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Canadians: You Couldn't Pay Us to Be Americans

Niagara Falls, directly on the U.S.-Canada border

Photograph by John Moore/Getty Images

Niagara Falls, directly on the U.S.-Canada border

Toronto-based journalist Diane Francis was in New York yesterday to promote her new book, Merger of the Century, in which she argues that a merger between Canada and the U.S. would solve each nation’s problems: The U.S. would get resources, better security, and higher living standards; Canada would get capital, workers, technology, and military might.

Interesting and, obviously, not happening. But what is intriguing is a chart in the middle of the book assessing what each country would bring to the merger. The U.S., for example, is more productive on a per capita basis, accounting for 92 percent of the overall GDP between the two countries with 90 percent of the combined population. When it comes to water and land, though, Canada would have to give up a lot more than it gets. Ditto for oil and gas, where the U.S. accounts for 79 percent of the combined reserves.

Put it all together, and Francis cites estimates that Canada would overcontribute nearly $17 trillion in any merger of the nations. That about equals the current size of total U.S. debt, or roughly $500,000 per Canadian. Before pulling out a Molson to welcome your northern cousins to the family, it’s worth noting that Francis proposes compensating Canadians for giving up so much. So that $17 trillion figure could actually double if Congress ever decided Canada is a must-have.

Yes, well. Tea Party candidates aren’t likely to love any deal that brings pot, gay marriage, and the specter of a certain crack-smoking mayor into their realm. Our northern neighbors aren’t too keen on the union either. A recent Toronto Star poll asked Canadians if they’d agree to a merger if it meant a cool $500,000 payout to every citizen. Fewer than 38 percent said yes.

Brady is a senior editor for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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