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Op-Ed: Election 2020 got you down? You could make good on that threat to move to Canada

A Canadian flag waves in front of the peace tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
(Geoff Robins / AFP/Getty Images)

I write on behalf of Canada. I am not officially its ambassador or spokesperson, although many, many people think I should be. While I currently live in Melbourne (Australia, not Florida), I remain a practicing member of, and covenanted to, the People of Praise of the Maple Leaf. I pay north of $750 annually in Canadian taxes. I’m legit.

I’m also no expert on American politics, but I get the impression that there is way more pluribus than unum these days. One presidential election outcome was clear well before last night: At least 40% of Americans are probably mad as hell today, convinced the country is disfigured beyond all recognition, morally bankrupt and doomed. Many will seriously think about moving to Canada, because a solid majority of you know where it is (hint: go north) and you can get by in English (except in rural Quebec). Here are some tips to help you through the immigration process.

Canada welcomes refugees, but you can’t claim refugee status. That’s reserved for people fleeing countries where the rule of law has collapsed, there are gun-toting vigilantes in the streets, the electoral process is corrupt and strongmen use state power to pardon their felonious friends and punish their enemies. Oh, I see .…

You might like your health insurance, but you can’t move it here. Sorry, the public option is the only option for hospital and physician care. From time to time people go to court to claim that government-run healthcare violates their individual rights. Fifteen years ago Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition of private insurance was indeed a violation. Since then, no one has sold and no one has bought private insurance for the services covered by the government plan. There’s just no market for it. Yes, we’re that weird.

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Only one part of our country — coastal British Columbia — has half-decent weather. If you think Seattle does not have half-decent weather, make that zero parts. Americans move to Seattle in spite of the weather; Canadians move to Vancouver because of it. It’s the same weather.

Please don’t move en masse to Vancouver. It is beautiful and has a booming technology-based and filmmaking economy. It’s really green, has two excellent universities and incredibly scenic running and cycling routes. Terrific sushi. Sarah McLachlan lives there! But it’s already too big and housing costs are terrifying to those of us honest enough to admit we want to move there. They’re not terrifying to you Angelenos and Bay Area migrants who can cash out your more obscenely priced real estate and dump all those fancy-schmancy American dollars ($1.30 Canadian) into a market already inflated by Hong Kong arrivals.

You will get extra points on your application to immigrate for picking Calgary, our erstwhile Houston, now fallen on hard times as the Alberta oil and gas juggernaut gasps in disbelief at its own imminent collapse. You can buy a downtown skyscraper for about $30. You’ll find the transition less jarring — the province is now run by a right-wing party that worships fossil fuels and delights in tearing up public-sector contracts and spewing bile at environmentalists. I’m not suggesting you share these views, but like the golden arches, they will remind you a little of home.

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All of us would be delighted to welcome you to Toronto. No sprawl or traffic congestion, housing is practically free and there’s not a hint of smugness. Best subway system in the world — no, the galaxy. And its namesake university is way, way better than Harvard, according to itself. If you move there from California, you will boost Toronto’s self-esteem.

You will further endear yourself to the immigration czars if you declare that it is just plain wrong that this year’s Stanley Cup finalists (ice hockey, you really need to know this) were Tampa Bay and Dallas. How would you feel if three-quarters of the teams in your National Football League were in a foreign country, say, Canada? Nothing can or will be done about this, but if you want to be a Canadian, you have to tilt at our windmills.

But — I’m talking to you, California — you might want to do all of this more efficiently, and simply secede and apply to be Canada’s 11th province, saving you the hassle of moving. We are intrigued. Our weather options would improve. We could inflate the Fresno housing market. It would be great to have the Dodgers and make Google and Apple pay more taxes than is their habit.

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But it’s a lot to bite off. You have more people than we do. So we couldn’t let you vote, at least not for the first few decades. You’d need to get Oregon and Washington to come with you to make it practical. East and West Pakistan tried to make a go of it with India in between, and look how that turned out.

And if California did sign on, the Northeastern states would probably come knocking at the door, and then what would we do? Could we keep the queen? (Trick question: don’t care.) The carbon tax? Smaller food portions? Would Quebec leave as you came in, its stranglehold on our politics steamrolled by tens of millions of newbies — vive l’español? I’m pretty sure we’d get cold feet. Which could be warmed up by, shall we say, a very generous entrance fee.

It’s a tough decision — uprooting is hard.

If you really must leave, come on up, but caveat emptor: Even our reddest provinces are blue, and not just because of the cold.

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Steven Lewis is a Canadian health policy analyst and researcher currently living in Australia.


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