Terrance Heath

A Better Life: Why I'm Still Not Moving To Canada

Filed By Terrance Heath | May 29, 2011 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Better Life Index, Canada, OECD, quality of life, standard of living

Remember back in 2004, when Dubya won re-election and liberals started threatening to move to Canada? Well, maybe I should have considered it. Because according to OECD’s Better Life Index, Canada is where I belong.

But, I’m still not moving to Canada.

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Hows Life?

Canada performs exceptionally well in measures of well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top countries in a large number of topics in the Better Life Index.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Canada, the average household earned 27 015 USD in 2008, more than the OECD average.

In terms of employment, nearly 72% of people aged 15 to 64 in Canada have a paid job. People in Canada work 1699 hours a year, less than most in the OECD. 71% of mothers are employed after their children begin school, suggesting that women are able to successfully balance family and career.

Having a good education is an important requisite to finding a job. In Canada, 87% of adults aged 25 to 64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school diploma, much higher than the OECD average. Canada is a top-performing country in terms of the quality of its educational system. The average student scored 524 out of 600 in reading ability according to the latest PISA student-assessment programme, higher than the OECD average.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Canada is 80.7 years, more than one year above the OECD average. The level of atmospheric PM10 tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs is 15 micrograms per cubic meter, and is lower than levels found in most OECD countries.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community but only moderate levels of civic participation in Canada. 95% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in a time of need, higher than the OECD average of 91%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 60% during recent elections; this figure is lower than the OECD average of 72%. In regards to crime, only 1% of people reported falling victim to assault over the previous 12 months.

When asked, 78% of people in Canada said they were satisfied with their life, much higher than the OECD average of 59%.

Of course, as Ezra pointed out, there are things that the index doesn’t take in to consideration. Like cuisine, which was Ezra’s concern. Climate is one I’d have to take into consideration, because I’m a wimp when it comes to cold weather. Sure, I make it through winter every year, but I bitch every step of the way.

That doesn’t rule Canada out entirely. Sure, Montreal may not be the best place, but if I’m choosing where to live in Canada, there are still plenty of places to choose from. Vancouver sounds like a possibility. It’s one of the warmest Canadian cities in winter, second only to Victoria. Plus it tops the list of Canadian cities with the most days above freezing during winter.

Speaking of lists, Canada topped mine, but here’s how the rest of the top 10 shaped up.

  1. Canada
  2. Australia
  3. Sweden
  4. New Zealand
  5. Norway
  6. Denmark
  7. Switzerland
  8. United States
  9. Luxembourg
  10. Netherlands

How about that? The U.S. made it into the top ten, and beat out Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Given that, and seeing as how I’m already here, I think I’ll stay put. But it’s nice to know I have options.

Of course, there’s another incentive: my husband and I can be legally married in Canada. But we’ve already managed to do that right here. And while our marriage isn’t recognized everywhere in the U.S., as it would be in Canada, the trend is moving in our favor. Even a major equality opponent like Focus on the Family is giving up that fight, because they can read the writing on the wall too. That’s actually more of an incentive to stay put, continue fighting so that other families can do what we did.

Besides, I found plenty of reasons not to move to Canada in 2004. And if I need more reasons now, I can always ask my blogging colleague Bill Sher, who wrote the book on not moving to Canada.

Not that I need to. In 2004, most progressive didn’t move to Canada. Yeah, some of us threatened to in fits of pique. But then we got to work, trying to move the country in a different direction. In 2006, and 2008, we saw the results.

Have we been thrilled about all that’s happened since then? No. But that just means we’ve got more work to do. The OECD index starts with a set of questions that spell out the job in front of us.

Ever since the OECD started out in 1961, GDP has been the main factor by which it has measured and understood economic and social progress. But it has failed to capture many of the factors that inuence people’s lives, such as security, leisure, income distribution and a clean environment.

Is life really getting better? How can we tell? What are the key ingredients to improving life is it better education, environment, healthcare, housing, or working hours? Does progress mean the same thing to all people or in all countries and societies?

Jobs. Health care. Education. The topics in the Better Life index echo the work progressives are and have been doing toward a goal the of … well … a better life for all of us.

So, once again, I’m not moving to Canada, even if that’s where my “better life” awaits. I’ll stay put, keep working to move the U.S. closer to the top of that index, and make that better life possible for more of us right here.

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As a Canadian I can understand your point of view and I think that you should be applauded for staying put and trying to make your nation a better place for everyone. That should be the goal of most people on the planet. Yes Canada has it right-wing politicians from the western provinces who if they had their way might want to turn back the clock and make us a lot less tolerant but the mass majority like it just the way it is.

What really strikes me as funny is that the weather gets mentioned. Sure the city of Montreal Quebec is not the south of France but then again neither is Fargo, North Dakota or Buffalo, New York. The city of Toronto, where I live, is a diverse and cultured place with a population similar to many US Cities and sits on a latitude (43 45 north) which would put it somewhere in Oregon state.

So I wish you luck in making your nation a better place but that does not mean that you can't come and visit from time to time.

I'm glad we rank so highly, but as a Canadian, I'd add that there has been a drastic governmental shift to the right. If anyone is looking at moving here for LGBT rights and freedoms, I'd recommend waiting until we see where the next four years are going to lead.

I can't imagine, at this point in my life, moving to a place where I don't know anyone. I'm definitely staying put in the Hudson Valley. As far as Canada, like any place, I suppose, there is the Canada of myth, and the Canada of reality. My sister, who bought a house in Vermont after living in the NYC metro area her whole life, is often telling me about the Vermont of myth versus the reality. But I would love to vacation in Canada. I've been to Montreal and Vancouver, and enjoyed both. I'd love to see some of the Canadian countryside.

That was a very depressing time for me. Not only did Shrub Jr. cheat for the second time but Ohio ban gay marriage. I was going to pack up that night. Now we live in Maryland. LOL It is warmer here.

Scott Burkey Scott Burkey | May 30, 2011 10:44 AM

Nope, not Canada. Much as I adore our LGBT brothers and sisters to the north, I'm old and my bones don't like the cold. I say we form an army of militant dykes and vicious drag queens, and take over the entire Caribbean. Once we're in control, we'll use our various talents and abilities and turn the whole place into a wonderland. Sure its hot, and the humidity is atrocious - but there's an ocean to play in, sanding beaches to wallow on, and can you imagine the gorgeous cabana boys/girls?
Seriously, much as I bitch about the sorry state of our nation, I agree with our Canadian Projectors - it is our responsibility to make the U.S. a better place for everyone. I came up in the 80's and 90's, and cut my political teeth on the AIDS activism of that era. While I've seen enormous strides on the social level, and a modest-tho'-substantive gain in the political arena, we have also seen a tremendous push-back from the reactionary forces of the far-right. I'm not delusional enough to fall for the idea that the next generations will bring us to a true "land of the free..." as I see just as much ignorance and fearful hate there as I do in my own generation. Humans have evolved - albeit unevenly - a great deal since we first discovered our opposable thumbs. But in some aspects - like respect for self and others, fairness, personal responsibility, personal accountability... the list is long and ugly - we're still hovering somewhere around the bottom of the primordial ooze. Call me a cynic - a title to which I readily and wholeheartedly agree - but I put aside the rose-colored glasses a long time ago. It will take much more than pretty pontification or snarky blogging to move this nation forward. I only hope that we are willing and able to meet the challenge.

My partner and I DID move to Canada, in 2006, not to get away from the US but just because we found a place that really appealed to us. We're on an island off the West Coast, which is a very unique situation. It is cold, and rural Canadians make great neighbors. The island has been very open to my transition and our subsequent lesbian identity, and I feel safe or better being out. It's weird not being able to vote, but we'll be able to in a few years. Because we live on an island it's hard for me to say what things are really like on the mainland, but I don't find the explosive hate-based kind of political sentiment that seems to prevail in the US. There are "rednecks," but they don't have gun racks. The only bad thing for me is the cold, as I mentioned, and sometimes I really wonder what I've done - but a good summer is really, really good!

"That’s actually more of an incentive to stay put, continue fighting so that other families can do what we did."

That's what a lot of progressive people who live in dramatically non-progressive parts of the country say about their decisions to stay put, and I think it's a good philosophy. You can't change much if you don't live there, and fleeing to more progressive parts of the country (or to other countries entirely) may be easier, but it can only make that place "redder" and abandons other progressives.

Biggest incentive for not moving to Canada? Too damn cold.

As Terrance mentioned, that's not really the case in Vancouver and Victoria, which both have climates comparable to Seattle. That means winters are chilly and drizzly, but it's unusual for the temperature to go below freezing. Summers are warm, but rarely hot, and there's very little humidity.