We always read our visitors’ comments with interest. We got a surprising message recently:
Hello from Alberta,
We are in the process of registering the Alberta Statehood Party.
Joel Eastwood asked our thoughts on an article from Appalachian Magazine.
“When it comes to admitting new states, the United States has a history of admitting them in pairs — pairs that are often night and day for each other. This makes sense, because we are a diverse nation founded upon compromise and uniting with people with whom we disagree. This was illustrated throughout the days leading up to the Civil War when free state and slave state were often admitted together,” the article pointed out. It is in fact true that states have been admitted in pairs as a matter of tradition for so long that many people believe it’s a requirement.
“In today’s extremely divisive political climate, it would be hard to imagine a scenario in which the Republicans allowed both Puerto Rico and DC to be the next pair of states, as both would overwhelmingly tip the balance of power toward Democrats,” they continued. This is not true, actually. Puerto Rico would be a swing state. However, we know that many people hold this belief, too.
“Alberta, would be a gamechanger, however. The thought of Puerto Rico becoming a state might be more palatable to those on the right if the pot is sweetened with 255 million square miles of mostly uninhabited farmland rich in natural resources.”
Okay, before we go any further…where is Alberta? Who lives there?
Alberta is a province of Canada, just north of Montana. Apparently, there is an independence movement in Alberta which is much stronger than the independence movement in Puerto Rico. And one of the options being considered if they secede from Canada would be to join the United States as a state.
“If the proponents of Puerto Rican statehood were wise,” the article continues, “they would ally themselves with Alberta 51 movement. Though vastly different politically, demographically, geographically and pretty much any other ‘ically’ one can imagine, the two places are similar in population (3.1 million in Puerto Rico) and (4.3 million in Alberta) and if the two were admitted together, there would be little room for complaint from either side of the aisle.”
We had never heard of this idea before, but there is an Alberta Statehood Party. They clearly state that they are not an Independence Party. Their website immediately addresses the question of whether it is possible for Alberta to leave Canada.
The Canadian Constitution neither authorizes, nor prohibits, secession. While the province of Newfoundland joined Canada as recently as 1949, Quebec carried out a referendum to secede from Canada in 1995.
More importantly, Canada’s position is that Canada abides by international law. Further, the “gold standard” for secession in the international community is a true majority – 50% plus one vote. In fact, in 2004, the honorable British Parliament ruled that if Scotland wanted to secede, they could do so with a vote of 50% of the people, plus one vote.
We agree that a simple majority is indeed the gold standard for political decisions in a democracy.
As far as we can tell, Alberta has never held a referendum on statehood. But we found discussions of the idea online over the past few years. We will watch their efforts with interest.
Puerto Rico has been a territory of the United States for more than a century. The people of Puerto Rico are citizens of the United States, and have been since 1917. The Island is governed by the U.S. Congress, but Puerto Rico has no voting representatives in the House, and no representatives at all in the Senate.
Puerto Rican voters cannot vote in presidential elections, and are not fully protected by the U.S. Constitution, even though the Island is bound by the laws of the Constitution. Workers in Puerto Rico pay Social Security taxes, but the territory can legally be treated differently from the states. In practice, that usually means that Puerto Rico gets less funding from the federal government than states do.
Puerto Rico is obviously in a different position from that of Alberta, or even Washington, D.C. Statehood for Puerto Rico is a matter of civil rights and equality. Please contact your legislators and let them know this is important.