An 18-year-old Pizza Hut employee, 59-year-old criminal defense attorney, and 62-year-old former fashion executive all have one thing in common: They swear that if Donald Trump gets elected in November, they will pack up their bags and move to Canada.
Even though she does not have any friends or family north of the border, Eva Korczakowski, who is currently waiting for a promotion to shift manager at the pizza chain, has already started gathering a group of buddies who do not plan to come home after a road trip from Binghamton to Niagara Falls.
“Trump goes against everything I stand for,” the 18-year-old wrote in an email interview. “With Canada being so close, I think it would be the most realistic option.”
James Devitt, a lawyer with Devitt & Saltzburg, worries that Trump’s far-right policies will trigger massive riots and will increase the risk of a nuclear war. Fashion industry veteran Ellen B., who asked that her last name not be used in order to protect her privacy, likes that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “brought a ‘hipness’ to the country” that many had formerly considered on the boring side.
It is wonderful for me, and for other Canadians, to hear our country praised for more than being polite or inventing the Canadian Tuxedo (denim jeans paired with a denim shirt). But I’m going to shatter this collective escape fantasy early on: You probably don’t really want to move to Canada.
Look, I get it. We are hip as hell, and have a prime minister who likes to cuddle pandas, to boot. We have a lower drinking age, better health service for the poor, and, when speaking in very vast generalities, slightly more progressive attitudes on issues like immigration and gun control.
And yet Canada is still not the liberal utopia you think it is.
We may have lower undergraduate tuition rates, but we also have a highly conservative national voter base, and a former prime minister who, in the years before he was voted out, plummeted our dollar, and enacted a bill that critics believe classifies people like me, who were born outside the country, as second-class citizens. We loosened our stances on marijuana laws over the years, but we vacillate when it comes to fossil fuels and the environment.
Adam Alter, a marketing and psychology professor at New York University, said that most Americans who claim that they will move north if Trump gets elected are doing so as a form of protest against their country’s political system rather than out of a genuine interest in Canadian life or politics.
“I think they’re running away from the U.S. rather than running towards Canada,” he said.
Indeed, threatening to move to Canada due to the results of a poor election is about as American as apple pie.
The tradition traces at least as far back as the War of Independence, when colonists who wished to remain loyal to the British king fled north of the border. Many young Americans said that they would move to Canada in the 1960s to protest Vietnam — and according to estimates by the Canadian government, up to 40,000 really did move. Disconsolate liberal voters also talked about moving to Canada in 2004 to protest George W. Bush’s re-election — and in 2005, 8,392 of them actually did, as well.
“Canada is obviously more left-leaning than the U.S., and therefore it’s sort of a natural choice,” Alter said.
In short, Canada becomes the stuff of overzealous liberal fantasies in the months leading up to American elections.
But from one overzealous liberal to another, I'm afraid you’ll see much of the same conservative bigotry that you’re trying to flee follow you right across the border. It’s just often better disguised with some smiles and "sorries."
Sasha Ramani, a 27-year-old investment manager consultant from Ontario who worked in New York for the last five years, said that he often sees Canadian issues, such as aboriginal rights and xenophobia, brushed aside by claims that, at least things are not as bad as they are in the United States.
“Americans love to complain, they love to exaggerate their problems,” said Ramani. “They look across the border at Canada and see a country that’s very familiar, not too different, and doesn’t appear to have serious problems.”
In other words, it took Trump’s overt bigotry for you to finally consider (gasp!) moving to Canada. With a fair dose of ill-informed appreciation for our liberal attitudes and vast stretches of nature, that is.
As much as a Trump presidency is a gift not wished upon any good neighbor, we are not your escape fantasy or plan B. Move to Canada if you truly like us, but realize that the decision comes with caveats that include actually learning something about our culture.
Still feel like moving north after the election to escape Trump? Get ready to defend Justin Bieber’s questionable choices promptly after revealing your nationality. Learn French, and prepare to put up with a much smaller Netflix selection. Complain about the U.S. at bars and coffee shops, and then cross the border for cheaper shopping on the weekends.
Chances are, moving to Canada will be a much bigger adjustment than simply swapping your "zees" for your "zeds." Just don’t say that this Canadian didn’t try to warn you about it.
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