Other industrial cities on the Great Lakes have experienced terrible upheavals over the last several decades, but Detroit is in a class of its own as to the depth and intractability of its problems. As the American population migrates south and west en masse the old industrial cities of the north and midwest are dying. In America, Detroit is perhaps the city most synonomous with urban decay, a shabby monument to the death of the old school working man's city. It is the bleak negative image in the national consciousness of sunny thriving centers of the new economy like Phoenix or Portland. Yet this was not always the case. In 1950 it was America's fourth-largest city, nearly two million strong, ground zero of the new automobile economy. By the middle of the 1980's it had hollowed out, its population halved, with rampant unemployment, poverty, and violent crime.
Yesterday, The Globe and Mail carried an article by Anthony Reinhart examining how Buffalo, subject to a similar process of decay, was increasingly coming into the orbit of a booming Golden Horseshoe. Already, someone has written an article joking about annexing Buffalo to Canada.
Hordes of liberals are currently looking to our saner cousin with yearning in their hearts, but Canada has issued stern preemptive warnings not to get any bright ideas. Keep your distance, she says, I'm not that kind of girl. But what if there were another way--a way we could leave this nutty nation, but keep our friends and our community? Well maybe, for Buffalo, there is such a way.
I propose that Buffalo simply secede from this dysfunctional union of states and join Canada. We're right on the border anyway, and it's been pretty clear for a while that our state and federal governments don't care very much for us. Frankly, the likely fate of Buffalo, New York, couldn't be much worse. Buffalo, Ontario, on the other hand, has an extremely bright future ahead of it.
More plausibly, Buffalo like Rochester--directly connected to Toronto by high-speed ferry--seems inclined to try to plug into southern Ontario's prosperous economy via cross-border initiatives.
This, the dominance of Ontario in its immediate hinterland, is a remarkable change. Once upon a time, Toronto was smaller than either Detroit or Buffalo, perhaps the two leading industrial cities of the United States on the shores of the eastern Great Lakes. Now, Toronto is the regional metropolis of note. Things have changed.