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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Is secession worth it? ...

Posted 2/28/17 (Tue)

We’ve all been taught in history about the Civil War and how 11 southern states seceded from the union and started the Confederate States of America.

That’s a well known and well studied part of American history.

But how many of us know exactly what it means to make the attempt and what it might mean if someone secedes.

There have been a number of states, in recent years, that have introduced bills in their Legislatures, to break away from the United States, the latest being Oregon.

Shortly after the Nov. 8, 2016 election, Oregon pushed paperwork forward to secede because it didn’t want to be part of a country run by Donald Trump.

California made a similar attempt in 2015, but it’s impetus was because most of the wealth created by California was being drained away by Washington.

Since the end of the Civil War secession has been illegal but numerous places have made it known that secession was their intention.

In 1998, the Northwest Angle in Minnesota’s Lake of the Woods region, presented a resolution to withdraw from Minnesota and become part of Manitoba.

People in the Northwest Angle get to the rest of Minnesota by boat or aircraft. To drive, they have to cross the border into Canada, drive approximately 8 miles, then cross the border into the United States.

Many of the 120 residents assumed it would be easier to be part of Manitoba for two reasons, because the entire land area is the only part of the Lower 48 that sits north of the 49th Parallel and because it was ignored by St. Paul.

Of course it didn’t pass because secession is illegal, but more importantly, it was designed to send a strong message to the state capitol.

In 1934, North Dakota Gov. Bill Langer made an attempt to take the state out of the union because  North Dakota farmers were being “ripped off by the railroads and the millers.”

Of course cooler heads prevailed and Langer tried some other stunts, but grain prices slowly began to rebound.

On the Canadian side, there have been three attempts by the province of Quebec in recent times to secede from  Canada and become an independent nation.

There, the laws are somewhat different. Three times the people of Quebec voted and three times the plan was defeated.

But what if the vote would have passed? Numerous books have been written and numerous college professors have discussed the “what if” in their classrooms.

To make a long story short, it would cut Canada in half and the Atlantic provinces would have been on their own, while those west of Quebec were intended to join the United States.

OK! So is it illegal to have someone join the United States instead of leaving? Probably not, but you have to wonder what 55 stars would look like on the flag.

Former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow actually drafted a plan of what to do if the Quebec vote passed. This took place in 1995.

It meant lobbying the U.S. Congress to get acceptance, and although many Americans are ignorant of Canada, you can’t help but think that the big cities of Ontario, including the nation’s capitol, the prairie wheat fields, the oil in Alberta and the lumber and mining in British Columbia would be a huge economic boost for the United States.

It would almost be like another Seward’s Folly when Secretary of State William Seward purchased Alaska from Russia on March 30, 1867.

That was Romanow’s idea but more recently, as recent as 2015, political leaders in Alberta discussed leaving Canada to join the United States.

And that’s a situation much like California in which Ottawa is sucking money out of oil rich Alberta and is the only one of 10 provinces that is paying more than it’s fair share of taxes to the federal government.

So what if California would have seceded from the United States and Alberta would have joined the United States in 2015? We’d still have 50 states, but would we be better off with Alberta or California?

The population of California equals that of Canada. Alberta has two major cities in Edmonton and Calgary and robust growth, but where would most of America’s fresh produce come from then?

There can be a lot of speculation surrounding secession but one thing is certain. Look what it did to the United States in the 1860s. Maybe it’s not worth it.