As Canada’s 152nd birthday has passed, large questions still loom about the future of the country.
It’s mainly explained in Alberta as an internal crisis caused by equalization, an inability to build export pipelines or a carbon tax.
However, the larger question is how Canada as a nation can slip out of its current bind on the world stage and find a new place where it can prosper.
Already caught between a larger fight over trade and general sabre-rattling between the United States and China, Canada will also soon have to redefine its dealings with Great Britain and the European Union.
Both are also redefining themselves on the world stage in an era of increased nationalism, a rapidly contracting world view and the mess that’s been created along the way.
In terms of dilemmas, none are larger for the Trudeau government, or perhaps any government in our history, than how to manoeuvre between the world two superpowers.
This week China escalated a campaign to limit meat imports, following a similar play against canola, and seemingly in retaliation for Canada upholding extradition process of a Chinese tech industry executive at the behest of the United States.
Westerners are mad, which might be the underlying goal of Chinese who are dealing with a Liberal government in Ottawa.
It faces a choice between Canada’s largest trading partner, and the ascending world power with economic growth opportunity to spare.
Both have obvious upside, but irrefutable downsides.
As for the U.S., the current administration’s clear motivation is to put the screws on the relationship, using whatever leverage it has to further an “America First” policy.
As for China, no bet seems safe for long, no deal safe from tinkering and nothing quite as it seems.
The same can probably be said of the U.S., at this moment in history.
As for picking sides, no choice seems great.
Should Canada spurn China in hopes of gaining favour with the United States that has no real need for more of our canola or beef than it already imports?
It certainly has no use for more natural gas and the idea of sending more oil southward has put Alberta’s finances and most energy producers in a tight bind of steep discounts.
On most fronts, the clarion call has been to send more trade to China. For too long we’ve been beholden to a single customer, many say.
To spurn the U.S, is to risk untethering the majority of the economy from its biggest customer, biggest supplier, biggest financier and the world’s mightiest military.
Calls to “make Canada great again”or to stand on our own two feet ignore history and current landscape that this trading nation of 40 million faces. They’re laced with voracious calls to boost exports to grow the economy. But to whom?
Free trade pacts are in late stages with the Euro-zone and Pacific Rim nations as of now (considered in part a block to growing Chinese influence).
A side deal with Britain – now in overtime of a painfully agonizing Brexit process – seems likely too. But, one can wonder, to what great effect?
Canada, formed by a group of British colonies that were once mostly French colonies, has since walked an internal tight wire balancing the needs and culture of those two different groups.
Outwardly, Canadian politicians have attempted to position the country as a bridge between the old and new worlds.
They’ve attempted to be a play maker in the Anglo-American alliance, NATO, and a middle-power on the world stage.