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5 reasons to flee the U.S. for Canada (that have nothing to do with a Donald Trump win)

Canadian immigration site repeatedly crashes on Tuesday evening as Trump victory looks more likely

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By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch


Reuters

As Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump pledged to “Make America Great Again,” a slogan that appears to be helping him close in on the White House, there’s a slew of public figures who have made quite a different pledge — to move to Canada.

And some members of the public, at least, appeared to be intent on making good on that promise. Canada’s immigration website repeatedly crashed as Trump’s chances rose late Tuesday.

Actors Bryan Cranston, Neve Campbell, Lena Dunham and even comedian Chelsea Handler have all threatened to cross the border if Trump becomes U.S. President. They’re not the first people to threaten to move north of the border. Tens of thousands of Americans are right behind them.

Regardless of what you think of the billionaire real-estate mogul and reality-television star, or where you lie on the political spectrum, Canada has the world’s best reputation internationally as a place to do business and live for the fourth consecutive year, according to the latest annual survey of more than 27,000 people around the world by the Reputation Institute, an international corporate advisory firm. It was based on three key criteria: an effective government, an advanced economy and an appealing environment.

Listen to our new podcast: Money, Markets & More (or subscribe on iTunes ): The latest episodes: “Is buying Ivanka Trump shoes a form of political endorsement?” and “Talking to your kids about Donald Trump.”

Economic wealth is only one factor that contributes to a country’s reputation. The study measures the reputation of 55 countries based on levels of trust, esteem, admiration and respect, as well as people’s perceptions related to other attributes that include a country being viewed as a safe place to visit, a beautiful country, having friendly and welcoming residents, passing progressive social and economic policies, and being run by an effective government. (Canada was followed by Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia; the U.S. ranked No. 22, and Iraq came in last at No. 55.)

Boston native Russell St. Cyr, a Montreal-based IT consultant, moved to Canada in 2008 from the U.K. with his Canadian wife and two children. It did not take him long to feel at home. “I am close to my family, with all the positive aspects of being on the Canadian side of the border,” he says. “It’s a manageable size for a country, and there’s a sense of social cohesion that America lacks. I feel like I’m part of this manageable group that—by and large—gets along.”

St. Cyr, 47, also says Canadians are not obsessed with their ‘Canadianness’ in the same way his compatriots south of the border are about being American. “Canadian pride is based on modesty and gratitude. American identity is based on being at the top of everything and being No. 1.” But he says the American entrepreneurial spirit is unique and enviable, and not just because Silicon Valley has become the de facto center of the world’s high-tech industry. “It really is a nation that generates ideas and wealth that are in some ways just staggering when compared to other countries.”

Vancouver Mayor Robertson: So confident, he’s practically American.

Canadians do have one thing in common with Americans: They don’t lack confidence. “Canada is an extraordinary country, and our vibrant, thriving cities give us the potential to be even greater,” Gregor Robertson, 52, mayor of Vancouver, told MarketWatch. “Our cultural diversity is one of our foremost strengths.” Vancouver, he said, plans to become the “greenest” or most energy-efficient city in the world by 2020. Bicycle paths are on the increase and designed to complement pedestrians and traffic, and cyclists must wear helmets by law in British Columbia. Perhaps coming a little late to the party, Vancouver launched a public bike-share program last July.

See: 11 things you should know about city bike-share programs

A recent Economist Intelligence Unit report ranked Vancouver as the third most livable city in the world. Two other Canadian cities—Toronto and Calgary—were ranked fourth and fifth. Vancouver was bested only by Melbourne and Vienna. Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Auckland, Helsinki and Zurich were ranked Nos. 5 through 10. No American city made the top 10—not even San Francisco or Portland, Ore., two West Coast cities often praised for their quality of life. The Economist’s index takes into account factors like safety, health care, educational resources, infrastructure and the environment of 140 major cities around the world.

Here are 5 reasons to emigrate to Canada:

Less firearm-related homicide

The rate of homicide with firearms in the U.S. (3.2 per 100,000) is more than six times as high as in Canada (0.5 per 100,000), according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. In fact, the U.S. holds a dubious distinction in outpacing most developed countries in this category, including Norway and England and Wales (all 0.1 per 100,000); Australia, New Zealand and Germany (all 0.2 per 100,000); and the Netherlands (0.3 per 100,000).

One explanation for the differences may be that only licensed individuals can buy firearms in Canada. Licensing is a lengthy process that requires a safety course and exam; a 45-day wait to process an application, involving a variety of background checks; and a minimum 28-day waiting period for those who don’t currently own a firearm. There are also bans on certain types of powerful handguns and magazines for automatic and semiautomatic firearms.

More socially progressive government

In the U.S., same-sex marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court in June 2015. But Canada legalized same-sex marriage 10 years earlier at the federal level. When Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper took office in 2006 (and before he was ousted by the current leader, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau in November 2015), he chose not to revisit same-sex-marriage law, according to author and Toronto-based gay-rights activist Bert Archer. “That was the first time I really understood that Canadian and American political spectrums were entirely different things, and that Obama probably couldn’t get elected here—he’s way too right-wing.” In February, Trump has said he would appoint a Supreme Court judge that would reverse the Supreme Court decision. “I disagree with the court in that it should have been a states’-rights issue,” he said.

While Trump has said he would temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. if he were elected president, Trudeau personally welcomed the country’s first refugees from Syria last December. Canada has said on March 1 that it has met its goal of welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees. “We are not having a massive celebration about this, because it’s only a victory for Phase 1,” Immigration Minister John McCallum told reporters, according to news outlet CBC . He said the next phase would involve finding them permanent jobs and homes, and enrolling them in English or French language classes. The U.S. has recently welcomed over 2,000 Syrian refugees and President Obama reached his goal of welcoming 10,000 refugees on Oct. 1.

Universal health care

Given the confusion surrounding the impact of Obamacare on insurance premiums and the difficulty in its online rollout, it may be hard to believe that Canada has had universal health care since the 1960s through the Medical Care Act of 1966. Like many national health-care systems, Canada’s is not perfect. In Canada, patients have little to no financial burden, which has helped lengthen life expectancy and prevent disease, according to a 2014 report on health care by the Commonwealth Fund . But they too often experience long wait times for health-care services. The same Commonwealth Fund report offered stinging criticism of the U.S. “The U.S. health-care system is the most expensive in the world, but this report and prior editions consistently show the U.S. underperforms relative to other countries,” it said.

Generous parental leave

The U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations that does not require employers to provide paid family leave for new moms and dads. “There’s a much better government and cultural acceptance of parental leave here than in the U.S.,” said Wendy Roth, associate professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Depending on the length of employment tenure and the number of hours worked in the preceding year, new moms in Canada can take 17 to 52 weeks of unpaid leave from their jobs. And Canada’s employment insurance plan offers 15 weeks of paid leave for moms, plus 35 additional weeks for either parent after the child is born or adopted, at 55% pay, up to a maximum payment of about $485 a week. “It takes the burden off women and strengthens the bonds between fathers and their children,” Roth said.

Canadians are funny

There is a stereotype that Canadians are boring. Blame Peter Ustinov’s famous line: “Toronto is New York run by the Swiss.” But Canadians are funny. John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Carrey, Michael J. Fox, Eugene Levy, Howie Mandel, Rick Moranis, Mike Myers, Leslie Nielsen, Catherine O’Hara and even William Shatner all hailed from Canada. And it’s not just the professionals. Traveling on a packed bus along Davie Street in Vancouver while I was visiting that city, I heard the driver tell people waiting at the bus stop, “There will be another one along in a few seconds.” But as soon as the doors closed, he smiled at the other passengers and said, “I just made that up.” Some contend that Canadians most enjoy a laugh when poking fun at Americans. So far, Donald Trump has not targeted Canadians. “I would not,” he told reporters last year (and unlike onetime Republican rival Scott Walker), “build a wall on the Canadian border. I love Canada.”

(This story has been updated.)

Quentin Fottrell is a personal finance reporter for MarketWatch based in New York. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo.

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