To my anxious American friends,
How time flies! Four years ago tonight, we Canadians were feeling awfully sorry for ourselves. You’d just elected the coolest, hippest president since JFK. We’d just elected Stephen Harper. No wonder we had leader envy. Why couldn’t we find a leader as progressive and charismatic as yours? Why were we stuck in a cold country with politicians who are as dull and uninspiring as November’s mud?
Today, we wouldn’t change places with you for anything. Canada has held its own while you’ve gone downhill. The United States is flat broke, and so are California, New York and Illinois. Your unemployment rate is higher, your inequality is greater and you have 46 million people on food stamps.
What’s worse, you might wind up with a Republican president again. Aieee!
In the event of a debacle, some of you have asked if Canada’s doors are open to you. I assure you that you would be more than welcome. Disgruntled Americans have been fleeing to Canada since 1776. We could set up refugee camps with Target stores so you’ll feel at home.You’ll be relieved to know we already have Starbucks. But if you want to fit in, you’ll need to practise saying “double-double.”
There are other tricky nuances to life up here. “Blue” and “red” mean the opposite of what you’re used to. Our blue politicians are pretty red, meaning progressive. If you listen to some people in Toronto talk, you might think our government is led by fascists in jackboots, but that’s not strictly true. Even our Conservatives believe in universal health care. They’ve even promised to cut military spending. By the way, did I mention that gay marriage has been legal for years?
For most of the time I’ve lived in Canada, our smug superiority complex has irritated me. Not so long ago we were the basket case – drenched in debt, torn apart by constitutional crises. Your country was more dynamic, more productive and more creative, to say nothing of a whole lot sexier and richer. But now the worm has turned. Life up here is pretty good. We have less debt and lower corporate taxes than you do. And we produce the stuff that China needs to buy, which means the money will be rolling in for many years to come if we are reasonably smart.
Another competitive advantage is the way we handle immigration. Your immigration policy is a problem. Ours is a solution. We’re quite good at attracting talented people from around the world. Their kids do well here. Check out the honour roll at any of our our leading universities. We don’t need quotas to achieve diversity. It happens on its own.
Most important, our institutions work much better than yours do. Unlike yours or the European Union’s, our political system produces stable governments that can actually get stuff done. Our international celebrities are people like – yawn! – Mark Carney and Jim Flaherty. Our bankers (unlike yours) are awfully dull. Our biggest pension funds are a model for the world, while yours are broke. We can afford our version of Social Security. You can’t. And our political system remains relatively uncorrupted by the torrents of money that have turned your country into a permanent plutocracy.
Sure, we have our problems, although at the moment, I can’t think what they are. Every country has its culture wars, but ours are not tearing us apart. Compared to your culture wars, ours are about as devastating as the rivalry between Tim Hortons and Starbucks. Tonight, I’ll be tuned to your election drama without a shred of envy. We may be cold and dull. But we’re the lucky country, and we know it.