The Big Question: Should we all be thinking about making a move to Canada?
Friday 04 July 2008
Why are we asking this now?
It's always nice to be wanted. And Canada wants us. It really wants us. In fact, a top politician has made the trip across the Atlantic to encourage Brits to shut up shop and pursue the Canadian dream. Hector Goudreau, Alberta's minister of Employment and Immigration, has been in town, trying to tempt people to his under-manned province with the bait of fast-track visas.
Even if you may not fancy making the move now, a new report out today suggests that the country is likely to become increasingly appealing as the effects of climate change begin to kick in. The study, which examined the vulnerability of 168 countries to the likely effects of global warming, placed Canada safely at the bottom of the list. To some, it will be the final push they need to start a new life up (far) north. To others, it will add to the country's image as a place where, well, nothing really happens.
So forget football, tea and Coronation Street. If you want a bigger house, a good job and a safe climate, it's time to start thinking hockey pucks, mounties and maple syrup. People of Britain – Canada needs you!
What countries are most at risk?
The countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change were the poorer nations, unable to cope with the variations in conditions. But top of the vulnerability list put together by the risk-mapping firm Maplecroft was the Comoros islands, off the eastern coast of Africa. Its score of 1.21 on the survey's Climate Change Vulnerability Index puts the tiny cluster of islands at great risk, along with Afghanistan, Somalia, Burundi, Yemen, Niger, Eritrea and Ethiopia.
At the other end of the scale came Canada, with the hefty score of 8.81, putting it safely out of harm's way. So while idyllic beach paradises are hit by typhoons and ex-pat paradises in the Costa del Sol sink into the sea, it could finally be the cue for an Anglo-invasion of Canada. Ottawa, you have been warned.
What else has it got going for it?
Jobs, safety, riches and big houses. What more could you possibly need? With economic conditions hitting British consumers pretty hard, the temptation to head to foreign climes is stronger than ever. Alberta's government is hoping to attract all kinds of skilled workers, including doctors, teachers, constructions workers and management consultants.
As for housing, the dearth in population means big plots at low prices. The authorities clearly see cheaper housing as a draw for Brits who, despite the recent slump in the housing market, are still struggling to get a foothold on the housing ladder.
"Somebody from London might be able to sell their small flat and come to Alberta where they can buy a detached house with a huge back yard and huge front yard," said Mr Goudreau during his UK trip this week.
What else is there to do in Canada?
For nature lovers, Canada is also paradise. Whether you want rolling planes, snowy mountains, fresh streams or thick forest, Canada has the lot. It is criss-crossed with about two million lakes, which contain about a quarter of the world's fresh water. It also has about a 10th of the world's forests, and 42 national parks. The largest, Wood Buffalo National Park, is the only nesting place of the whooping crane.
Why are they so keen for us to move there?
Because despite all that, it has a chronic labour shortage that it is struggling to plug. Alberta will need to find 109,000 extra workers by 2016. And if the Canadian dream sounds to good to be true, it might be worth asking why Alberta needs to look so far a-field to attract new workers. One drawback is that it's cold. Really cold. While Brits may mutter about the changeable weather here, winters in Canada can go as low as minus 30C in the winter.
And there's another negative. Apart from Calgary, there isn't very much else to speak of in the province. Can a British bobby, for instance, really be happy helping tourists and directing traffic all day? The closest they're ever likely to come to a fight is a rink-side seat at a local ice-hockey game. Cynics may ask, where's the rebelliousness, the excitement, the joie de vivre?
Isn't it the butt of a lot of jokes?
It is precisely that reputation for being serene that has caused some to be rather unkind about it in the past. According to some, it's just too boring. Others have criticised its pop culture, suggesting that the nation has made a disproportionate contribution to the naff end of the scale, citing the likes of ballad merchant Celine Dion, ageing rocker Bryan Adams and vacant actor Keanu Reeves.
Is that fair?
The notion that it is a cultural blank canvas, free from the burdens of creativity, is wide of the mark. Many of its exports are at Hollywood's top table, including the likes of Jim Carrey and Mike Myers. And in terms of music, they can do "edgy". No nation that brought the world Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen should face accusations of a cultural dearth. And Montreal has a very healthy avant-garde scene, as fans of the country's former French-Canadian post-rock anti-capitalist outfit Godspeed You Black Emperor will testify.
As for business, Canada also has some notable achievements. If it wasn't for a son of Montreal, millions of us wouldn't be tied to our computers for days on end constantly hitting refresh in a desperate bid to purchase some obscure piece of miscellany. It was the Canadian Jeff Skoll who made a success of the online auction site eBay. Despite being the prime source of the derisory comments, the US in particular has something to thank Canada for – one of its favourite sports. It was a Canadian, James Naismith, who invented basketball as a way of keeping college students fit.
One frustrated patriot has even set up Canadians.com, documenting all those Canadians to have made a splash on the international stage. It also tries to explode a myth or two. To the charge that Canadians live "in igloos", it responds coolly: "We live in houses, and they are very well built houses."
So are Brits taking up the offer?
British police officers seem to be willing to make the switch. By the end of this year, Brits will make up nearly one in 10 of Calgary's entire police force. Overall, 60,200 more people came to Canada than left in the fist quarter of this year – the biggest net inflow since 2002. But it's not all good news. Canada is still nowhere near the top of the list for Brits wanting to emigrate. Only 6,542 headed to Canada in 2006. For now, Canada has been spared a mass landing of Brits abroad. We'll have to wait and see if it remains the case when the water starts rising.
Will Canada become the new favourite of British ex-pats?
* It has been named as the country least vulnerable to the effects of global warming.
* Politicians have been over here pleading for Brits to decamp there. Jobs and houses are plentiful.
* It is a huge country with only about half the population of the UK. That means lots of room, and great scenery.
* Going to a nice, quiet country is all well and good, but where's the excitement?
* Even after concerted efforts to attract UK migrants, it is still not at the top of the destination list for Brits.
* It is the country that gave us Celine Dion, Bryan Adams and Pamela Anderson. For some, that's unforgivable.
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