- April 20th, 2017
So we’re going back to the bargaining tables to renegotiate NAFTA, and President Trump has fixed his eye on our poultry and dairy farms. Over the years, Canadians have learned to be either pleased and alarmed when the Americans pay attention to us; this is one of the latter occasions.
New York State alone has 20 million people in it, all compressed into 54,557 square miles. Michigan has 10 million people, sprawled out a little more comfortably over 96,716 square miles. Washington State has 7.3 million people, most tucked in to the western half of its 71,362 square miles.
When Canadians point out that Americans are denser than we are, it really isn’t a derogatory remark. The lower 48 states comprise 3,119,884 square miles and contain over 99% of the American population of 326 million people. Assuming there is some corner store selling groceries in every one of those square miles, the average sales clerk has 102 customers to serve every day.
Canada is going to attain a population of 36.6 million people sometime this year. If we were to have a corner store in every one of the 3,502,361 square miles of our territory, 10 percent of our population would be sales clerks, each with nine customers… and a good risk of a bear in the trash bin out back.
As it happens, most of us are clustered in the very long and very narrow belt of arable land in the southern strip of the country. St. John’s Newfoundland is 3,146 miles from Victoria as the Canada Goose flies; as the transport truck or the freight car goes, it more like 4,468 miles. This distance includes two ferry rides and takes the ‘short cut’ below the Great Lakes rather than above them. Over 90 percent of us live within 120 miles of the US border.
While this makes the job of the hypothetical Canadian corner store clerk easier (at least in most of the country), it is a simple fact that the distances up and down the supply-chain throughout our entire economy are much greater. The geography of our nation imposes an additional tax of time, effort and expense on everything we do.
These are the main reasons why so many US producers tend to have greater efficiencies than ours do, and why we get a little nervous when they start licking their chops and looking at our markets.
Admittedly, if Free Trade really was Free Trade, the natural market zones of New Braine, Quebecamont, Ontarichigan, Manikota or British-Washington might evolve… but it never really works that way. Our governments and bureaucracies function very differently; but that’s a whole other issue.
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