Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Alternate History: Cut in two, The story of Two Canadas

After the recent bridge failure, I started to think about an "Alternate History" scenario that I like exploring; where Canada is split in two, but not due to Quebec leaving, due to the West leaving. With the bridge situation sparking the idea, I asked myself... what if we never fixed the bridge?

I don't mean literally, I mean politically. What if we used this as a point to split Canada in half?

The dividing line therefore would follow the Nipigon river, as well as the Little Jackfish River (roughly) up to the Albany river, and out to the Hudson's Bay. I've drawn this on a google maps if anyone wants to see it.

First lets discuss the cut. Unlike outlined above, this cut is not on a provincial border, therefore we must slice up Ontario to fit these two new Canada's. Since the majority of the population of Ontario is east of the cut, we will keep the "Province of Ontario" in the the "Eastern" half of Canada, and cut off the remaining portions. What gets cut?

All of the Kenora District; about 55,000 people over 407,213 square KM
All of the Rainy River District; 20,000 people over 15,484 square KM
And part of the Thunder Bay District; It's difficult to know exactly how many people are east of the line, and would remain in Ontario but you can estimate it. Just as each riding is about the same size, give or take, each polling division, on average, is around the same size. Sure some will have many more than others, but if you are looking at a sample of 100 and divide them into random groups of 50, you'll likely not end up any worse off than a 55-45 split in terms of population.
Using this method and this 2011 map I've estimated the population remaining in Ontario at 10%. Meaning from that district, 130,000 people also get transferred, and about half, or 50,000 square KM go as well.

This gives us a "NorthWest Ontario" that has a bit over 200,000 people, spread over around 475,000 square KM. There are three ways to deal with this.

First, is to make NorthWest Ontario a territory, and to use various poll maps (like the 2011 map from above) to estimate what a legislature may look like.

Second, is to make NorthWest Ontario a province, and do the same.

Last, and what I'm going to do, is to add NorthWest Ontario to Manitoba. I feel this would be realistic, and is what would likely happen in real life.

This would bring Manitoba up from it's current 1,250,000 people and 650,000 square KM to a new total of 1,450,000 people, covering 1,125,000 square KM, making it larger than the current (uncut) Ontario in size.

Manitoba currently has 57 seats, making for one seat per 21K people. As such, I'll add 10 new seats from "NorthWest Ontario"

Don't fool yourself into thinking the Tories would not be competitive here; with the smaller district size, one or two Thunder Bay seats would be almost guaranteed to go PC, as well as another seat in the Rainy River area. At bad times, I'd expect the Tories to walk away with 1 or 2 of these seats, and in good times, they could take as many as 5 or 6. The remaining would be swing seats between the NDP and the Liberals. Overall, in terms of party balance in the legislature, I actually think such an addition would not impact Manitoba very much, except during those elections where the Liberals are doing well. During those elections, they could win up to 8 seats here, adding to their totals in Winnipeg and elsewhere.

Federally, we'd likely see the new Western government keep the 3 current ridings in the area as they are, while on the Eastern side, the now utterly gutted "Thunder Bay-Superior North" riding will be so small and have so few people in it, that it would be nearly certainly merged into the Algoma riding. Meanwhile, the parts of Timmins-James Bay that now find itself in the West would almost certainly be merged into Kenora; the same would be true for the Province of Ontario.

This results in a provincial Manitoba assembly with 67 members, and a Federal Manitoba with 17 MPs. The province of Ontario would go down to 119 provincial legislators, and 118 federal MPs.

Western Canada would get 27 Senators; but it's quite likely that the new government would change things quickly. 13 of them would be Tories while 8 are Liberals. This presumes all 24 Ontario senators stay in Ontario.

Eastern Canada would get 78 Senators; of which 32 are Tories and 21 are Liberals.

In the House; Western Canada gets 110 MPs. 35 Liberals, 20 New Democrats. 1 Green (subtotal 56) and 54 Tories. The Territories tip the balance in this case. This house would need to pick a new speaker. It's likely that we'd see some sort of coalition on the left, but it's also possible that resignations, or defections, could tip the balance back to the Tories.

Eastern Canada would have 228 MPs. 45 Tories, 24 New Democrats, 10 Bloc, (subtotal 79) and 149 Liberals, so a very large majority.

Provincially, Eastern Canada would have 6 Liberal Premiers leading Majority governments. Western Canada would, at this time, have 2 New Democrats, 1 Liberal, 2 Independent Territorial leaders, and 2 people leading a party with their province or territory as the name.

So, where would we go from here?

It's very likely that there's an election in Western Canada within 18 months, and it's very likely it's won by the Tories. Given most of the really "big names" opposing Jason Kenney in a potential CPC leadership are from what is now a separate country, Kenney almost certainly becomes PM. There is a problem with a challenge to Kenney from the Liberals; lack of support from Alberta and Saskatchewan. Even in Manitoba, the support is concentrated in Winnipeg. In short, the prairies - especially the rural prairies - are very bad for the Liberals. In a country that has such a high fraction of it's electorate living on the rural prairie, the Liberals will be in trouble. In fact it is the NDP that would be better positioned to compete. I could see the Liberals becoming a "BC Party" within a few elections, taking what few seats they do outside that province from Winnipeg. This of course could change if the Liberals were able to knock the NDP out of the game in the same way Rachel Notley knocked her progressive opponents out of the game in Alberta. Regardless, unless and until there is a merger of at least 2 of the 3 progressive options available, we will likely see Tory governments, be they minority or majority, for the foreseeable future.

I for one can't see the government in Western Canada increasing the number of MPs much. Manitoba with 17 MPs for 1,450,000 people has about 85.5K people per riding, and it is possible that this would be the number applied to BC and Alberta in redistributions. If so, that would bring an additional 10 seats to Alberta, and 12 to BC for a grand total of 132, which could still fit into the current legislature in Regina if they chose that as the new Federal Capital.

In the Senate, however, I could see reforms. Likely starting with an increase to 10, if not 12 Senators per province, and having them elected.

In the long term it is likely that one left movement would take the lead, or perhaps, a merger would happen. Economically, the country would be heavily reliant on oil, and it's currency would be a massive petrodollar. On the world stage, it would almost certainly become extremely closely aligned to the US, to the point that many would accuse it of being a puppet. I could see it signing security deals with the US, allowing for free travel between the two countries in return to more US control over things like immigration and visa rights.

In Eastern Canada things would continue on. I don't see an election until the end of the term of the current Parliament.

Justin Trudeau would, obviously, remain Prime Minister. This half of Canada is much more progressive than you may think; in 2011 while the Tories won a Canada-wide majority, in the eastern half, the NDP was only 5 seats behind, with the Liberals taking 30 seats, while in 2008 the Liberals were only 2 seats behind the Tories. In 2004 the Liberals won a majority here, and retained a majority going back to 1993, as well as a solid block of Majorities between 1965, ending at the 1984 election. In short, this is the "Progressive Canada" that Liberals and NDPers think Canada is.

As a result, the country would become very much as progressives imagine it; and as it was under Trudeau Sr. Remember that in the 80's the Tories managed to win a majority, even in the east, and that Harper polled well in both Ontario and Quebec at various times. Also remember the NDP coming so close in 2011 to a plurality here. The Liberals can indeed lose government here, but this would not be something that would happen very often, or at least, so long as the party sticks to it's progressive roots. Within two decades, I fully expect our social programs to find themselves funded back at levels they were funded at during the 70's, if not in dollar terms, than in terms of what they can do (it's cheaper, for example, to just give someone money than to administer a program to provide a service)

Politically, I can't see much change. We would have 3 parties, each able to win a large number of seats if the circumstances are right, and a quebec-based Bloc to win a few seats here and there. The Liberals will likely dominate for a decade or so, but once people get tired of them, the Tories could win a majority, or even the NDP could. That, however, depends on retaining FPTP which is not something I could see if Trudeau remains in power, especially once the West is removed. If we opted for Proportional Representation I could see a full 5 party system develop, with the Greens regularly winning seats, and a Quebec party (likely not the Bloc) winning seats as well; this gives enough combinations to put together a coalition. After a decade, I could see the house being expanded with Quebec having closer to 85 MPs, and Ontario closer to 140, if not above it, while the Senate ends up looking similar to what it does today.

On the world stage, Canada would return to the role that people traditionally see it, as a voice for moderation and peace, but perhaps not as far in that direction as we've seen in the past.

Economically, we would see much less of a petrodollar. Newfoundland actually produces half the amount of Crude Oil that Saskatchewan does, and even less when all hydrocarbons are included. 95% of all hydrocarbon production would be in the West. (as per the CAPP) In terms of Royalties the situation is much better, Newfoundland takes in about 75% as what Alberta does in terms of petroleum royalties; but this is somewhat misleading, as Alberta takes in three times as much in Oil Sands royalties than they do "Petroleum". As such, the (Eastern) Canadian Dollar would likely move to around 82 cents or so and remain there, a rate where economists say Canada should be and where it fits.

In the end, cutting Canada in half may prove to be better in the long term for both halves of the country, but that is not something that everyone will agree on.

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