Monday, October 11, 2010

Reiterating my position

It has been several years since I first began advocating that Canada should invite Iceland to join confederation. It seems time to again provide justification for this position.

How might Iceland change Canada

While many choose to champion conformity, I believe that (as was said many years ago) there is "strength through diversity". I see the inclusion of a new strong vibrant culture within the canadian mosaic as a fundamentally exciting notion, and one likely to serve Canada well. I do not like narrow definitions of what Canada is, and think that broadening the definition of Canada to include Iceland would discourage the type of polarisation that we have sometimes seen. Europe which already has much diversity of culture, language and tradition from the numerous distinct countries within it, profits less from Icelandic "new blood" than Canada.

A bit of little known history

I grew up in Europe and grasp that Canada is somewhat isolated by our geography. We are geographically very close to the US, and a long way away from anywhere else. Including Iceland within the Canadian confederation would move our eastern borders significantly closer to Europe. This would encourage greater trade and cooperation between Canada and Europe, with Iceland our gateway to Europe. It would also offer Iceland new markets for its products both in Canada and the US. Europe profits less when seeking to use Iceland as a bridgehead to the New World because geographically, Iceland remains somewhat separated from the new world by Greenland, and greater integration with Europe offers Iceland no new markets for its products.

MP's propose referendum on EU

Canada enjoys the luxury of being able to cooperate both within the framework of the commonwealth, and the francophony. Inclusion of Iceland within Canada would potentially align us as closely with the Nordic nations. We are, in all but name already a Nordic nation. We have the same climate, the same geography and to a large extent the same or similar political concerns. Icelands inclusion within Europe offers Europe no similar advantage.

The Arctic League

Iceland is a rich nation with a very small population having control over considerable natural resources. We too could similarly be described. Icelands inclusion within Canada would be a balanced one, in that we would not within Canada be assuming long term liability over an impoverished people as consequence of adopting Iceland, while Iceland would avoid being placed in a position where a very large resource poor Europe demanded that Iceland's resources be exploited for the benefit of Europe by European companies.

What about natural resources

Iceland's current debt problems are huge ones for a population of 300,000 but very much more easily absorbed by a population of 33,000,000. Dollar costs in Iceland would in a Canadian context be expressed instead in cents. Prior to the current crisis in Iceland it's debt ratio was 28.3% of GDP and is now reportedly 90% of GDP. That is not so different from Canada's current debt ratio which is around 80% of GDP. We would not be assuming any major liabilities, we don't already have by accepting Iceland into our confederation. And we would both be profiting considerably by enlargement of our collective territory.

Russia gives $500,000,000 to Iceland

Iceland remains vulnerable to unexpected crisis's while it remains entirely self sufficient. A population of 330,000 can't hope to be able to insure itself as well as a population of 33,000,000 against unexpected disasters. Even within Europe Iceland would not be well protected against ill-fortune, because the very notion of being sovereign nations within Europe brings with it the disputes about one nation providing assistance to another in times of need, as we have seen all too clearly, in the economic crisis there.

The 21st Century Alaska

Militarily control over Iceland's airspace and waters is necessary, in any situation where Iceland would prove incapable of preserving its neutrality through defence of its own territory. Iceland was I believe called the pistol of the Atlantic by Churchill, because who ever has the ability to be based in Iceland effectively as consequence has control over the North Atlantic. Geographically Iceland position permits defence of Canada's eastern seaboard, and its northern arctic coastline. The suggestions being floated by Russia that Iceland be offered assistance in exchange for Iceland ceding its ports to Russia, is strategically a nightmare scenario for Canada, the US, and Europe. Strategically, Iceland is important to both Canada and Europe, but I would argue that it is fundamentally more important to Canada because despite its size, Canada is effectively all but an island, and for island nations navies constitute their first lines of defence, and are vital in protecting supply links.

Currently there is much debate over the future control of the arctic. Iceland will perhaps find some challenge in defending its own territorial claims to the arctic. It makes sense for Iceland's claims to be defended by a larger voting block. Canada's own claims to the arctic are similarly challenged by much larger populations in both the US and Russia. Canada supporting Icelands claims and Iceland supporting Canada's can only help both sides on the international stage, defend their own interests. The geographic separation between Iceland and Canada means that there is little likelyhood of Canada and/or Iceland disputing borders here. That is not as clear if Iceland is but one nation within many inside the EU. One only has to remember previous wars fought between Iceland and Europe (particularly Britain) over territorial boundaries that Iceland wished to enforce.

EU and Greenland clash over Arctic.

In terms of demographics most Icelander's have migrated on to Canada rather than gone back to Europe. Gimli in Manitoba was for a while an Icelandic colony within what was to become Canada, and Icelanders will find strong support from inclusion within Canada from the existing Icelandic community here. It was Icelanders who were the first europeans to colonize the new world, and we already include within our cultural heritage viking settlements in Newfoundland, and the arctic.

The raw demographics

I believe Iceland would be better served by the political frameworks established as consequence of history within Canada than those frameworks established as consequence of history within Europe. I think that the example of Prince Edward Island, and to a lesser extend Newfoundland demonstrate that small distinct communities within the canadian confederation, are offered equal representation at the table with larger provinces, having many times their population. Iceland would be able to preserve its own parliament within the Canadian Federation, and its own language, and legal system, just as other provinces such as Quebec have. Natural resources are within Canada already recognised as being controlled, managed and owned by the provinces within which they reside, and this I think will provide better future protection of Iceland's natural resources than would be afforded if it were to join Europe. I've seen Iceland. Iceland is a beautiful country with a proud tradition of defending its environment, both on land and at sea. I too want to see that environment protected and preserved for future generations.

The probable show stopper

Finally, I believe that Canada serves Iceland better by being a potential suitor for Iceland's favour than by operating from the perspect that Iceland should be helped or not helped by anyone but Canada. I believe that not opening the door to Iceland, should it come knocking would be a tragedy for both nations. Competition creates choice, and competition for a scarce commodity drives up prices. I think that Europe needs to be taught that Iceland is not the whipping boy here, made to pay for European foolish trust in Icelandic banks, but rather the bride that anyone in their right mind would love to be offered opportunity to marry. The current bad feeling between Iceland and Europe does not seem to me to the ideal conditions under which to be debating a shot gun wedding between the two. I'd rather that a marriage (should there be one) was the result of a genuine love affair. I love Iceland, and I love Canada. I think it natural to at least imagine that upon reflection Icelanders might themselves realise that this attraction was mutual. For those Icelanders who do not know Canada I say visit Newfoundland, visit the Maritime provinces, visit the arctic, see the Rockies, dip your feet in the Pacific, and ideally do it all by train or car. And for those Canadian's who do not know Iceland, I can only say that Iceland is a must see destination .. go there and see it all. Iceland is stunningly beautiful. Don't be afraid about language issues. Most of the population of Iceland is quite comfortable with English, and more than welcoming.

The Saga of Newfoundland

And all of the above said, one further point must be said and said strongly. I would only want Iceland to join Canada, if that was the will of both Canada and Iceland. I respect and value diversity.. I would not wish to impose my opinions and attitudes on others, except through the force of reasoned argument that resulted in the conviction of those that heard it.

We thought we had friends

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