old guy 1:
"When my father emigrated from Holland, he came to Canada but his brothers went to the U. S. Boy, am I glad it wasn't the other way around."old guy 2:
"You got that right. Can you imagine living down there? Have you been to their cities? They're basically slums."old guy 1:
"I know what you mean. You look at American trailer parks compared to Canadian trailer parks - ours are nice little communities. Pretty soon Americans will be coming up here just to live in our trailer parks."old guy 2:
"Well of course our standard of living is much higher up here, and we have free health care. Lots of people down there are dying because they don't have health insurance."And so it went. I didn't want to get into it with them for fear of having a barbell dropped on me, but let's examine the facts.
- The standard of living in Canada is NOT higher than the U.S. According to the OECD, in 1997 our standard of living based on GDP per capita was 23% less than the U.S.; our labour productivity lagged by 19%, and our workers' output per hour worked was 17% less than American workers. The situation had not improved much by 2001 - Canada then ranked 8th in the world for standard of living (based on GDP per capita), behind Denmark and Iceland. The U.S. ranked second, behind Luxembourg.
- Most poor Americans without health insurance do have access to health care via programs like Medicare. Poor people are not dying in droves in the U.S. because they don't have a state-run health care system. By the way, health care in Canada is not "free" - we pay for a poorly-run and inefficient system with exhorbitant taxes.
- Their cities are basically slums? Have they been to Jane & Finch in Toronto, or Vancouver's East End, or any number of run-down poor communities in Canada? Or, for that matter, have they been to Vermont, or Oregon, or South Dakota, or mid-town Manhattan? We're myopic when it comes to poverty and hopelessness in the cities and towns of our own country, and we make sweeping generalizations about problems in U.S. cities.
- Our trailer parks are nicer? Huh? We're reaching at straws here. U.S. trailer parks are more likely to be hit by tornadoes, but that's about it as far as I can see. I've seen some pretty sad trailer communities not too far from here.
I can't stand this knee-jerk anti-Americanism that pervades Canadian society - it is the main obstacle to our progress as a political and economic entity. Harper's declaration that Quebec is a nation is a moot point if we can't define Canada as a nation without casting it as some kind of anti-America. I would like to talk to old guy 1's uncles and ask them if they're sorry they chose the U.S. over Canada.