on June 18, 1812. The Americans were eventually defeated by the British and many natives fighting under the British leadership. In retaliation to the U.S. forces burning and looting of York (Now Toronto), the British burned public buildings in Washington DC, known as the “Burning of Washington” where the White House was burned to the ground in 1814. Thankfully for the last 100 years or so the United States, Canada and Britain have been friends and allies for the most part.

But let’s look beyond military issues for a second; let’s look at the economy. Would Canada be as strong as it is today without the United States? Probably not. Would the United States be as strong as it is today without Canada? Probably not. Both of these countries could be self sufficient; but together they are both stronger.

Don’t underestimate the importance of Canada’s exports to the United States. The United States is an importing nation. The US doesn’t have enough natural resources to support its consumption. According to the CIA Factbook, the US produced an estimated 7.61 million barrels per day in 2005 while it consumed an estimated 20.73 million barrels per day in 2004. In 2004 the US imported 13.15 million barrels of oil per day and exported 1.048 million barrels per day.

According to a recent publication (August 31, 2007) from the Energy Information Administration that provides “Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government“, Canada was the largest importer of crude oil to the United States with 1.846 million barrels of oil per day for YTD 2007. Saudi Arabia is second with 1.419 million, Mexico is third with 1.456 million, Venezuela is fourth with 1.109 million/day and Nigeria rounds out the top 5 with 1.021 million barrels per day so far in 2007. Iraq is 6th but only provided 477,000 barrels per day. I’m not trying to simplify complicated relationships between countries, but you can be damn sure that this plays a very large role in foreign policy for the United States. The United States knows who it needs to keep happy.

Even looking beyond oil, Canada provided the United States with 16% of its total imports in 2006 in first place just above China’s 15.9%. Canada was also the United States’ largest export partner in 2006, purchasing 22.2% of total United States exports. (CIA world factbook)

In addition to natural resources and the economy, Canada plays an important role in securing the Canada-US border. When politicians talk about the problem of securing the border, they aren’t talking about the Canadian-US border; they are usually referring to the US-Mexico border.

Many professional and highly educated Canadians choose to go to the United States to work in strong areas of the U.S. economy such as the film industry, technology, and don’t forget all those doctors who head down South to work for privatized medical institutions.

People often overlook the many components of the strong relationship between our two countries and look merely at the military factor. But the military factor is only one factor in a very complex relationship between two countries. The truth is that Canada has one of the strongest economies in the world. Even during times of U.S. recessions, Canada has been able to retain a strong economy (Take the current sub-prime mortgage crisis as an example).

Canada’s wealth no doubt has a lot to do with its strong relationship with our southern neighbour and keeping each other happy is in both Canada’s interest and the United States’ interest.


One comment on “Why the U.S. needs Canada

  1. Crankyputz Sep 12,2007 7:19 pm

    Well put….now if only i had, had your around in University..

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