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Friday, December 4, 2009

Size does matter: Canada the powerhouse

In the world of international politics—power politics—size really does matter. Influence is measured by one’s ability to project military and economic power miles from one’s shores. When considering nations, size is, of course, relative: land mass, population size, GDP, per capita GDP, military manpower, and so on.

There are several large countries in terms of land mass that have only a modest amount of international influence: Bangladesh, for example. Bangladesh is also a county whose population size is large, but influence on the world’s stage is negligible.

Now take China’s increasingly important position in the world. The once sleeping giant has an immense land mass and population, and also has the third highest GDP after the United States and Japan and ahead of Germany, France and the United Kingdom. China also has the largest active military in the world. It’s small wonder some are calling for a G-2 with China and the US.

Countries like Egypt and Syria have quite large military forces (450,000 and 296,000 respectively) yet wield little influence outside their region. Neither does Indonesia, which has the eleventh largest military force in the world.

And what about Russia, the once and would-like-to-be-again superpower? Russia is a military powerhouse with nuclear weapons to spare. Its 6,592,800 sq mi land mass makes it the largest country in the world. Yet Russia has slipped to the status of second-tier nation since the breakup of the former Soviet Union. And Russia’s eighth or ninth place ranking by nominal GDP and 50+ ranking by per capita GDP reinforces their second-tier status.

Germany, France and Britain are all quite closely ranked at or near the top of the second tier of nations, though with the combined influence of the European Union, they could easily rival the USA if they got their act together.

This brings me to Canada’s position in the world. We are a country that is easy to overlook. We are the second largest country by land mass, but we have a tiny military and we walk softly in the world. Though, it must be said, we have punched above our weight in Afghanistan over the past six or seven years. Our military is slightly smaller than Holland’s, a country of half our population size and about 58 per cent of our GDP.

Yet Canada is indeed a powerhouse. We hold down (2008) eleventh place in GDP behind countries with population sizes several times ours. Consider China the world’s newest near-superpower. Chain’s GDP is less just than three times ours, but it has a population that is 39 times ours.

By the way, China’s per capita GDP is about 15 per cent of ours. In fact, China’s per capita GDP is significantly less than Jamaica’s (according to the CIA World Factbook)—so much for China’s superpower aspirations.

All countries that rank ahead of Canada in GDP have substantially larger (20%+) populations.

Canada is the US’s largest foreign supplier of energy, including oil, natural gas, uranium and electric power. Our major banks are among the most stable in the world. Canada’s influence in the world is such that even though our population size ranks in the mid-thirties internationally, we are a member of the influential G-8 group of nations.

Canada leads the world in our range strategic resources with enormous stores of fresh water, agricultural land, educated population, potash, uranium, gold, silver, oil sands, natural gas and much much more.

Canada is strategically located to be among the nations to benefit most from the upward-trending temperatures of future decades. Think about a north with millions of acres of inhabitable land and natural resources, agriculture and livestock of cattle, sheep, buffalo and caribou, fresh water, navigable waterways, port cities on the Canadian North-west Passage. All that ready to accept a huge population influx from the nations hardest hit by the changing climate.

Think of a Canada with 125-150 million highly-educated population and a high-tech military of 250,000-350,000. We will be a top-five nation in all but population and perhaps military size. And we’ll probably will be there before the end of this century.

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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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