Will Americans really migrate to Canada if Trump wins?

Website started as a joke to encourage US migrants to move north is inundated as real estate tycoon soars in the polls.

    Will Americans really migrate to Canada if Trump wins?
    Cape Breton Island is in one of Canada's most beautiful yet economically depressed regions [File: Glenn Adams/AP]

    As Donald Trump soars in the polls, quite a number of US citizens are desperately worried the real estate tycoon will be their next president.

    They are so worried that they are tempted to move to one of Canada's most beautiful yet economically depressed regions.

    Cape Breton Island sits at the country's eastern edge, part of the province of Nova Scotia. It's home to an 18th-century fort built by France, Canada's only Scottish Gaelic college and some of the highest unemployment in the country.

    A website that Cape Breton radio host Rob Calabrese admits he founded in jest, called "Cape Breton If Donald Trump Wins", is receiving tens of thousands of hits.

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    "Hi Americans," says the site's opening page, "Donald Trump may become the president of your country! If that happens, and you decide to get the hell out of there, might I suggest moving to Cape Breton Island!” 

    Calabrese told Toronto's Globe and Mail newspapers that the wave of responses had surprised him. "I'm in disbelief," he said. 

    To be frank, so am I. We have been here before - so many times. These days we'd call it a meme. Academics might prefer the term "trope".

    Whatever it is, there's definitely a Canadian belief that many in the US are just waiting for the latest crazy development in their own politics to drive them north.

    Fears in 2012 that the US Supreme Court might strike down the Obamacare health insurance law prompted plenty of action on Twitter.

    Years earlier, during the 2004 presidential election, it was a second term for George W Bush that provoked the putative rush for the border. I reported the story at the time. It was just before election day and the polls were suggesting President Bush would indeed be re-elected.

    So I headed to a part of the US that seemed the most likely source for anti-Republican refugees - the reliably left-of-centre Pacific Northwest and its notional capital, Seattle, in Washington state.

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    Try as I might, I could not find a single US citizen despairing enough to take the very real steps required to change countries, even to one as familiar and similar as Canada.

    I checked with doctors, lawyers, academics and people who run left-wing bookshops.

    Despair at a Bush victory didn't give them itchy feet. They would grin and bear it, they told me, over excellent coffee.

    Canada’s free healthcare, fewer guns and a (lot) less militaristic foreign policy were tempting, but not tempting enough.

    Later I checked the statistics and found that there had been several hundred more arrivals from the US after Bush's inauguration, but US immigration to Canada stabilised and has barely budged since then from about 9,000 people per year.

    In fact, any way you measure it, many more Canadians go south, drawn by high-paid jobs, greater business opportunities, warmer temperatures and - at least after the 2008 financial collapse - cheaper real estate.

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    There are also hundreds of thousands of Canadian "snow birds" who flee my country's often-harsh winters for months at a time, heading to Florida or other warm states. 

    And now there's another source of southward pressure - the weak Canadian dollar.

    In the past, when our currency has shrunk against the mighty US dollar, the flow of job applications across our digital border has intensified.

    Even our iconic ice hockey players, hailing from heartland rink towns such as Saskatoon, Medicine Hat or Moose Jaw, can be forgiven if they long to play in sweaty place like Anaheim or Arizona where their dollar is, well, worth a dollar.

    These days, hockey teams pay all their players in US currency, just to keep them here.

    There is one well-established group of Canadians of US origin who have no regrets about running for cover in their snowy neighbouring land.

    I met them during my reporting in 2004: They are the draft dodgers, men who fled to Canada to escape conscription into the military during the war in Vietnam. There were - it's estimated - up to 75,000 of them.

    Many settled in wild and beautiful parts of the country such as the mountain city of Nelson, British Columbia.

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    There I found them prominent in local left-wing activism or running music venues and shops selling cannabis-smoking accessories.

    They came, after all, in the 1960s and early 70s, and found in Canada fertile ground for hippy lifestyles and politics. 

    Perhaps that's the future for Cape Breton, then. Vinyl record shops and edgy cafes along the Atlantic Coast. No nukes either, although down at that imposing 18th-century French-built Fortress of Louisbourg, they do have some pretty cool cannons. 

    I wish Rob Calabrese well. The government tourism agency loves his website, clearly seeing the value in promoting such a lovely part of the world to the closest source of foreign visitors.

    If some of them fall in love with the place and decide to move there, so much the better. In Cape Breton, at least, they're ready for a President Trump.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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