by Jordan G Teicher | The Guardian © 2016 (Feb. 1, 2016) | Original post
It happens every election cycle: Americans threaten to move if the wrong person gets elected. We asked those who headed north if the grass really was greener.
In November 2004, David Drucker and his wife Pam were at home listening to NPR when they heard the news that would change their lives: George W Bush had been re-elected as president of the United States.
In the lead-up to election day, the couple had made a pact: if John Kerry won, they would build their dream house in Vermont; if he lost, they would move to Canada. A year later, they were on their way to Vancouver to start their new lives.
“It’s been a little over a decade now. We have clear eyes about what we did. We have no intention of going back,” Drucker said.
The Druckers were not alone. On election day in 2004, a record-setting 179,000 people visited Canada’s official immigration website, the majority of them Americans. And as anxieties about the outcome of 2016 begin to grow, some Americans are again musing about fleeing to their northern neighbor.
In September, the digital analytics firm Luminoso found about 4% of 4.5 million Donald Trump-related tweets contained threats to leave the country if the billionaire became president. Of those, 25,000 identified Canada as their intended destination. Since then, comedian and Obama “anger translator” Keegan-Michael Key has joined the chorus. Even former USdefense secretary Robert Gates joked about emigrating if Trump took office.
Talking about relocating to Canada clearly is pretty trendy – actually relocating there, not so much. According to the Canadian government, the number of new US immigrants arriving in the country has remained relatively stable – about 9,000 annually – from 2005 to 2014. It might not be the northern utopia of their dreams, but those who have made the move say they have never regretted it.
“If Americans want to live in a country where there is an investment in public education, where people aren’t afraid of going bankrupt because they get sick, and where democracy is taken seriously, they should move, because an alternative exists,” said Tom Kertes, 43, who moved from Seattle to Canada with his now husband Ron Braun in 2007.
Kertes and Braun had been thinking of Canada since the invasion of Iraq and the US government began using “enhanced interrogation techniques” on detainees. But they actually started browsing the Canadian immigration website the night they heard Bush propose a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage during his State of the Union address in 2005. They applied for Canadian permanent residency in 2006 and and now live in British Columbia.
Jim DeLaHunt left an engineering management position with Adobe in California for uncertain prospects in Canada after Bush’s re-election. Leaving behind his country’s penchant for authoritarianism, war and inequality, he says, was the right call.
DeLaHunt, now a tech consultant, misses the scale and ambition of the technology industry in the United States, but says he wouldn’t trade life in Vancouver to go back to it. He and his wife integrated easily into Canadian society, he said, learning how to be “less arrogant and a bit more gentle”, and even picking up local etiquette and speech patterns.
“Canadians say ‘sorry’ a lot more than people in the US do. They thank the bus driver as they get off the bus. In the US, if someone says ‘thank you’ a typical response might be ‘sure’. That seems awfully brusque in Canada. A better response is, ‘No worries.’ There’s little things like that, and if you get those things right you blend in on a day-to-day level,” he said.
Writer Lee Rowan, 63, and her wife, on the other hand, have found Canada to be more similar to the United States than they would like. In 2007 they moved from Ohio, which three years earlier had banned same-sex marriage, to Ontario, one of the world’s first jurisdictions to legalize it. But in the Waterloo region, where they settled, their neighbors turned out to be more conservative, and less tolerant, than they had hoped.
“I’d say there’s some Canadian homophobia. If we had kids or had been churchgoers I doubt it would have been an issue,” Rowan said.
Watching Trump’s rise, in particular, has been disconcerting to Rowan. Still, she’s keeping an eye on the political climate in the US. If the conditions are right, she says, she would consider moving back.
For Laura Kaminker, however, that’s completely out of the question. In the 20 years before she and her partner Allan Wood finally moved to Canada from New York City in 2005, she had “lost hope” in the country she saw plagued by “civil liberties crackdowns” and “endless wars”. Although she still has her American citizenship, she doesn’t vote any more in US elections, and whenever she comes back to Canada after visiting family or friends in the States, she breathes a sigh of relief.
“Every time I say, ‘God, I’m so glad to be out of that crazy country,’” she said.