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I'm a Canadian who's lived in the US for over 30 years. I don't get why so many Americans want to move to Canada.

Jordan Pandy   

I'm a Canadian who's lived in the US for over 30 years. I don't get why so many Americans want to move to Canada.
  • Jim D. moved from a small town in Canada to the American South to escape cold winters.
  • He's lived in the US for 30 years, enjoying better food and easier travel around the country.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jim D., a Canadian who moved to the US when he was 27 and currently lives in Arizona between Flagstaff and Phoenix. Jim, 59, asked to withhold his full last name due to privacy concerns. Business Insider has verified his identity. The conversation was edited for length and clarity.

I was born and raised in Fort Frances, Ontario, across from International Falls, Minnesota, the coldest spot in America — they call it the freezer of America.

Fort Frances is a little border town with a population of 7,000.

I grew up crossing the border. We were always running into Minnesota. Gas was cheaper, and groceries were cheaper. Our money was worth more back then, so we got more value for our Canadian dollar when we went shopping in the States.

That has changed. Now it's the other way around.

I went to Africa in 1991 and spent two months in Tanzania. I was only supposed to go for a month, but I ended up staying for two months. I was sitting by the pool in the beautiful weather — 100-degree weather — listening to Led Zeppelin. I made a decision: I will never spend another winter in Canada because it's miserable and cold.

In July of that summer, I got a call from an old girlfriend whom I dated for years. She was an American living in Atlanta and said, "Hey, why don't you come and spend the winter with me?" And so it all fell into place.

I sold everything I owned in Canada, packed up my little Toyota Tercel, and drove to Atlanta.

It's so easy to get around the US

There wasn't much I did not like about moving to the US.

I was a young kid. Everything was new and exciting.

It almost seemed like Canada was 10 or 20 years behind, progressive-wise — and I don't mean politically. The amenities, the shopping, the food, and the restaurants in Canada are way behind if you're outside Vancouver or Toronto.

I did not want to be in the cold, so I went south of the Mason-Dixon line and spent the rest of my US time down here by design.

I've lived in Birmingham, Alabama; New Orleans; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; and Houston. I'm working my way across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Hawaii, and then back through a lot of those same states again.

It's kind of like a typewriter: back and forth.

The roadways were amazing. When you live in northwestern Ontario, getting places is very difficult — and that's in the summer.

The maneuverability to get around the United States because of the well-designed infrastructure of the roadways was phenomenal compared to northwestern Ontario.

Healthcare is free in Canada, but we pay for it elsewhere

Canada has expensive housing, groceries, gas, cost of living, homelessness, and a drug problem.

There's drug paraphernalia all over the ground, needles everywhere in the park. Gang violence is through the roof from Toronto to northwestern Ontario to Vancouver.

Gas prices are also through the roof: $6 to $8 Canadian ($4.39 to $5.86) a gallon.

Healthcare is not free. That's a lie. Nothing is free in this world, but especially healthcare. You are paying for it through many other means.

The goods and services tax is 13% across the board. In Ontario, it's 13% on everything you buy. That is the government taxation that they're supposed to be paying for health insurance with.

The healthcare system in the US is absolutely broken. It's run by the insurance companies, run by lobbyists, and run by the pharmaceutical companies. It's ridiculous that people are paying premiums down here.

But that's run by independent companies. The difference is — and maybe there's no difference because they're both run horribly — Canada's healthcare is run from province to province.

In Ontario, there is the Ontario Health Insurance Plan. It's a government-subsidized program that is broken.

Before I moved to the US, after high school, I moved from Fort Frances to Thunder Bay, Ontario. That was going from 7,000 people to 115,000. In Thunder Bay, they don't even have doctors. There were a couple of doctors who retired last year.

I was in Canada last year, and I wanted to see a cardiologist. I was there for eight months. I couldn't get into one.

I'm still waiting for a letter — two and a half years later — from the government to say, "We have an appointment with the doctor for you."

I don't see why Canada is so appealing to Americans

Canada used to be an admired country worldwide, and now it's horrible. In the old days, when I traveled around the world, I used to proudly wear my Canadian flags. Now I'm embarrassed.

When I went back to Canada, disappointment, disgust, and anger were my emotions.

I think the effects of inflation have hit both countries the same in housing and rental property. I think people who are leaving Canada for the US are running into the same housing problem. The cost of housing is ridiculous in both places.

You can't get a one-bedroom apartment in Thunder Bay for under $2,000. Toronto is as expensive as Phoenix if you're comparing cities in both countries.

I wouldn't advise Americans to move to Canada. I think that people trying to escape each country's downfalls are going to be surprised.

The reality is — no matter which way you come, north to south or south to north — you will be rudely awakened: "Oh my God, they have the same problems, if not worse, in either country."


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