Canada: a great power?

Could Canada become a great power? Ask this question to most Canadians and you will probably be rebuked with an emphatic no, or polite chuckles. It is a question, however, that Canadians and their political leaders will have to consider as the 21st century lurches forward. In my view, Canada is poised to take a much more central position in world affairs than it already possesses. There is a collusion of resources, opportunity, demographics that will propel Canada through the currents and tribulations that are presently befalling many other western nations, and into a position of inherent strength. The greatest obstacle to Canada’s great power status may just be our own conception of Canada as a nation.

But wait, you might say, what is a great power? Aren’t “Great Powers” those countries on the U.N. Security Council, or those with Thermonuclear Weapons, or simply those with an ability to project military power globally or at least regionally? The traditional conception of a great power would say “yes” to all of the above and include little else. But using this conception of national power over-estimates some metrics of power, while completely ignoring others. For example, North Korea has about ten crude nuclear weapons. This nuclear status could nominally confer great power status. However, North Korea is pitifully impoverished; it can barely feed its own people, or manufacture a delivery system for its new atomic weapons.

North Korea is an obvious, even blatant example of military power obscuring national power. But others with nuclear weapons and substantial armed forces are paper tigers too. France, Russia, and even Great Britain are all on the UNSC, have nuclear weapons, spend in spades on their armed forces and yet can be collectively considered to be teetering, and are, perhaps, only great powers, in name. The point is that these countries are militarily strong, but their national power (the people, the economy and the industries) is in decline, in the midst of decadence. Canada, I believe, is, in the medium to long run, experiencing the opposite phenomena - a country with great inherent national power, but without a substantial military reach.

Canada has a number of macro-level assets that are already the source of national power. The most important of these assets is, in my view, the people. I don’t mean this to give a gushing appraisal of the innate virtues of Canadians. Rather, the simple fact is that most wealthy western countries are experiencing demographic decline. Japan is up to its neck in old people, and it is only going to get worse there due to their abject refusal to allow any concerted immigration. Russia, for its part, would probably love immigrants if only they could get immigrants to love Russia. Both these countries are experiencing the nascent trend of an elderly bulge along with a decline in birthrates. Ballooning birthrates from the late 19th and 20th centuries supported astounding economic growth (and robust armies and navies). In this century, people are forgoing the pain, both physical and economic, of childbirth and rearing. The result is that there are less children and more elderly. The trend is concentrated Europe and North America, but is expanding globally. Sorry Thomas Malthus, but there’s not going to be a population bomb.

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