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Monday, November 29, 2004

"Not All Beer And Donuts"

With four years as a Canadian resident behind her, Norma Jacobson has some advice fo Americans considering a move to the Great White North - don't.

Although I enjoy my work and have made good friends here, I've found life as an American expatriate in Canada difficult, frustrating and even painful in ways that have surprised me. As attractive as living here may be in theory, the reality's something else. For me, it's been one of almost daily confrontation with a powerful anti-Americanism that pervades many aspects of life. When I've mentioned this phenomenon to Canadian friends, they've furrowed their brows sympathetically and said, "Yes, Canadian anti-Americanism can be very subtle." My response is, there's nothing subtle about it.

The anti-Americanism I experience generally takes this form: Canadians bring up "the States" or "Americans" to make comparisons or evaluations that mix a kind of smug contempt with a wariness that alternates between the paranoid and the absurd.

Thus, Canadian media discussion of President Bush's upcoming official visit on Tuesday focuses on the snub implied by his not having visited earlier. It's reported that when he does come, he will not speak to a Parliament that's so hostile it can't be trusted to receive him politely. Coverage of a Canadian athlete caught doping devolves into complaints about how Americans always get away with cheating. The "Blame Canada" song from the "South Park" movie is taken as documentary evidence of Americans' real attitudes toward this country. The ongoing U.S. ban on importing Canadian cattle (after a case of mad cow disease was traced to Alberta) is interpreted as a form of political persecution. A six o'clock news show introduces a group of parents and children who are convinced that the reason Canadian textbooks give short shrift to America's failed attempts to invade the Canadian territories in the War of 1812 is to avoid antagonizing the Americans -- who are just waiting for an excuse to give it another try.

[...]

Part of what's irksome about Canadian anti-Americanism and the obsession with the United States is that it seems so corrosive to Canada. Any country that defines itself through a negative ("Canada: We're not the United States") is doomed to an endless and repetitive cycle of hand-wringing and angst. For example, Canadians often point to their system of universal health care as the best example of what it means to be Canadian (because the United States doesn't provide it), but this means that any effort to adjust or reform that system (which is not perfect) precipitates a national identity crisis: To wit, instituting co-payments or private MRI clinics will make Canada too much like the United States.


She has seen us as we are. Read it all.

crossposted to SDA with hat tip to Cosh.

Posted by Kate McMillan on November 29, 2004 in Canadian Politics | Permalink

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Comments

It is endlessly entertaining for Canadians to compare themselves to Americans and no less entertaining for us to mock Americans looking at us.

It's interesting that, when the rest of the world looks at the two North American siblings, they can't really tell the difference.


Posted by: KevinG | 2004-11-29 7:12:43 PM


True! The Spanish word "norteamericanos" applies equally to both.

There are no real differences. The corporations invent fake, trivial or meaningless ones to make profits. Best example: Molson Canadian (sort of says it all).

Canada is a corporate scam.

Posted by: Scott | 2004-11-29 8:04:17 PM


Most North Americans from my part of the country (the Southwest) never have an opportunity to visit Canada. All of our political dynamics are with Mexico. Canada seems very far away.

Canada is like us, but our differences make Canada interesting. In school, we presumably all read Shelly, Byron, Keats and Wordsworth. Rimbaud, Verlaine and Baudelaire. We all understand Kant is important to us, and so is John Stewart Mill. We've grown up in a Protestant/Catholic society even as some of us are distancing ourselves from some of those ideas. And we've grown up with each other.

Most US citizens are naive about Canada. As kids we hear about the Canada of Robert Service, the Northwest Passage, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; of brave Canadian heroes who fought by our side in World War II.

Contrary to popular opinion, most US citizens, who think about it, find French thinking Canada interesting and just wish it were a friendlier place. After all, we have French speaking Louisiana, and it's an interesting place too.

Most of our thoughts of Canada have been friendly, appreciative and respectful. After all, we're all North Americans.

But lately all of that good will is being pushed aside and replaced by Canadian anti-Americanism. And that's a shame.

Posted by: Greg in Dallas | 2004-11-29 9:41:36 PM


I've read US histories of WWII and Canada is seldom mentioned, and never as anything but an ally.

On the other hand, in Canadian histories of WWII, the US is always portrayed negatively, as "latecomers", or "gung ho flyboys". Canadians write the history they want to read. Americans write the history that everyone reads.

If you ask a Canuck, they'd tell you Canada singlehandedly won the war. They neglect the part where they sat on their asses in England for FOUR YEARS getting old while British and others were getting killed.

Considering this comes from the same country that produced "The Valor and the Horror" and re-elected the veteran hater Tom Wappell, you'll never get an honest answer.

Posted by: Scott | 2004-11-29 10:21:54 PM


"If you ask a Canuck, they'd tell you Canada singlehandedly won the war."

Of course, Scott - I say that all the time. I'm also convinced we invented paper, and pasta noodles, and differential equations. There should be a book - "How Canada Saved Civilization" - on how the complete works of Latin and Greek were saved from the barbarians in the Dark Ages by some kindly trapper in his shack on James Bay.

Posted by: rick mcginnis | 2004-11-29 11:11:02 PM


There are two types of Anti-Americanism here.

One type is a response to the segmant of arrogant Americans
(and many of our own Yankee-wipes ) who think that their country is God's gift to. The ones who expect Iraq's to flood the streets waiving American flags or who make comments like "Americans write the history that everyone reads." ( btw: the last history that everyone read would be Paris 1919, written by a Canuk). This is the same kind of anti-ness that we in Calgary feel when people from Toronto move here and can't shut up about "Toronto this..Toronto that.. In Toronto we do it this way etc"

The more common type is ,as Kevin G puts it, a sibling situation. I dated half of a set of twins in H.S. She would go nuts when people thought she was her sister " I'm not Shelly!!!". She really liked Shelly but she had a totally different personality from her. It wasn't that she thought she was better than her it was just that she was not her. It would also drive her crazy when her mom would try and get them to be all cute and dress the same. It wasn't that dressing the same threatened her own self identity it was the fact that it bluured the difference between the two to the outside world.

" For example, Canadians often point to their system of universal health care as the best example of what it means to be Canadian (because the United States doesn't provide it)"

Or is it a prime example of " the right choices about fairness, human rights and the social compact" that first attracted the author to Canada. That is our identity. To point out that the US doesn't have it is only to point out that we don't dress the same.

Posted by: Nbob | 2004-11-30 12:06:39 AM


It's sad that our national identity revolves around our love for punishing hard work and innovation and rewarding mediocrity and laziness, ie. - socialism.

How many billions must be spent on health care before we realize that the government-controlled, centrally-planned delivery of =anything= is asking for trouble.

Posted by: Joel | 2004-11-30 2:30:14 AM


Yah Joel - real sad that overall we obtain slightly lower, the same or slightly better results ( depending on the proceedure) than the U.S. but can give those results to all our citizens regardless of social/eco standing. Real sad that our overall population is more healthy than the U.S. ( compare infant mortality and work your way up ). Real sad that we can give health care to all our citzens for half the percapita spending as Americans - though we do have to wait longer for some services. If things keep going the way they are I'll be crying in my grave soon.

Posted by: Nbob | 2004-11-30 5:28:53 AM


I agree that some people's anti-Americanism is unfortunate, but this is a free country. At least we have not renamed the Boston Creme Pie to Freedom Creme Pie. Canadians don't have a monopoly of boneheaded hatred.

I wonder how many Americans poured bottles of French wine down the gutter only to go home and put their feet down on a Persian rug made in a country that dreams of pointing nukes at America and it's allies.

Posted by: freddy | 2004-11-30 9:33:59 AM


I wonder how many Americans poured bottles of French wine down the gutter

About none, thanks.

Again we see that this thread is full of all sorts of misconceptions about Americans.

Real sad that we can give health care to all our citzens for half the percapita spending as American

Amusingly, most Canadians and other foreigners don't know that in the US that it is illegal to turn people away for urgent health care. They also appear to be unaware of the existence of Medicare.

Most non-American citizens I've met are also completely shocked by the existence of state universities, with low tuition for state residents. For example, the University of North Carolina's undergraduate tuition for 2004-2005, after recent increases, is $3200 a year for in-state residents, regardless of major. That's approximately the same as UBC's tuition, and cheaper than UBC's tuition for engineering students.

Canadians claiming that "diversity" makes them distinct for the US are crazy. Both countries are quite diverse, and the US has an even higher level of immigration. Even without considering immigration, even regions of the US or states are incredibly different from each other, just like in Canada. "Unity?" "Unity?" We don't have a quasi-secessionist party active.

Canadians like to claim that Canadians are so much politer than Americans. I've been to Canada quite a few times, and known a lot of Canadians, and haven't noticed this. They are politer than New Yorkers and Los Angelenos, or people on TV shows-- but so are most Americans.

Canadians, like plenty of other non-US residents, confuse New York and LA with all of the US. Either that, or they confuse portrayals on US movies and television with reality.

In my actual experience, British Columbia is a whole lot like Oregon and Washington. BC is more like those two Pacific Northwest states in a lot of ways than it's like Ontario. Sure, Canada is different from the US in quite a few ways, but in a lot of ways each Canadian province strongly resembles its nearest US neighbors. BC is more like WA than WA is like NC, I think.

I like Canada and Canadians, but sometimes you get the impression that Canadians like to emphasize their differences with the USA a little too much, and even define themselves that way.

Posted by: John Thacker | 2004-11-30 10:00:42 AM


John-

You are righ when you say, "British Columbia is a whole lot like Oregon and Washington. BC is more like those two Pacific Northwest states in a lot of ways than it's like Ontario.

The differences between Canadians and Americans on the North West Coast is immesurably small. An Australian, for example, would be hard pressed to spot the difference.

In addition to mistaking NY and LA attributes for general American attributes I think many people mistake US foreign policy attributes for general American attributes.

Even so, having watched the US general election I'm not sure Canadians hold views any more anti-american than a typical Oregonian.

Posted by: KevinG | 2004-11-30 10:49:39 AM


Joel you are correct.

Proponents of the socialist health care system actually make the argument for you, by admitting that after 40 years of sucking back billions in hard cash from the economy, and dozens of different attempts to fix it, health care is in crisis.

One of my buddies is a volunteer board member at a local publicly-owned health agency. They commissioned a study to find out where their money was going (its budget is in the hundreds of millions). Result: 60 percent is absorbed by the administration, 40 percent is spent on patient care.

That's just in the local agency. It doesn't count the money which is skimmed off the top by the 10,000 or so health bureaucrats who keep chairs warm in the Provincial Ministry of Health, or the tens of thousands of employees at the federal level who are "adding value" by running a complex and punitive tax system, redirecting significant amounts of the money to various corrupt and wasteful vote-buying schemes, and finally transferring some of it to provincial and territorial bureaucrats for further tender care.

If you still think that our socialist health care system only needs some tweaking, how do explain the goofy ways that Dalton McGuinty is coming up with to spend his new health tax dollars? Fixing sewers, turning private clinics into unionized public clinics, forcing cyclists to wear helmets, ...

Posted by: Justzumgai | 2004-11-30 11:44:19 AM


"Proponents of the socialist health care system ...., health care is in crisis."

It is not the proponents who started to cry crisis- it was those looking to cause a panic so as to introduce private care as the savior of the system. It is a myth. There is no crisis. We DO have a serious problem with access (wait times) but it is far short of a crisis. Now don't blame socialist health for that - blame socialist education and Paul Martin.

About 20 yrs. ago- pre NAFTA- it looked like we would have too many Doctors per population if trends continued. All the provincial gov'ts and all the med schools got together and cut enrollment by 10%. But then population grew beyond the forecasts.

Rather than rescind the enrollment cuts the gov'ts decided to go to the global market to fill medical positions. Why, they reasoned, should we pay twice- once to train them and then again for the work they do, when we can fill our needs with pre-trained people who we only have to pay for their work?

Two problems: Every country in the world was trying to hire in the global market and then PM started cutting back the transfers. We could no longer afford to take a shopping cart to the market and had to make do with a hand basket. So today we have about 10% fewer Docs than we need.

"after 40 years of sucking back billions in hard cash from the economy"

Actually countries with socialized med have more productive/profitable companies on the whole ( Canada included if you don't count the Wal-Mart/McD's service sector) Why? because their payroll burden is less than those with private care. My employer in Alberta ( where we have employer/employee premiums) pays, say,$ 5,000 per year to cover me. The same type of employer, generating the same revenue, in Montana will pay $9,000 or more to cover its employee ( as they are required by law to do). Part of the "Alberta advantage" is that companies can take that $4,000 and invest or pass it on to shareholders.

"Result: 60 percent is absorbed by the administration, 40 percent is spent on patient care."

What ever the ratio in Canada it is worse stateside. Most of the difference between our lower per capita spending is attributed to all the red tape that exists down south.

Posted by: Nbob | 2004-11-30 4:05:45 PM


"We DO have a serious problem with access (wait times) but it is far short of a crisis."

A serious problem is when someone else is on a multiyear waiting list for treatment. A crisis is when you're on the waiting list.

"... in Montana will pay $9,000 or more to cover its employee ( as they are required by law to do)"

If a government forces an employer to provide private insurance, that's just more socialism. Now you need a bureaucracy in the company to manage the insurance premiums, a big bureaucracy in the hospital to manage the billing to all the difference insurance plans, a really big bureaucracy in the insurance company to manage the whole thing, and of course a big government bureaucracy to oversee the overseers.

Here's a good article on how the free market for health care was gradually strangled in the USA:

http://www.mises.org/fullstory.aspx?Id=1588

Since both the Canadian public-monopoly system and the US forced-insurance system mostly benefit the bureaucrats and not the patients, let's just eliminate all mandatory health premiums and split the savings between the employees and the shareholders. Employees will get better health care by spending their own money on it, and shareholders may actually decide that it's worth building factories in North America again.

Posted by: Justzumgai | 2004-11-30 5:26:19 PM


Did anybody catch Samantha Bee's bit on "Canadian Conservatives fleeing south" on The Daily Show last night? I only caught a bit of it on reruns today... being Daily Show it made the Canadian conservatives look stupid for wanting to go to America, and wanted to know how bad the whole thing was.

Posted by: Lars Ormberg | 2004-11-30 6:42:36 PM


>because their payroll burden is less than those with private care.

Yes; all the health care professionals I know are happy that their labour value is capped by government rather than allowed to find its market value.

Posted by: lrC | 2004-11-30 6:56:01 PM


"It is not the proponents who started to cry crisis- it was those looking to cause a panic so as to introduce private care as the savior of the system"

I know too many people who have spent their own money for tests and treatment in Minnesota to buy that crap.

The truth is exactly the opposite. We get nothing but horror stories about US shortcomings, in the hopes of keeping the Canadian guaranteed-profit system alive a few years longer. Nobody is asking for a "savior" - they're asking for a CHOICE.

Today, working in town, a friend commented that "in the USA, they'll turn you away at the hospital door if you don't have the money to pay."

I said, "Oh yeah? Go down to one of our city hospitals and ask to see someone about getting an MRI for a suspected benign brain tumour. They'll turn you away at the door, too."

Unless you're a Workers Compensation or Saskatchewan Government Insurance case.... then, you get to jump the cue. They PAY.

A talk radio host once pointed out that those who are on Medicare in the US get sent to "State Hospitals". ??

All we HAVE are STATE HOSPITALS - state hospitals in which the government unions call the shots. Food workers, floor moppers, all getting twice what the private sector pays and then some. Whatever you do, don't make them mad - they won't vote for you.

You can't transfer a nurse from one department to another in the same hospital to address nursing shortages - - you have to lay her off, pay the severance and rehire her.

In Saskatchewan, it would be possible to save millions each year by leasing some of the most expensive medical equipment, instead of buying it outright. SaskHealth refuses to do it. They are ideologically addicted to owning every piece of equipment. So if there's no money, it doesn''t get bought.

We are being lied to, and people are dying because of it. My best advice, if you're facing a long waiting list in Saskatchewan for a disorder that is potentially serious, seek help elsewhere. If you wait too long, and become too unwell to travel, you'll be trapped in the mess they call a "system".

Posted by: Kate | 2004-11-30 7:46:37 PM


Just 2 months after moving to the states I came down with pneumomia and my American wife insisted that I go to the hospital . We did not have any Insurance yet as I had no work permit .
Well I was treated no questions asked about how I could pay .I was admitted for 3 days and sent a bill for $3900 which we could pay monthly as much as we wanted (many times we paid as little as $5).
I know it seems steep but just 1 year earlier when my wife to be was visiting me in Winnipeg we had occasion to visit Concordia Hosp. for a cut hand her daughter suffered and would not be treated until my wife's Visa card was cleared.
$330 and 3hrs later we left disgusted by how filthy the Hospital was.
Since moving down here my eyes have opened to so many things .

Posted by: ken the ex-canuck | 2004-11-30 9:10:06 PM


"Yes; all the health care professionals I know are happy that their labour value is capped by government rather than allowed to find its market value"

And how many professionals do you know? The Canadian Medical Association , who represent Dr.s and the nurses unions are all strongly in favour of our system. Most health care professionals still consider what they do a "calling". Sure they want to make a good living- but maximizing market potential (getting rich) is not why they took the gig.

"A serious problem is when someone else is on a multiyear waiting list for treatment. A crisis is when you're on the waiting list."

Where are there multiyear waits? I just looked at the wait times in Calgary. I didn't crunch the numbers but a quick look shows
2 or 3 proceedures would have you wait 12-14 months but the overall average seems to be 3-4 months.

http://www.health.gov.ab.ca/waitlist/WaitListData.jsp

Posted by: Nbob | 2004-11-30 10:06:59 PM


The simple fact is Canadians are obsessed
about America, and Americans rarely give
Canada a second thought...but the rest of the
world rarely gives Canada a second thought.
That type of situation is bound to create a
great deal of anger among Canadians who good
use a good dose of self-confidence, which
doesn't come from knocking down others.

Posted by: BB | 2006-08-24 2:27:01 PM


The simple fact is Canadians are obsessed
about America, and Americans rarely give
Canada a second thought...but the rest of the
world rarely gives Canada a second thought.
That type of situation is bound to create a
great deal of anger among Canadians who could
use a good dose of self-confidence, which
doesn't come from knocking down others.

Posted by: BB | 2006-08-24 2:38:58 PM


Canada's "universal health care system" is a fraud. Always has been and always will be.

Anti-Americanism has been fuelled of late by the socialist Liberal Party of Canada egged on by so-called academics from their ivory towers.

I recently spent a few weeks in Florida, with mostly other Canadians there. They were, by and large, ignorant and smug. So ignorant, in fact, that when an American asked us where we were from, I responded " near Buffalo NY ".

Forget the "Ugly American". Canadians have surpassed them in that department.

It's high time these products of Trudeaupian Socialism grew up.They are a disease that infects the very fibre of what Canada stands for.

To all my fellow Americans- I apologize for these assholes. They are victims of their time.

Posted by: Ralph Rattfuc | 2006-08-24 3:49:35 PM



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