Is Canada Really so Great?

Is Canada one of world’s greatest places to live? Is it really what it’s cracked up to be? As hundreds of thousands of would-be immigrants file their applications and desperately hope to be among those granted a temporary or permanent visa to live and work in Canada, it is worth taking stock of what kind of country they are choosing as their future home.


Canada is North American but not American

Is Canada one of world’s greatest places to live? Is it really what it’s cracked up to be? As hundreds of thousands of would-be immigrants file their applications and desperately hope to be among those granted a temporary or permanent visa to live and work in Canada, it is worth taking stock of what kind of country they are choosing as their future home.


Britain won, France lost

French and Indian War By Hoodinski (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

by Hoodinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

By 1763, New France was in the hands of the British. An extension of the 7 Years War between France and England resulted in France losing the bulk of her possessions in the Americas. How to incorporate French culture, language, and civil law under British rule has been – and arguably still is – a fault line in Canadian politics over the years. How British North America and then Canada have attempted to solve that question is part of who we are. And we’re not really bilingual, unless you are a federal government bureaucrat in places like Ottawa and Montreal.


The Thirteen Colonies won, Britain lost

UEL Statue Hamilton By User:Saforrest (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

by Saforrest / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

United Empire Loyalists were settlers living in the Thirteen Colonies who remained loyal to the British Crown. They formed the bulk of English-speaking settlers who arrived in British North America after Great Britain lost the American Revolutionary War. Britain lost the war. They moved to Canada. 

  • “We can’t do that, it’s too American,” isn’t Canada being an annoyingly jealous neighbour. It’s how Canada evolved, as a member of the British Commonwealth, rather than a republic born of revolution.  
  • In Canadian football, for example, we have 3 downs and 12 men per team on the field. And a CFL playing field is longer and wider – in other words, closer in dimensions to a rugby union pitch – than the slender gridiron south of the border.
  • Our national pride and joy, ice hockey, manifested its greatest version of the sport in the glorious NHL in 1917. With many of the original founding teams located in … the USA. Hey, Americans are not stupid. But it’s our game eh? Actually it may have been invented by the British. To be fair, in the formative years of hockey there were large numbers of Canadian franchises. The Great Depression bankrupted many, and the NHL was forced to downsize.
  • We are understated and polite: Like Don Cherry, Jim Carey, and Rob Ford. But really, we are! And we’ll jersey you if insist otherwise.


Canada's Economy is World Class...Sort of

Oil Rig in Alberta By No machine-readable author provided. Qyd assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Oil rig in Alberta by Qyd / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

  • In the early 80s, a downturn in commodities produced a nasty recession in Canada. A big debate ensued about the Canadian economy’s overdependence on the resource sector. Thirty plus years later, the same debate is back squarely at centre stage.
  • While cultural diversity has increased substantially in the last 30 years, economic diversity has been back sliding over the last decade as Canada has somewhat unexpectedly become a petroleum exporting economy. That means the Canadian Dollar is susceptible to commodity price swings – especially oil price swings – and Canada remains a boom and bust economy.
  • High tech, Film and video production, and even manufacturing success stories like Bombardier, have not done enough, apparently, to diversify our economy. Our banking sector is truly one of the better financial systems around the globe, but Canada remains very vulnerable to slowdowns in China as well as very dependent on the US economy.
  • Salaries are a little lower than in the USA. Prices are a little higher. Choice is a little less, especially in healthcare. And housing is still in a bubble in many large cities.
  • Canadians work hard but expect a little less than Americans do. It’s a subtle difference, just a little closer to European caution. But we still very much have a North American attitude on life.


Our Weather is NOT bad

Driving behind a plow in Saskatchewan By BriYYZ from Toronto, Canada (Behind the plow  Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

by BriYYZ / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

Have you heard the old joke about Canada?

  • When it’s 21° Celsius (70 F) we go swimming. People in Texas put on their long underwear.
  • When it’s 15° (60 F) we sunbathe. People in California put on their parkas.
  • When it’s 5° (41 F) Italian cars won’t start. We drive with our windows down.
  • When it’s 0° (32 F) people in New Orleans put on coats and hats. We throw on a flannel shirt.
  • When it’s -10° (14 F) landlords in Philadelphia turn on the heat. We barbeque outdoors.
  • When it’s -18° (0 F) everyone in Miami dies. We lick the flagpole.
  • When it’s -29° (-20 F) California’s entire population evacuates to Mexico. We take out our winter coats.
  • When it’s -40° (-40 F) Hollywood splinters and disintegrates into frozen shards. Girl scouts in Canada sell cookies door to door.
  • When it’s -62 (-80 F) Mount St. Helens freezes three miles deep. Canadians stay home and watch reruns of Kids in the Hall.
  • When it’s -72 (-100 F) Santa Claus evacuates from the North Pole. Canadians get frustrated because they can’t thaw out their kegs.
  • When it’s - 273.15 (-459.67F), that’s absolute zero. All atomic motion stops. Hell freezes over. The Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup. 


Some people are not ready for a Canadian winter. They see trudging through a snow-filled wood on a bright winter day with the thermometer at a balmy 5 below, as arctic survival. Fascinating to watch on the Nat Geo in Cartagena or Mumbai. Terrifying to live through.

Get used to it. Winter can be fun, if you get out there and learn to enjoy it. Even in Winnipeg. Who knows? Your kid could end up playing pro hockey.


Canadians are reserved not necessarily polite

  • Try mouthing off like pro wrestler and then stepping onto the ice in a competitive hockey game. Know a good plastic surgeon? Unless you really are that bad.
  • Road rage never happens in Canada, in places like Toronto, for example. Does it?
  • Try getting mad at the staff at a crowded hospital emergency room. Didn’t work in Texas either huh?
  • Try jabbing your finger angrily in the chest of an unfriendly customs agent at Pearson. Know a good lawyer?


Is Canadian Culture World Class?

Celine Dion By Erin Nikitchyuk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Celine Dion by Erin Nikitchyuk / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

That’s a very Canadian question. You don’t hear New Yorkers or Londoners or even residents of Sydney down in Oz wondering if their urban centre is up to world standards. There’s no question that on the basis of most social and economic indexes, Canada is indeed a world beater. But Canada is not the USA, much less a Scandinavian social welfare state.

Our literary luminaries are more recently emerged, unlike in America or England or Europe and Asia. Our musicians – especially Canadian women – have sold way more albums than you realize but nowhere near as many as artists from America. We have film and media industries that do a good job producing some distinctive work, but they make their bread and butter by providing Hollywood-like content. Our Hi-tech industry has a few winners, but nothing astounding and disruptive like what Silicon Valley routinely produces.

And Canada is not a republic. We are a constitutional monarchy which sometimes can frustrate some newcomers used to El Presidente or the Great Leader. It does take a little work finding out what makes Canada tick and adapting to Canadian culture. And, in the end, Canada may not be the right country for you. Don’t worry. There’s more than a few hundred thousand who are certain it is.

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