Friday, January 11, 2019

Move to Canada? Still More Complicated But A Bit More Realistic

The Washington Post had a piece on folks moving to Canada due to the Trump Administration, and, at first, I was like, no, not again.  As someone who moved to Canada, I have long pushed back at the whole "I hate who won this election, I am moving to Canada" thing as immigration is hard.  This piece had four distinct differences from ye olde silly stories:
  1. twas focused not on just dissatisfied liberals (or conservatives in 2008/12 if you can imagine that) but on immigrants to the US, so folks who didn't have deep ties and face significant risks
  2. due to a xenophobic regime.  Trump's presidency is not ordinary, so the idea of leaving it makes more sense--escape the fascist hellscape while you can.
  3. that these people are valued--the programs discussed are for those with tech skills.  Canada is not seeking to get any and all immigrants in the US--just those in science/tech areas.  I remember back when I moved to Canada, I could have gotten five years of no Quebec taxes (a significant hunk of money) had I been a hard scientist.  Social science?  Nope, doesn't count.'
  4. there are private actors setting up firms to facilitate the transitions.
This last thing is key, as it is not easy to move.  Mrs. Spew remembers the first few years in Canada as being rather difficult--that Canada is not simply a colder version of the US.  My favorite story is of having difficulties driving across the border since I owed money to Honda-America on my car.  It took me eight weeks or so to get it imported--it was stuck on my driveway (Customs thought of that as a generous exception--they preferred that I had parked the car on the US side of the border).  Oh, I couldn't simply transfer the loan to Honda-Canada because the two Honda entities do not work with each other.  I couldn't get a car loan since I was seen as a flight risk and had worse credit as a temporary resident than a high school kid.  So, it is not easy.

The article mentions the cold.  That can be an issue, but mostly not.  As it suggests, if you get the right clothes and get your commute sorted, you will be ok.  The problem is really the length of winter, not how cold it gets.  Well, in Ottawa and Montreal.  I have no idea how cold it gets in Edmonton, but I imagine most of these folks are moving to Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto or maybe Montreal.  Of course, if they are moving to Vancouver or Toronto, they will be saving some money as they are probably a bit cheaper than Silicon Valley but not much.

The taxes are higher, but that is probably a wash when you consider the cost of health care insurance in the US.  And with higher taxes come not just health care that will not bankrupt you, but maternity leave (and paternity leave in many cases) and other stuff.

Lastly, as my dissertation advisor reminds me, there is xenophobia in Canada.  Quebecois politicians have competed with each other to alienate Muslims and Jews with laws about wearing religious apparel.  A former Minister of Foreign Affairs is starting up a xenophobic (and transphobic) party, and the more mainstream Conservative Party is dancing with xenophobes as well.  Given the diversity of Canada combined with the existing parties and electoral system, I think that xenophobia will not win.  Then again, I was wrong about Trump.  So, this place is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. 

Canada is a great place to live, but it is not a colder version of the US--it is a different place.  And the provinces are different from each other, and there are other complexities.  I am happy that Canada is smart to try to lure smart people who face potential problems due to the awful xenophobia coming out of the White House, but I am also sad that the US is losing the next generation of talent because it elected Trump.  That incredibly bad decision will continue to have ramifications not just for the next couple of years but for a generation or more.  The movement of smart people to Canada to avoid Trump makes clear the costs will be enduring.  

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