Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Compare and Contrast

The Globe and Mail had Canadian ex-pats list a series of things that the US government does better than the Canadian (just government, so we cannot focus on crappy TV ads during major sporting events or the painfully excessive focus on hockey)), and Jacob Levy prompted me to blog about it.  Again, I am a sucker for a troll (although Jacob is more elf than troll). I find this challenge far easier than another one on facebook--name one thing that Romney would do better than Obama (or if you are a Romney fan, which I am clearly not, then one thing Obama would do better than Romney).

The article was about Canadian ex-pats living in the US, and how the US is better, so I should and will write the reverse--what Canada does better than the US.  However, I cannot help but comment on the list that was in the paper first and what it missed. 

What did the Canadian ex-pats list?
  • US selects Senators better.  Yes, appointments suck.  But US Senate has a few problems, including tyranny of the minority (abuse of filibuster), giving too much power to states with few people which means that farmers end up having far more power than they should, and the whole expensiveness of campaigns that is endemic and epidemic.  
  • US Postal system.  Indeed, Canada Post seems to operate by ox-cart and does not buy into the whole deliver no matter what the conditions (unlike the schools which close rarely).
  • Respect for nature and history?  Hmmm.  National Park Service does rock, the museums on the Mall are fantastic, but these things do get politicized just a bit.
  • The lack of party discipline.  Yes and no.  I do want my representative to represent as opposed to be a stooge for the party, but it does facilitate pork-barrel politics.  I guess I have to prefer non-discipline since, well, I am not disciplined. But I see the pro's and con's on either side.
  • Universities: US has a better range from elite and small to big and wide.  Sure.  But as someone with a 16 year old, the Canadian model is much cheaper and thus more attractive right now.  Still, McGill as an elite Canadian school had way too many huge classes and big ones even for seniors.  The Liberal Arts college is a big American strength.
What did these Canadians miss?  MEANS-TESTING.  One of the big Canadian problems is the insistence on equity so that a rich person pays the same tuition as a poor person, that the child care in Quebec is $7 per day for anyone who can find a spot, whether the parents are well off or not, which often means less advantaged folks paying more for the unsubsidized spots.  They also missed Mexican food--much better Mexican and Tex-Mex and Cali-Mex and whatever in US than in Canada.  But offset to a degree by plethora of other options (as the Avengers found out, shwarma is mighty good).

Ok, as an American ex-pat in Canada, what does Canada do better?  The obvious answer would be health care--well, sort of.  What is great about Canadian health care is you walk in, you get the care, and you leave without thinking about payments.  The waiting can be incredibly annoying and getting a GP can be tough (but I guess it is tough these days in parts of the US as well).  Canadian health care is not great nor perfect nor even really much better than the US for those who are insured, but family finances are out of the picture for the most part.

Accountability is better in Canada.  Really?  Ok, sort of.  I have deep misgivings with the powerlessness of parliamentary committees, but the comparison between Somalia and Abu Ghraib is startling.  The Canadians may have over-reacted a bit (and definitely got distracted over detainees in Afghanistan), but there were real consequences for not just the soldiers on the ground but all the way up the chain of command with generals being punished, with the Chief of Defence Staff being fired, Ministers of Defence were fired, and a regiment being disbanded.  Who got punished for Abu Ghraib? Some folks on the ground, the local commander but not the commander of the Iraq mission (Sanchez, who whined about not getting a fourth star), not the commanders above and certainly not Rumsfeld. 

I need to get back to work trying to get more Canadian grant $$ (where the public money is better than the US public money--NSF has a far higher rejection rate; but the private money in the US is better--Carnegie Corp, Ford Foundation, etc.).

What other issues do we dare to compare and see who does better?

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