Are you sure you want to come to Canada? Be careful what you wish for, because Canada will give you a few reasons not to come. You may wish you had stayed home after you read this. Or at least you’ll be a little more prepared for some of the surprises that await anyone who moves to Canada dreaming of starting a new life. So, here are 8 reasons why you should think twice about coming to Canada.
Reason #1: Canadian Workers are Too Expensive
Canada’s workers were ranked 14th in worker productivity in a 2013 survey. Yes, that’s a few years ago, but Canada’s workers are caught in a no-man’s land. Not nearly as productive as their American neighbours to the south, but definitely more productive than just about every country in Asia. Even including Japan and Singapore. But Canadian workers worked an average of 1,695 hours per year in 2017, less than in Ireland, or the United States, not to mention countries like Mexico where the average hours worked per year came in at 2,257 according to an OECD study. Why start a business in Canada when you can move to Mexico, bribe the right officials, hire private security, and pay wages that are about a fifth of what workers earn in Canada? And still have access to the enormous market just north of the border?
And if you do set up a business in Canada, you actually have to make a profit by providing a better product or service at a reasonable price. And you have to pay a wage that is in line with wages in Canada. You want skilled help? You’ve got to pay for it.
Reason #2: Setting Up a Business is Tough Work
In other words, you can look forward to nothing but lots of hard work and planning to get your proposed business up and running. And that means having to deal with accountants, consultants and banks, all in order to make sure you get things right.
That’s a real pain. You have to decide if you want to use a Schedule I (full-service) bank which are your typical chartered banks in Canada, some of the world’s most solid and stable banks. Or maybe a Schedule II bank is for you - they’re normally a subsidiary of a large foreign bank that specializes in larger clients - if you’re looking for loans usually in the 7-figure range and your company exports abroad.
Who needs them when an envelope stuffed with pesos handed over to an SUV with tinted windows every month is all you need to worry about in Mexico?
Of course, maybe your bland and friendly chartered bank actually has a subsidiary in Mexico that helps you do business in both countries, as well as the U.S. But that’s just a little too predictable as well, isn’t it? Just a lot of plane trips back and forth to Mexico, with meetings in offices as you expand your business across the North American Free Trade Zone. Think you’re going to have time to keep up with the cricket scores back home in India? You can forget about that right here and now! In fact, you’ll have to make sure that any employees of yours who might be cricket fans do not waste company time checking out the results on their laptops.
Reason #3: You Can’t Cheat on Taxes?
This is the big, ugly one. The shameful secret that you need to know about Canadians before you consider moving to the country to set up a business or to work and live.
We. Pay. Our. Taxes. Every April.
Taxes in Canada have this fairly odd quality about them. They should be actually fairly easy to understand, seeing we supposedly have a smoothly functioning tax system. But they can get a little complex if you have deductions to itemize, for example. And the nastiest part is where you write a cheque or make a deposit to the Receiver General for Canada. Remember those four words: Receiver, General, for, Canada. You will need them for the rest of your life if you choose to move to Canada. It’s who takes your hard-earned money every spring and often every paycheque if you or your employer deduct taxes from the company payroll.
But those darn deductions. It really is an art rather than a science trying to understand what the CRA will allow you to deduct as an expense. Or what you should declare as income. For example:
- A farmer was allowed to deduct their purchases of cat food and dog food, because the pets they had were kept outdoors and were used to keep wild animals away from their blueberries.
- A professional football player (that would be the CFL) tried to claim the cost of the footballs he threw into the stands and was subsequently charged for, as an expense against his income. The tax court disagreed.
- A pathological gambler who tried to deduct his losses from gambling with money he embezzled from his employer was turned down by Canada’s tax court. Nice try but you came up snake eyes.
- The cost of a haircut is not deductible even when the service company you work for requires you to get one every 2 weeks.
- Finally, if you’re convicted of a crime that involves earning money from illegal sources, you better hope that you declared that illegal income, because CRA will send you a notice demanding you pay taxes on your loot. Remember to clearly itemize each item: shakedown - $5,250; extortion - $15,350; cigarette smuggling $72,800 etc.
Even criminals have to pay taxes in Canada. Sure you still want to come?
Reason #4: Canada doesn’t care if you’re a qualified professional
So, you’re a neuro pediatrician with 12 years working experience treating kids and with a sterling reputation in your home country? Canada doesn’t care. You can’t just rent office space and lease the medical equipment and hire an administrative assistant and presto, you’re in business. You may realize that you’re brilliant, but Canada doesn’t.
You have to qualify according to Canadian standards and in specialized and highly regulated professions like healthcare workers, you need to have your educational credentials assessed and your work experience evaluated by provincial authorities. You may even have to go back to school to upgrade your qualifications and earn the right to practice medicine in Canada. That will depend on your own education and experience but also it will depend on the province you choose to move to.
B.C. is a province that’s looking for healthcare workers, for example. Sounds great right?
- You must have a job offer from a public health authority in BC.
- To get a job offer you must be licensed to work as a physician in BC.
- To be licensed to work as a physician in BC you must have a registered supervisor in BC.
- To have a registered supervisor in BC you must first have obtained a letter from the BC Ministry of Health or from the Faculty of Medicine at UBC requesting your registration and identifying a sponsor.
- To have the letter you must first have completed a general/family practice program in Canada but not yet have passed the CFPC examination; or you must have completed a minimum 2-year post-graduate medical training in a foreign jurisdiction recognized by the CFPC for the awarding of certification without examination.
- To have completed either post-graduate program, you must have completed the MCC’s Evaluating Examination.
- Before you can take the MCC Evaluation Examination, you must first either: be legally entitled to work in Canada and have a medical degree from a recognized medical school; or you must be a licentiate of the MCC or have successfully completed a licensing program in the U.S. and have Canadian citizenship or permanent residence and have obtained a medical degree from a recognized medical school.
So, if you still want to be a doctor in a beautiful province like B.C. you can see that there’s a bit of a process involved in order to get licensed. And you thought anatomy classes were hard.
Reason #5: You Have to Drive to Buy Some Milk?
There is no escaping it. It’s like a zombie plague. You have to learn how to drive. You must buy a car. Ok you don’t have to buy a car but the overwhelming majority of people in Canada drive to work. In 2016, according to Statistics Canada, 12.4% of Canadians commuting to and from work used public transit. That means that 87.6% of workers who commute do so in a car. Driving. In traffic. Every morning. Every afternoon/evening. Unless you work the night-shift and arrive at home an exhausted zombie just as everyone else is lining up at Second Cup and Starbucks or pulling in to their local Tim Horton’s to get their morning coffee.
Ok. There are still a few places tucked away in some secret corner of Canada, like Queen & Bathurst in Toronto, or Blood Alley & Abbot Street in Vancouver’s Gastown, where you can actually move from one place to another by placing one foot in front of the other. It’s called walking. Something you do very little of in most of Canada.
We drive in Canada. Everywhere. Especially in winter. Or on a muggy, hot summer’s day. Or a rainy fall day. Or a windy and cold spring day.
You can drive, can’t you? Good! Ok, did you know that each province/territory in Canada has their own department of transportation that handle things like driver’s licences and tells you what a new Canadian or a temporary resident needs to drive legally in Canada? For example:
Ontario, if you are visiting the province for less than 3 months to drive legally (you don’t want to try driving illegally in Canada – just a helpful suggestion, ok?) you will need:
- To be at least 16 years old
- Have proper insurance coverage for the vehicle you will be driving
- Carry an original copy or an exact copy of the vehicle ownership permit
- Obey Canada’s traffic laws, drive safely, and avoid collisions.
- If you are staying in Ontario for more than 3 months you will need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) which you must obtain in your home country.
- You will also have to follow the rules of the road. For example:
- Keep to the right.
- Obey the speed limits posted on the road signs – except on highways where going 120 km per hour instead of 100 km per hour is generally allowed and generally followed by most drivers. Do NOT drive 80 km per hour on a major highway. Fellow drivers will get a tad annoyed with you.
- Put your damn phone away and do not use handheld devices while driving. This isn’t Latin America.
- If you see an emergency vehicle behind you slow down and pull to the right.
- You can turn right on a red light in most of Canada (except in some places in Quebec like the island of Montreal) as long as you come to a complete stop first and carefully check to see if there is no oncoming traffic.
In other words, to drive in Canada you have to have a valid license, an ownership permit (or the car you’re leasing/renting has to have it), and insurance. Do. Not. Drive. Without. Insurance. In Canada.
And finally: winter driving. Do you know how to avoid fishtailing? Do you even know what fishtailing is and why it happens? Do you know how to keep warm when your car goes into the ditch between Lanark and Calabogie during an ice-storm or blizzard? Did you know the Tragically Hip in their formative years played a show at a bar in Calabogie (which has since burnt down) and the owner refused to pay them, so they stole liquor bottles from behind the bar as payment before driving back to Kingston?
Ok, maybe getting around Mumbai or Shanghai in a car is a little tricky. But don’t think that driving in Canada will be piece of cake. Au contraire. You will need to adapt to driving rules and conditions in Canada just like any other aspect of life in the country.
Reason #6: I’ll See You in 48 Hours Mummy!
Unless you grew up in Seattle or Detroit and moved across the border, Canada is a long way away from most places. Especially if you’re from Asia, the Middle East, or Africa, or even South America. It means several flights, one of which will usually be a long overnighter, and will involve waiting hours at one or more airports to make your connection(s). And then – if you live in anywhere but Vancouver or Toronto or Montreal – there’s the local connection to or from the city/town in Canada where you actually live.
Door to door, we’re often talking at least a full day or two. Or even more. And we don’t take long holidays in Canada, unless you’re quite wealthy or retired. And in fact, most wealthy people in Canada actually work even harder than your average hard-working Canadian. So that means you’re taking up to 5 or 6 days out of a 2-week holiday just sitting on planes or in airports.
Maybe that’s why most new Canadian prefer instead to fly their grandparents or parents to Canada to visit them.
Reason #7: You Mean I Can’t Also Work in Chicago?
Surprise. If you have your Permanent Resident status in Canada, it does NOT allow you to work in the USA. You must be a Canadian citizen in order to qualify for a so-called NAFTA visa (although it’s not a visa) and even then, you have to qualify under the International Mobility Program: North American Free Trade Agreement. Here’s what the IRCC says about this program:
1.4 What NAFTA does
- NAFTA facilitates temporary entry for business persons who are citizens of the U.S., Mexico and Canada and who are involved in the trade of goods or services, or in investment activities.
- NAFTA removes the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) for all business persons covered by the Agreement.
- In the case of a business visitor, it removes the need for a work permit.
- For professionals and intra-company transferees, it expedites the application process because one can apply at the port of entry (POE), (note that nationals who require a temporary resident visa to enter Canada, however, should apply at a visa office prior to coming to Canada).
1.5 What NAFTA does not do
- NAFTA does not assist permanent admission.
- It does not apply to permanent residents of the three countries.
- It does not replace the general provisions dealing with foreign workers.
- It has no effect on universal requirements related to passports and identity documentation, medical examinations and safety and security.
- It does not replace the need for workers to meet licensing or certification requirements respecting the exercise of a profession.
- It does not extend special privileges to spouses and members of the family. Their entry is governed by the provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Regulations.
1.6 Who is covered by NAFTA?
The temporary entry provisions of Chapter 16 of the NAFTA are restricted to citizens of the U.S., Mexico and Canada. In the case of the U.S., citizens of the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are covered by the NAFTA; however, citizens of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands are excluded from the NAFTA.
Permanent residents of the three countries are not covered. They are, however, covered by the general provisions governing the temporary entry of foreign workers.
No Canadian citizenship. No free travel to USA or Mexico. You need to follow the same rules as anyone else. And even when you get your citizenship, you only are allowed to make business trips to the USA or Mexico, not live and work there even on a part-time basis.
Reason #8: I Can’t Pay for Private Health Insurance?
Healthcare in Canada is run by the provinces and territories, while the Federal government doles out the cash and sets basic standards. It’s a public health care system, although you can use private insurance like Blue Cross for example. But that is normally only for newly arrived Canadians who don’t yet have their provincial health cards and have to pay for the public health service until they get their OHIP card, or BC Services card, for example. And you get to wait in line for an available doctor like everyone else. If you want to pay for truly private healthcare you better live close to the border, because it’s on the other side that you’ll find private health insurance that gives you access to the quality of healthcare you’re willing and able to pay for.
And quite frankly, the quality of healthcare varies noticeably from province to province, despite what the federal legislation says. BC ranks quite high and clearly ahead of Ontario, while some of the prairie provinces or the Atlantic provinces are noticeably lower on the developed world ranking system.
And yes, little by little a few health services are being shifted to the private sector and if you want to and have the money, you can pay for some of those services with private health insurance. But in general, Canada has a public healthcare system and that means everybody gets to wait in line to see their doctor.
But please, don’t let a few reasons keep you from coming to Canada. Unless we’ve just shattered your illusions. Of course maybe that’s a good thing, because unless you understand how Canada really functions, we’re not letting you anywhere near the rink, never mind suiting up, and don’t even think about ice time.