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.