Canadians amused by American threats to move north if their candidate loses

November 1, 2012

Thursday morning, I asked Canadian readers what they thought of a peculiar U.S. political tradition: Americans, often but not always Democrats, threatening to pick up and move to Canada if their candidate loses.

Readers wrote in on comments and social media. The responses were varied, but the trend seems to be that Canadians find this funny and a bit flattering. Who wouldn't enjoy being seen as the preferable alternative to the world's richest and most powerful country?

The rare sour notes came from Canadians who expressed impatience with Americans who give up on their own country, offense at the idea that Canadian culture was indistinct, and concern for the line at their local Tim Horton's.

Many said they'd welcome an American immigration wave, but few expect many Americans to actually follow through. If they did, many of the Canadian respondents said, these American immigrants might find some surprises.

Here are the Twitter responses (apologies for my prompt question reappearing so many times – working on fixing this):

This next one is my favorite:

Here are some reader comments:

As a born Canadian, put me in the "politely amused" camp. When Canadians have an election and the "wrong side" wins, we don't claim we'll move away, we just threaten to write stern letters which we inevitably forget to do.

If Americans want to move North, Canada could certainly use them, but they need to educate themselves on Canadian values and pledge to uphold those values in the same way Canadians insist that Middle Easterners and other foreigners adhere closely to Canadian values if they want to live among Canadians and become one. Assuming it is the same as being American is not good enough.

All are welcome. Canada has an interesting and wonderful history - maybe not as "glamorous" as American history - but it is still fun to learn about and our electoral system may be a bit of a culture shock for Americans!!

I know a few Americans who immigrated to Nova Scotia after Bush’s 2nd term win and they are a great addition to our country. However I wouldn’t want to see too many progressives give up and leave the US to the tea parties and I’m sure that is not going to happen. But I would welcome more progressive people anytime nonetheless.

Who doesn't like poutine?

Two cross-border migrants – a Canadian friend who moved to the United States., and an American political scientist who's spent the last decade teaching in Canada – explained what really drives Americans into Canada. It's not politics, they say. Here's the American in Canada, Stephen M. Saideman of Carleton University:

Here is my standard answer [when asked whether or not "herds of Americans will move north is a certain presidential candidate wins"]: No. As my school's office manager (an American) put it, people move across the border for love or money. Either they want to move to be with someone or because there is a job for them. I moved north of the Wall border because I had a great job. I stayed north and moved slightly west for a better job. I did not move north to escape Bush.

Moving across an international boundary is actually pretty darned complicated and costly. The paperwork to become a permanent resident in Canada can be more than $2k for a family of three, and it can take years. When you enter the new country, you lose your old credit rating and are seen as a flight risk, so getting credit cards is hardly trivial, getting a car loan is more costly (oh, and moving a car across that border that is still being paid off is mucho complicated), and even buying a house can be a bit problematic.

Here's the Canadian in America, Laura Martyna:

I don't have any issue with the idea of Democrats fleeing north after a Republican president takes office. Realistically, I doubt people will uproot their lives for the sake of a health care system or wiping out Big Bird. I have several friends that I met while living in Canada who are American citizens and grew up living in the US, but are now living in Canada because they love skiing, or cultivating particular plants for example. Most have distant relatives from Canada or some other attachment to being there, but have chosen to stay.

It seems that the Vietnam War draft dodgers received a warm welcome in their new neighbourhoods from my understanding, so I don't see why Republican dodgers wouldn't be welcomed. Personally, if people feel frustrated enough to move to Canada - why not? I feel sorry for the travellers I have met over the years sporting Canadian flags on their backpacks, only to learn that they are American. If they want to make the move north, I think most Canadians would be sympathetic of their motives.

Potentially informing that sympathy – and the general tone of the responses I got – is the Canadian view of the presidential race. A recent poll found that 66 percent of Canadians prefer President Obama in the election, with only 9 percent saying they support Mitt Romney.

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Max Fisher · November 1, 2012