On June 28, 2010, West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd died after having served in the United States Senate for 51 years. Among other things, his death was noteworthy in that it marked the closing of what had been a very long chapter in American history: He was the final living United States Senator to have ever taken part in a Congressional vote to admit a new state into Union.
The American flag has now been unchanged for sixty-years, the longest ever in the history of the Republic.
Somewhere over the last six decades, and the assassinations of JFK and MLK, Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, Watergate, Iran hostage crisis, gas crisis, end of the Cold War, Gingrich Revolution, Monica Lewinsky, 9/11, Enron, endless wars, and the political deadlock of the last decade, Americans have forgotten that they’re allowed to add new states and that the design of the stars in the top left corner is allowed — in fact always has been — changing.
In recent days, however, talk of statehood for places such as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia are gaining momentum and it seems like only a matter of time before the right set of dominos fall and the stars and stripes are changed once more.
While most everyone is gazing toward the Caribbean Sea and Washington in expectation of spotting the 51st state, they may be overlooking a growing movement not to our south, but to the north for American statehood: The Canadian Province of Alberta.
The Plight of Alberta, Canada
According to a February 2019 poll from Angus Reid, approximately 50% of Albertans would support secession from Canada. This number is up 30% from a generation ago and the conditions which have created these views are projected to only worsen.
In Alberta, the Canadian Province located just north of Montana, there is a strong feeling that the national government “back east” in Ottawa is using them much like the British Crown used distant colonies two centuries ago. Rich in farmland and natural resources, the Alberta economy has become increasingly reliant upon its natural reserves and oil and gas production, putting it at odds with a committed “green nation” such as Canada.
Bordered to its left is the Province of British Columbia, Canada’s bastion of Pacific liberalism. Residents of Alberta say that the government of British Columbia refuses to cooperate with Alberta’s natural resources industry and is blocking all pipeline production; a move they say is hindering the Alberta economy and driving the costs of getting oil to the market by about $6 per barrel.
Industry experts also say back in the east, where the overwhelming majority of Canadians live, the federation government’s stringent environmental regulations also prohibits the province from reaching its full potential.
A much larger issue, however, is the subject of demographics and numbers.
The dirty secret that few people are talking about is that Canadians simply aren’t having children like they used to and the nation is aging at an alarming rate.
According to Peter Zeihan, who authored the book, Accidental Superpower, Canada has a massive population in their late-50s and early 60s. These individuals are nearing retirement and the workforce is shifting from having a lot of tax payers to a lot of tax takers.
In Alberta, however, this story is quite different. The province has a much younger population and while Canada’s demographic numbers as a whole more closely resemble Japan or Germany, Alberta’s age is more reminiscent to the United States.
Due to this factor alone, Zeihan argues that Alberta is subsidizing the national government at about $27 billion annually and that in the next few years this could climb to $80 billion; according to the author’s figures, by 2020 the number will exceed $20,000 per person, $40,000 per tax payer.
“The core issue is pretty simple. While the Québécois – and to a slightly lesser degree the rest of Canada – now need Alberta to maintain their standard of living, the Albertans now need not to be a part of Canada in order to maintain theirs,” he writes.
Taxation Without [Much] Representation
“Taxation without representation” was the rallying cry in the days leading up to the American Revolution and though it may not be seen on bumper stickers in Calgary just yet, there is a strong feeling of being unrepresented in the national government.
To put things into perspective, the estimated population of Alberta is 4.3 million compared to Ontario’s 14.4 million and Quebec’s 8.4 million residents.
In Canada’s Parliament where the 338 seats in the House of Commons are divided by population, Alberta is afforded 34 members, compared to Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia’s 121, 78, and 42 MPs respectively.
Because of this under-representation, many residents fear that as the demographic differences in Canada become far more pronounced, they will be largely unrepresented on the national level and will basically be subsidizing the entire country without any voice.
In 2016 Alberta MP Michelle Rempel accused the government of treating the province of Alberta “like a fart in the room”.
“It’s like any relationship — when you finally reach the point when you’re not being listened to or being ignored, one of the options is to leave the relationship,” explained Angus Reid to Canada’s National Post.
But What About the United States?
According to Zeihan, the United States would welcome the Province of Alberta with open arms and upon its admission into the Union, Alberta would become the per capita richest state in the country.
The influx of taxable capital and GDP would boost the United States’ already unquestioned place of being the world’s greatest economy.
In exchange, access to America’s 327 million person strong market would provide investors and business owners in Alberta with a market that is nearly ten times the size of Canada’s 37 million residents.
Heavily rural, the protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights greatly appeals to many in Alberta who pride themselves on having an independent spirit.
Puerto Rico + Alberta But What About the United States?
When it comes to admitting new states, the United States has a history of admitting them in pairs — pairs that are often night and day for each other.
This makes sense, because we are a diverse nation founded upon compromise and uniting with people with whom we disagree. This was illustrated throughout the days leading up to the Civil War when free state and slave state were often admitted together.
Even during the Civil war, Nevada and West Virginia were admitted roughly 15 months apart.
Following the Civil War, this practice continued: North and South Dakota were admitted on the same day; Montana and Washington were admitted three days apart; Idaho and Wyoming were admitted within a week of each other; New Mexico and Arizona became states roughly a month from each other in 1912 and in 1959 Alaska and Hawaii became states.
This practice of admitting two at a time has historically worked well and in today’s extremely divisive political climate, it would be hard to imagine a scenario in which the Republicans allowed both Puerto Rico and DC to be the next pair of states, as both would overwhelmingly tip the balance of power toward Democrats.
Alberta, would be a gamechanger, however. The thought of Puerto Rico becoming a state might be more palatable to those on the right if the pot is sweetened with 255 million square miles of mostly uninhabited farmland rich in natural resources.
If the proponents of Puerto Rican statehood were wise, they would ally themselves with Alberta 51 movement. Though vastly different politically, demographically, geographically and pretty much any other “ically” one can imagine, the two places are similar in population (3.1 million in Puerto Rico) and (4.3 million in Alberta) and if the two were admitted together, there would be little room for complaint from either side of the aisle.
Come to think of it, the last time the country added a couple of states, it was a warm tropical island and a cold massive expanse of land that bordered Canada… If memory serves me correct, that worked out just fine!
One final closing thought — a lot of talk has been made about just how awkward a 51 star flag would be. Well, a 52 star flag is almost indistinguishable from the 50 star flag we currently have… so there’s that, too.
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