Neil Macdonald: Advice to my dear American neighbours
My dear American neighbours:
I see some of the more hardline conservatives among you are so frustrated about President Obama winning again that you’re threatening a move to Canada.
Well. I suppose I and my fellow Canadians should feel somewhat flattered, even if you are sort of on the rebound.
But assuming you’re serious, Canada might suit you better than you realize. And I’m serious.
I know, I know, your relatives and political fellow travellers are probably telling you you’re nuts.
Ever since I moved to the U.S., I’ve had to put up with smirking references about coming from a nation of pot-smoking, gay-marrying, rule-obeying, tax-loving socialists who take unconscionably long vacations.
But courage, friends. There are a lot of things about Canada that should appeal to a rock-ribbed American right-winger.
Conservatives in charge
First of all, we are governed by a party called, quite simply, the Conservatives. (We once had "Progressive Conservatives," but they dropped that first word years ago).
And it’s a majority government, which means the prime minister can pretty much do as he likes without having to worry about liberals obstructing him.
Sound good? How about this— the Conservatives managed to do that with just under 40 per cent of the popular vote during our last election. (It’s a multi-system parliamentary democracy. That’s the way it works).
Bottom line: Most of you are white, and Barack Obama just won the White House even though a majority of white Americans voted against him.
As Bill O’Reilly told all of you on Fox News after the votes were counted last week, the white establishment in America is now a minority.
Now, I know conservatives here love to talk about being "colour-blind," but let’s face it, that was easier to say when you were in power.
And complaining about "black racism" or "Latino racism" in the electorate might make you feel better, but it isn’t going to change reality.
Canada, on the other hand, has a different demographic makeup. For one thing, it's a lot farther from Mexico.
Move up north, and not only might your conservative vote become more influential, you’ll never have to hear another word about amnesty for illegal Mexican immigrants.
Whereas down here in the States, I can pretty much guarantee you'll be hearing a lot more about it.
Smoke and mirrors
Now, about the pot thing: Yes, it’s true, we have flirted with decriminalization over the years.
But we never went through with it, the way you Americans have. Even before the election, 100 million of you lived in jurisdictions where marijuana laws are considerably more forgiving than ours are. In a lot of American cities, pot possession fetches you the equivalent of a traffic ticket, if that.
In Canada, to this day, casual use of pot is a criminal offence, with potential lifelong consequences. In fact, our government has proposed stiffening sentences and throwing even more people in jail for drug use.
We certainly don’t have entire provinces voting to legalize recreational marijuana use, the way Colorado and Washington just did. It’s just not our way.
Now, on gay marriage: It’s true. We do allow it. But it’s not because our voters ever embraced the concept, the way Maryland and Maine and Minnesota and Washington just did.
The only reason Canada allows gay marriage is that our courts effectively ordered our politicians to accept it
Yes, that means we have what you’d call "judicial activism" — unelected judges stepping in and changing the law. That’s how our abortion laws were struck down, too.
The difference is, our prime minister gets to appoint judges to the Supreme Court, and that’s that. The political opposition can’t block him, like it can here. Liberals in Canada have been complaining about that for years.
I thought you might like the sound of that.
A few other thoughts: We Canadians used to fancy ourselves an environmentally minded bunch, Kyoto Accord and all that, but a lot of that has gone out the window, especially since we really started cranking up what you Americans call the tarsands in Alberta. (We actually prefer the term "oilsands.")
We stayed pretty neutral on the Middle East for a long time, but our government is now to the right of pretty much the entire Western world — and that includes the United States — where Israel is concerned.
When Israel’s prime minister was in New York for the UN opening in September, Obama was too busy to meet with him. Our Stephen Harper wasn’t.
The evangelical conservatives among you might appreciate that.
Low, low taxes
Our top marginal tax rate is lower than yours at the national level. A lot lower. So are our business taxes. The richer among you might appreciate that.
The fact is, my American friends, your country has become ever more progressive, even as ours has become more conservative.
True, we have universal health care in Canada, and our taxpayers pay for it, but now you have Obamacare, and as Mitt Romney pointed out in that secretly recorded tape, 47 per cent of you pay no income taxes at all, so how’s that going to work out?
And, yes, we don’t like guns. Not much can be done about that, I’m afraid, but if you really want to have a pistol in the house, it is legally possible. You just can’t pack in public. There are other little things that might irritate you at first. We don’t make as big a fuss about our military, we don’t recite pledges of allegiance in school, and there’s a lot less anthem-singing.
But you’ll get used to it. You’ll be saying "oot" and "aboot" before you even notice it.
There is one problem, though, my friends: We don’t just take anybody (I’m sure you wouldn’t want us if we did).
If you don’t already have family in Canada, we do regrettably require that you either buy your way to the front of the line, or bring some sort of special qualification or skill to the table.
We’re a bit like America that way. It’s all aboot us, not aboot you.
We’re a lot more like you than you might realize.