Donald Trump says that if you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country. Habs Nation (or Leafs Nation or Red Sox Nation) might object. Our nations’ respective citizens are found all around the world. But, no we aren’t countries. We may bleed our team colours but we don’t have passports, prime ministers or presidents. The Americans do have passports and a president, however. Their problem is, not that they don’t have a country, but that they have such an attractive country people bereft of opportunity take big risks to breach its borders.
The Canadian quandary is a little different: if you have too many borders — in particular, internal ones — do you really have a country? That’s the perennial problem of interprovincial barriers. During COVID we’ve had Soviet-style barriers to travel within Canada, which I’m guessing most of us thought we’d never see. But we have long since got used to interprovincial barriers to just about everything else. To a much greater extent than the Fathers of Confederation likely expected, we have 13 provincial and territorial fiefdoms, each with its own rules and regulations regarding a virtual infinity of activities.
Will we ever tear down these internal borders and begin to act like a proper country? Olivier Rancourt and Krystle Wittevrongel of the Montreal Economic Institute write elsewhere on this page that creating a truly open internal Canadian market for goods, services and labour would be a much better way to jumpstart a post-pandemic recovery than some of the other ideas on offer, such as bold new wealth taxes or a continuing debt-apalooza.