Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fiction in the Purest Sense of the Word

The Trojan Horse is a miniseries that likely played well to the paranoia of individuals like Mel Hurtig and David Orchard, who have long argued that trade arrangements such as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the SPP (Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America) would eventually lead to the absorption of Canada into the United States.

It's unsurprising that Paul Gross -- who both produced and starred in the miniseries -- would embrace these concerns so readily. He's been firmly establishing his credentials as a Canadian nationalist for a while now. Passchendaele was the result of his laudible efforts to use film as a tool for teaching Canadian history. He even spent years playing a Mountie on Due South. He's long become an underappreciated staple of Canadian culture.

But it's interesting to note the hysteria underlying The Trojan Horse. As it turns out, the scenario portrayed in this film could actually never happen as it unfolds in the film.

In the film, Canadians narrowly vote to join the United States. In a scene reminiscent of the 1995 Quebec sovereignty referendum, the margin of victory for the "yes" side is less than one percent.

Under the arrangement, Canadian confederation would be dissolved, and Canada would be reorganized into six states for the purpose of amalgamation with the United States.

Yet according to the way the Canadian constitution actually functions, this could never happen.

For one thing, the film's writers seem to have forgotten -- or at least overlooked -- the fact that Canadian federalism is a product of the provinces themselves. Even if Canadian confederation were dissolved -- which would only result in the establishment of fifteen new independent states in North America.

The decision about whether to amalgamate with other provinces could only take place on a province-by-province basis. It couldn't be decided by a national referendum.

Because the dissolution of confederation would render these provinces into states independent of one another, deciding such a matter by national referendum would violate the individual sovereignty of each new country. For example, a "yes" voter in Alberta would effectively be helping to decide the course of Quebec, even over the objections of "no" voters in Quebec. This is evidently something that is simply not feasible.

Even if the provinces agreed to amalgamate into larger states, they could not do so until after confederation was dissolved. Furthermore, this would be subject to significant negotiation between each and every province.

Last but not least, each state would be left with the choice of either joining the United States or remaining independent. It's extremely unlikely that Quebec would agree to join the United States, making the scenario presented in The Trojan Horse even more unfeasible.

Aside from this, The Trojan Horse plucks all the right nationalist strings. The sight of the American flag flying over the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill seems not only unnatural, but is actually extremely unsettling.

While it's an interesting scenario to consider, The Trojan Horse is simply far too removed from Constitutional reality in Canada to be worth taken seriously.

Fortunately, the miniseries is entertaining enough to still be worth watching.


  1. I'd like to see "The Trojan Horse", as I'm curious about how it handles the constitutional constructs it revolves around.

    That said, you appear to again be arguing by assertion. At the very least, you're assuming some rather dubious premises of your argument, rather than providing any kind of compelling case for them.

    "...the fact that Canadian federalism is a product of the provinces themselves. Even if Canadian confederation were dissolved -- which would only result in the establishment of fifteen new independent states in North America. The decision about whether to amalgamate with other provinces could only take place on a province-by-province basis."

    You premise your argument on the assertion of the above, but provide no support whatsoever of it. Canada is not a Confederacy but rather a decentralized Federal Monarchy, in which the one Canadian Crown is represented at both the federal and provincial levels, the provinces being co-sovereign with the federal government. You're right that such a referendum as the film proposes would likely be met with more than one provincial body attempting to fill the sovereignty void that would be created by the federal government ceding it, but that's not the same thing as "dissolution of confederation would render these provinces into states independent of one another".

    You're engaging in amphiboly with respect to the term "confederation" and its meaning to Canadian governance. "Canada is a federal state and not a confederate association of sovereign states, the usual meaning of Confederation. Canada is often considered to be among the world's most decentralized federations.[1] In a Canadian context Confederation generally describes the political process that united the colonies in the 1860s and related events, and the subsequent incorporation of other colonies and territories. The term Confederation is now often used to describe Canada in an abstract way, "the Fathers of Confederation" itself being one such usage. Provinces and territories that became part of Canada after 1867 are also said to have joined, or entered into, Confederation (but not the Confederation). Confederation is, loosely translated, a confederation of colonies.

    Do you have any support for your claims regarding Canadian Confederacy and the implications it has for enumerated and delegated powers, or is this going to again be another "endless, largely meaningless rant" that presents argument by assertion after argument by assertion?

  2. Audrey, you're the one who likes to lecture on Canadian political theory.

    Have you ever actually read any? Seriously?

    I only ask this because you have a remarkable tendency to try to comment on things you know nothing about.

    For example, Audrey, you have just revealed the extent of your ingorance vis a vis Canadian political science. When you failed to understand how the votes of individual Canadians influence the process of selecting a Prime Minister and government, I knew you were a fool.

    I had no idea how bad it is -- but I do now.

    For one thing, for someone who whines so much about "strawman arguments" (also known as your arguments), you sure do like to indulge yourself in them.

    Nobody here suggested that Canada is a confederacy -- rather that Canada is a federal state.

    Allow me to explain to you what happened in 1867:

    The governments of the Province of Canada, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick came together and negotiated a little thing that Canadian history refers to "Confederation".

    Under the agreement, the Province of Canada (previously Upper and Lower Canada, unified by 1840 Act of Union) was dissolved into Canada East and Canada West, and established a federal union along with New Brunswick and PEI.

    (Canada East would come to be known as "Quebec" and Canada West would come to be known as "Ontario".)

    You would be right to argue that in order to be considered formally a Confederacy that the country would have to be a federation of sovereign states.

    The missing link in your argument, Audrey -- and we all know you'll never admit this -- is that when Canada Confederated, none of the Provinces were sovereign. Canada was not a sovereign state after Confederation.

    They were colonies, you moron. Canada's sovereignty would be attained over a period of 115 years, culminating with the patriation of the BNA Act in 1982.

    Moreover, they were colonies within an entity -- the British Empire -- that no longer formally exists. When Britain dismantled its Empire, it ceded sovereignty to its colonies (with the exception of Hong Kong, which was eventually turned over to China).

    If the agreement that is Canadian Confederation were dissolved today, each of these states would immediately become sovereign.

    Where else, Audrey, would sovereignty rest following the dissolution of federal union?

    I'll forgive you for feeling really, really stupid right now, Audrey, because it's about to get much worse for you.

    In order for an arrangement like the one depicted in the Trojan Horse to actually function, a number of conditions would be necessary.

    Most important, the federal government would require the power to enact legislation that would unilaterally re-draw the boundaries between provinces.

    I invite you to attempt to locate that power in the Constitution.

    (You won't, because the Constitution does not give it.)

    But, by all means, I invite you to try.

  3. Since you've decided to take this to another thread, I've posted my response there.

  4. Sounds good, Audrey. Seeing as how you've decided to lose there instead of here, I've indulged you.


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