Then there’s the matter of the rapidly melting Arctic ice, which stands to expand Canada’s already vast stores of natural resources. The shrinking ice would also open up a new sea route from Asia to Europe, allowing ships to bypass the Panama Canal and cut some 4,300 miles off the trip from Tokyo and London. Suddenly Canada would go from the world’s quiet, tree-covered back forty to a crossroads of international trade.
Who will control the Arctic waters is in dispute—it will be somehow divided between Canada, the United States, Russia, Denmark, and others—and there’s reason to believe it will be the site of intense competition. “There has not been a major strait that has opened itself to maritime traffic and geopolitical competition that has not been the cause of...war,” said Studin. Even if outright conflict is avoided, he added, the mere threat of it will compel Canada to protect its interests in a way it has never had to before.
“This will be a much more difficult century for Canada,” said Studin. “And it will test our mettle and make us more relevant, if we’re up for the game.”
So far , the new Canadian nationalists have not been met with great affection by their countrymen: Matthew Fisher, the Postmedia columnist, said his first piece on Canada’s future as a big, strong power provoked an outpouring of condemnation. “Ninety percent of the respondents ridiculed me,” Fisher said, “and asked why I was trying to turn Canada, the most righteous country in the world, into America.”
Therein lies the rub: For many Canadians, being powerful on the world stage is associated with the arrogant, tub-thumping United States they’ve spent their lives trying not to resemble. Perhaps this is why the Harper government has so insistently invoked Canada’s historical alliance with the British Empire and ties with the British monarchy. On the surface, there’s something paradoxical about this—as McKay put it, “It’s risky to hitch your nationalism to something that so emphatically isn’t made in Canada”—but as a strategy for differentiating Canada from the United States, it makes a certain amount of sense.
Which isn’t to say Americans should worry that a “South Park”-style war with Canada is on the horizon. Though Harper and his team have made disparaging comments about the American economy—and bluntly told countries that are struggling economically to take the “Canadian approach” to fiscal policy—we are still each other’s largest trading partners, and our longstanding alliance is unlikely to falter. Besides, the patriotic fervor that the new nationalists are trying to whip up is still just a proposition—one that most Canadians have yet to buy into.
“It doesn’t seem like a grass-roots type of nationalism,” said Michel Bouchard, an anthropologist at the University of Northern British Columbia. “It seems like the Canadian state is promoting a certain type of nationalism and seeing if the rest of the populace will actually follow them.” He added: “It’ll be interesting to see 20 years from now how it will play itself out. It may end up being a complete flop.”
Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. E-mail email@example.com.