Saturday, March 05, 2016

The True North

I met a friend for a glass of wine in Old Pasadena recently, on a day remarkable for its warmth and beauty.

But he had something besides the weather on his mind. Instead, he announced he was seriously considering a move to Canada if Donald Trump was elected president. He had gone so far as to look into plane fares, employment opportunities and housing.

It was not exactly a shocking revelation.  After all, there are many people who view a Trump White House with horror. 

The likes of Miley Cyrus, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O'Donnell and Cher, have threatened to flee the country if Trump wins the election in November. 

Maybe they forgot that Ted Cruz hails from Canada.

But I dismissed my friends vow as so much political hand-wringing, born more of angst than determination.

After all, if we all hit the road every time someone we opposed was elected to public office, our country would be as vacant as a politician’s promise.

And abandonment in the face of adversity is a cure worse than the disease.

Then I read that after Super Tuesday, when Trump solidified his hold as the top Republican vote getter, search results for “how to move to Canada” jumped 350 per cent on Google.

If you signed on to a Canadian government site to determine you eligibility to immigrate, you were greeted with this prompt: “You may experience delays while using this website. We are working to resolve this issue. Thank you for your patience.”

This comes as no surprise to Canadians. Twelve years ago, as George W. Bush took a commanding lead over John F. Kerry in the polls, Canadian immigration applications tripled. Visits to the immigration department's website skyrocketed from an average of 20,000 per day to 115,000 the day after Bush won the election. 

And, according to one Canadian publication, American conservatives are not immune. “Move to Canada” +Obama spiked in 2008, and was most popular in southern states. It doesn’t appear, however, that many of them actually fled a Democrat in the White House.

That could be because a county known for higher taxes, universal health care and  stringent gun control may not have been the paradise they sought.

Perhaps an accurate reflection of the move northward is reflected in the antics of  Rob Calabrese, a radio host in Nova Scotia.  He told the New York Times he was inundated by more than 3,000 inquiries after he, on a lark, set up a website last month inviting anti-Trump Americans to move to Cape Breton, an island along the Atlantic coast that has lost population as industries have left.

One wag called it “The Land of the Flee.”

“People talk about Donald Trump. They talk about safety, security,” Calabrese said. “A lot of people say they’ve just been thinking about moving somewhere for a long time and this maybe was the nudge they needed to get the ball rolling.”

While Canadians are a friendly and welcoming people, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want you to move next door.

Unless you fall into certain categories, including students in higher education or someone trained in a list of professions found in the North American Free Trade Agreement, you could be out of luck.

“Sometimes I’ve had Americans who feel that they can just drive across the border,” said one immigration lawyer. “It comes as a surprise to them, ‘Oh what do you mean, I have to qualify?’ Yes, you do have to qualify.”

And even those who do can expect to spend six years or more doing paperwork and living on Canada’s equivalent of a green card to build up residency requirements. Of course, a Trump presidency could be over by then.

There are other obstacles and adjustments as explained by Margaret Wente, an American-born columnist at The Globe and Mail in Toronto. There is no good Southern barbecue, she said, a house in Vancouver will cost you $2.4 million and the brutal winters can last six months.

Then there are the cultural differences, she added: “You will have to learn some weird local customs, like saying ‘sorry’ when you bump into someone on the sidewalk.”

My advice:  if you want to live in blissful isolation, go to the North Woods of Maine or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That way you can maintain your citizenship even as you curse the country that bestowed it upon you.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.

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