Brooklyn—Are you still moving to Canada if Trump wins? Were you eyeing Canada even before the launch of the website Cape Breton If Trump Wins? Was the thought of a President Trump coupled with this summer’s record heat enough for you to explore the possibility of immigrating to Canada? I planned my Canadian vacation as soon as Trump gained traction in the primaries. In fact, many of you headed to the Canadian Maritimes this summer where there has been a resulting Trump Bump in tourism.
However, even as I vacationed north, the concept of actually becoming Canadian seemed as unfathomable as a Trump presidency. Like many Brooklynites, I was not taking Trump seriously yet. After all he was polling poorly due to his attacks on the Khans and continued alignment with white supremacists. Then the Clinton email hacks, which promised a smoking gun, only exposed Trump’s adoration of Putin, leading to lower polls. But opinions changed as Brooklynites returned from their Canadian vacations and the potential for a President Trump is now too close for comfort. I’m not counting my swing states before they hatch because it’s not over until the pant suited lady sings. Like Hillary, I feel it’s better to be prepared, so I’m glad I spent my summer researching the most logical place to move. I not only ate the seafood and the blueberry pie, but I asked the most polite people on Earth how they feel about Americans? How they feel about Trump? And most importantly, if Trump wins…
Will Canada build a wall to keep out Americans?
Ah, Canada. The land of Tim Hortons, Green Gables, and very literal commercial signage. The restaurant where one might get a taco is called Mexico. The store where one would get a hammer is called Home Hardware. Plain and simple is taken to a level that makes New York feel arabesque by comparison. It’s also the land of competitive politeness. I thought I said sorry a lot until I met Canadians! I quickly realized if I was going to speak to Canadians, I would have to drastically up my politeness game.
In spite of their straight forward politeness, I was still nervous to approach Canadians about Trump. My question was absurd after all. Hearing it roll off my tongue sounded like the first time Anne Shirley met Marilla Cuthbert— hysterical and reactionary. So it was fitting that I first asked it at Avonlea Village on Prince Edward Island where people come from every corner of the world to pay homage to Lucy Maude Montgomery’s fictional redhead. It is something of a historic site-theme mall that has the school house Montgomery taught in amongst other original buildings. Enjoying a cappuccino at a Samuel’s Coffeehouse, I asked Eddie, the barista: Will Canada build a wall to keep out Americans?
“Definitely not! We want you to come. We’ll welcome you with open arms especially if you bring Chick-fil-A. We want Chick-fil-A. You can keep Trump down there.”
A couple visiting from Ottawa chimed in, “We won’t keep you out, just Trump. We’ll build a wall of lobster traps and keep that crustacean out.”
Eddie quickly retorted, “It would be cheaper just to build a wall around Trump.”
Laughter ensued. It was an example of calm Canadian practicality in the face of fear mongering; a trait I would continue to encounter on the trip.
Eddie’s response also lead me to think Canadians might have less fear than Americans. Trump’s messaging is successful in part because Americans have lots of fear, especially of immigrants. Another thing Americans fear is the weather (at least if the fact that we name every storm that puts up a stiff breeze is any indication). So, I asked about Canadian weather. Unfazed, Eddie ambled off casually describing the 13 feet of snow that accumulated in his front yard two winters back. I began to wonder, if they don’t fear snow and immigrants…
What do Canadians Fear?
Elbow deep in a memorable bowl of Prince Edward Island mussels, it became apparent that Canadians do have fears, but they weigh those fears from a more global perspective, and often in relation to us. I asked the wait staff at Carr’s Oyster Bar in Stanley Bridge if they would build a wall to keep people like me out. Susan, a waitress originally from Edmonton welcomed Americans as good tippers, but lamented, “They’re not leaving their American money this time!” With a favorable exchange rate at approximately $1.30, it was a not so subtle hint that she’d prefer to be tipped in American. Another waiter, Ryan Simons answered,
“No. I think Americans would be welcomed. We need not just people from other North American countries but from around the world coming to our country. It really does a lot for the economy.”
Traveling on I began to understand the economy of the Maritime Provinces. Career choices are somewhat limited. The people at Carr’s of course felt the area relied heavily on tourism, but I asked Dawn, at the Galley Store near Thunder Cove, what jobs might be available to an American fleeing Trump. The tiny general store is nestled between the island’s rolling green pastures and red sandy beaches. So it’s no shock that her reply was, “You either fish or you farm.” Brooklynites—this is where your fancy potatoes come from. In Charlottetown, I met Bill, a retired truck driver, now owner of Northern Watters Knitwear, who used to deliver PEI New Potatoes to Atlantic Avenue weekly.
Crossing the 8 mile Confederation Bridge, I traded Prince Edward Island’s fields painted with Fire Weed, Queen Anne’s Lace, and Golden Rod for Nova Scotia’s highland cliffs, birch, evergreens, and ferns. It’s the kind of place with golf courses, but none owned by Trump. Life is understated here and the economy becomes more strictly fishing. Even the luxurious Digby Pines Resort regally recedes into the scenery, rather than shouting over it in gold letters. Virginia, a clerk at the Pines summed up Canadian economic fears in her simple response,
“No. Canada would never build a wall to keep out Americans. Canada is a friendly nation. Always has been. They’re trying to promote immigration here. Canada is a big country with not a lot of people. We need them for the work force and to create jobs. We’re not against immigration. We’re afraid Trump will affect the world economy. The money will drop and the markets will break.”
The potential for world market turbulence at the hands of someone who flippantly talks about defaulting on debt and curtailing trade troubles Canadians more than the thought of Americans moving in. They are more pragmatic than xenophobic. Virginia immediately cut through my fear mongering about Americans coming in droves, to assert the global need for a stable US currency. They don’t fear people taking their jobs. Instead they view newcomers as potential job fillers and job creators.
This idea echoed as I was laughed out of a gas station for asking my wall question. No was the resounding answer. “We let everyone in.” The gas station clerk reiterated concern that Trump would ruin the world economy. One customer shouted, “Ask Canadians where they get their money from. 75 cents on the dollar comes from the US.” I can only assume he means the exports we buy from Canada. If the US stops buying from Canada because of protectionism or a recession, that concerns them. And Canada in turn is our biggest customer. They buy more US products than China, Japan and the UK combined because contrary to what Trump says, the US actually does still produce goods. In fact, 58% more since NAFTA.
So I left the gas station with a $2 bag of a local delicacy known as Dulce—dried seaweed—and headed out to catch a whale watching tour aboard the Georgie Porgie with Amanda Crocker of Freeport Whale and Seabird Tours in the Bay of Fundy. (I highly recommend the whale watching tour but not the dulce.) We had the pleasure of meeting about eight whales, a pod of dolphins, a puffin and a seal who were all totally anti-wall. How do I know this? We were touring an area termed an Aquarium Without Walls—meaning the wildlife chooses to be there. The whales migrate north to feed in the summer after having their babies in the Caribbean during the winter. Amanda was literally on a first name basis with each and every whale that came out to meet us. In this aquarium without walls, I asked Amanda if she’d wall out Americans. Again laughter ensued.
“Probably not. I don’t think we’d be willing to put the resources into that. We’re a pretty open country. I think most of us agree, the more the merrier when it comes to people from other parts of the world. We just elected a wonderful Prime Minister who is very open to accepting refugees. And Nova Scotia voted entirely liberal.”
Then I asked Amanda if Canadians fear Trump.
“Absolutely! The US is our closest neighbor. What they do in the states has a huge impact on what we do. We don’t share a country but we share a land mass. Trump is such a hated man around the world. I think a lot of Canadians are afraid he will start wars that we’ll have to get involved in. We’re afraid we’ll have to bail him out of situations.”
I was beginning to understand what Canadians fear. Where US economic insecurity is often the explanation given for the xenophobia and isolationism of Trump supporters, Canadians fear Trump could be the cause of global economic insecurity. Where Trump supporters in the US, see his combative arrogance as reassuring masculine strength, Canadians fear unnecessary involvement in further global conflict.
I was really beginning see myself in Canada. The scenery was mesmerizing. I felt aligned with the politics. I was even envisioning a life baking pork pies and running a B and B. I was about to drink the Kool-aid, I mean, the raspberry cordial, when it occurred to me…
Do Canadians have space for Brooklynites?
In fact, yes! They have lots of space! Continuing the conversation with Amanda, I learned that Canadians were already aware of liberal American interest and had specific relocation areas in mind.
“I thought it was hilarious that Americans were going to move to Cape Breton to escape Trump!” said Amanda. “It was the talk of the town for several weeks. Sure! Move to Nova Scotia because we have a very low population up here. Anyone who we can get to move to Nova Scotia is a bonus for us.”
The population of Nova Scotia is 943,002. And two! Almost half reside in or around Halifax. Fishing villages like Amanda’s Freeport have populations under 300. As a result, Amanda’s children are in combined grade classes, but she feels the plus side is,
“If there are only 2 kids in a chemistry class, teachers make darn sure those two kids are passing chemistry.”
Real estate is shocking for a Brooklynite as well. Amanda points to a majestic estate on a hilltop over looking the Bay of Fundy. The owner initially put it on the market for $C1 million, but had to settle for $C200,000. In fact, $C40,000 to $C80,000 will get you a very fine home with bay view.
Space seemed to be everywhere! At another Samuel’s Coffeehouse I met Amy, who was visiting from Vancouver. She confirmed that there was,
“Plenty of room, especially here in Nova Scotia and the North West territories. Just don’t come to Vancouver.”
Vancouver has more fierce real estate competition than New York, with Chinese investors pricing out locals.
But back at Digby Pines Resort, Lisette stated with pride that Canada had,
“accepted 25,000 Syrian refugees this year,” adding, “I think our boarders are wide open, and anyone who wants to move here, we have lots of space. You’re all welcome!”
That’s the thing about the Maritime Provinces of Canada—you don’t ever have to worry that there won’t be room for you. As a result our entire vacation had a rare unharried feeling. Stress about reservations for restaurants, booking ferries, and parking were all unwarranted. Our hyper competitive attitude, essential armor in New York, was superfluous here.
I was now satisfied that Canadians had no intention of building a wall to keep American “Trumpugees” out of their stunning and welcoming land. Not a single person was in favor of a wall. Even their aquarium lacked walls. As absurd as the question may have seemed to the Canadians I interviewed, it proved just the right icebreaker to understand the mindset of our northern neighbors. At least in the Maritime Provinces, there is no fear of immigrants or Americans. In fact, I found that Canadians fear Americans far less than Americans fear each other. While the people I met certainly had economic and security fears, they discussed them with a strong desire to preserve stable U.S. and global relationships, where Americans often assign blame to those relationships. Low population leaves the landscape untouched, but I suspect they value their relationships more because what Canadians really fear is isolation. So what do you say Brooklyn? If Trump wins, shall we move our liberal Shangri-La to the Maritimes? We’ll have to brush up on our hands-on agricultural and fishing knowledge—or we could just bring Eddie a few Chick-fil-A franchises. Cape Breton Island sure wants us. Plus, there’s already an unincorporated area of Prince Edward Island called Brooklyn in Kings County at N 46° 06’, W 62° 40’. We don’t want them to be lonely, now do we?