Courtesy Reuters

What to Read on Canadian Politics

To understand Canada is to understand the odd relationship the country's Anglophone majority has with the French-speaking province of Quebec, one that has endured, in various stages of rockiness, since the country came into being in 1867.

On one hand, Canadians from other provinces resent Quebec's prickly fiscal demands and its discriminatory treatment of its own Anglo minority. On the other hand, successive prime ministers have done their best to appease Quebec in an ongoing bid to suppress separatist agitation. If Quebec ever does leave Canada, it will destroy the melding of two languages and peoples that was Canada's original raison d'être -- not to mention create an eastern rump of four Atlantic provinces, which could easily become absorbed into the United States, offshore oil riches and all.

Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values. By Brian Lee Crowley. Key Porter Books, 2009.Purchase at B&N.com Purchase at Amazon.com

Crowley's book is a good starting point for understanding Quebec's tortured relationship with Canada. Crowley, a longtime Canadian political wonk who now runs his own think tank, argues that Quebec has essentially been blackmailing Canada for years. This blackmail hasn't just created a massive flow of cash to Quebec from the rest of Canada (the ROC, as it is sometimes called); it also has ended up expanding government programs that satisfy Quebecers' love of statism and skepticism about private enterprise. The result: Canada has become a European-style welfare state, despite a majority Anglo population that might otherwise prefer the small-government American model.

But Crowley's story comes with a happy ending: Thanks to the oil industry, Alberta is booming these days. And the West, in general, is attracting lots of immigrants. Quebec's share of the population is diminishing, as is its clout in Ottawa. Thus, in future years, the rest of Canada will have to pay less and less Danegeld to Quebec's policy extortionists.

For almost seven years, Canada has been ruled by a disciplined center-right Conservative administration

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