Advertisement
ontarionewswatch.com NEWSROOM

                           Ontario And The Scottish Referendum: 

                   How It Could Impact Canada's Most Populous Province 


By Randall White

In an earlier era it might have made sense to say that the Scottish independence referendum this coming Thursday was bound to have some serious resonance between the Ottawa River and the Lake of the  ods. 

To start with, according to Percy Robinson, the 1930s historian and author of Toronto During The French Regime, Ontario was once “the most British of all the provinces” in Canada. It seems arguable that if Scotland were to leave the United Kingdom, that would be the end of “Great Britain.” So if Ontario were still the most British of anything, it would necessarily be concerned.

Modern Canada has many historical ties to Scotland. Our first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, was born in Glasgow.

George Brown, one of Macdonald’s key political rivals and founder of the old Toronto Globe, was born in Alloa, a small town on the River Forth, not far from Edinburgh. 

Oliver Mowat, who served for almost a quarter of a century as a kind of founding premier of the new post-confederation Province of Ontario, from 1872 to 1896, was born in Kingston, Upper Canada, to parents who had both been born in Scotland.

But in the early 20th century, immigrants from other shores brought a variety of cultural currents to Ontario. And by the 1960s and 1970s, the old-world demography of Canada’s most populous province had begun to change in increasingly dazzling ways. 

Nowadays, in the early 21st century, people with British, to say nothing of strictly Scottish “origins” are nowhere near as demographically significant in the province as they used to be. There are people in Ontario with origins in virtually every country of the world.

And, as in Canada itself, the aboriginal population is growing some four times faster than the non-aboriginal population.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Harper has finally commented publicly on the Scottish referendum. 

In response to questions before a business audience in London, England, he said “We think from the Canadian perspective that a strong and United Kingdom is an overwhelmingly positive force in the world ... This is a vote with immense consequences...”

Mark Sholdice, an apprentice historian at the University of Guelph, says the Harper government is recasting Canadian history and culture, strategically trying to wipe out the influence of the Liberal party since Lester Pearson.

In other words, Stephen Harper is trying return to an earlier emphasis on Canada’s "British history.” 

But this interpretation of history is no longer very relevant in Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario. Even if it is still part of the culture in those more rural parts of the province, it is furthest in spirit in the biggest cities.

Yet in his recent comments, Mr. Harper also raised some potential implications of the Scottish referendum for something much closer to practical politics in Canada today.

In his response to one question in London the prime minister talked specifically about “the division of a country like Canada — or the division of a country like the United Kingdom.” And he touched on the prolonged debate over Quebec’s place in Canada, and the two failed sovereignty referendums here, in 1980 and 1995. 

From that perspective, both Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal and progressive Ontario and Philippe Couillard’s Liberal and federalist Quebec could have strong interests in the outcome of the imminent Scottish referendum.

Until quite recently the conventional wisdom has been that the Yes, or pro-independence side, in Scotland was bound to lose. All the polls said so.

Yet over the past few weeks, a few almost last-minute polls suddenly seemed to be saying that the Yes side might actually win. 

If this does happen, and the United Kingdom follows the plan of spending the next 18 months negotiating the terms of independence, who knows what the impact might be on the current, happily becalmed sovereigntist movement in Quebec right now? 

Similarly, who can predict the impact of a Scottish Yes vote on what may otherwise be an emerging new Wynne-Couillard “concordat,” between the old progressive sister provinces of Ontario and Quebec?

But In the UK itself, the punditry have been bouncing back at the last minute to the view that the Yes side is bound to lose.

Yet at least one poll still has it ahead. And according to polling analyst John Curtice at the University of Strathclyde, the race is still “much tighter than it was just two or three weeks ago.”

Anything, it seems, still might happen.

 

 

 

 

 

About Randall White

Randall White is a former senior policy advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Finance, and a former economist with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. He is the author of Ontario 1610-1985: A Political and Economic History and Ontario Since 1985. He writes frequently about Ontario politics.
Posted date : September 16, 2014

View all of Randall White's columns
ontarionewswatch.com NEWSROOM
The Liberals want a high-speed rail system for Southwestern Ontario - an idea as old as Bill Davis' Conservative government. Randall White explores the concept.
May 29, 2017
The Inquiry is off to a slow and controversial start. What is holding it up? Mahoney, Capobianco and Parkin on what it will take to succeed.
May 25, 2017
"There may be trouble in River City" when it comes to the Ontario PCs. Anger inside the party and rumblings of a new movement could affect the leader's election chances.
May 24, 2017
The auditor is suggesting the internal culture of the RCMP is so dysfunctional it requires civilian oversight. Mahoney, Capobianco and Parkin on whether that's a good idea.
May 17, 2017
A Liberal government led by a woman in BC, up for re-election after holding power for more than 15 years. Sound familiar? Randall White on whether there are lessons for Kathleen Wynne.
May 11, 2017
The Liberals are moving left as we near the 2018 election - a reprise of the last provincial and federal campaigns. Will it work a third time? Mahoney, Capobianco and Parkin debate.
May 10, 2017
This past Earth day, the planet surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere. Terri Chu laments that as long as polluting is cheap, it will continue unabated.
May 08, 2017
The Defence Minister is accused of lying when he described himself as "the architect" of a major offensive during Afghanistan war. Should he step down? Mahoney, Capobianco and Parkin debate.
May 03, 2017
Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne's approval ratings have plummeted a year ahead of next year's Ontario election. But not so fast, says Peter Shurman - don't count Wynne out yet.
April 28, 2017
Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Lindsay will be the pilot sites for the Basic Income Project for 4,000 lower-income people. Is it a good idea? Mahoney, Capobianco and Parkin on that.
April 27, 2017
If Ontario really does put Canada first, it has to be a big supporter of the new Canadian Free Trade Agreement scheduled to take effect July 1st. Randall White delves into the details.
April 22, 2017
It's been thrown around for everything from fat paycheques (read Bombardier) to tax credits for creating jobs. Brad James thinks it's time to give the old phrase a rest once and for all.
April 21, 2017