Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Victims of Brexit, Trump Moving to Canada?

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, July 25 / 16

Zack Gross

It is a turbulent time in Great Britain and the United States!  The Brexit vote in the U.K. and the upcoming and acrimonious election in the US are causing some citizens of those countries to consider relocating to peaceful live-and-let-live Canada.  They are also wondering what the political and economic fallout of these events will mean for their own financial sustainability.

My wife and I were “lucky” enough spend two weeks in England in June with each of our weeks bookending the Brexit vote.  The day of the vote, we were being assured that the country would vote to stay in the European Economic Community.  The morning after, we were out of our beds early, just in time to see U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron resign amidst the unexpected “Leave” vote!

There followed many media pundits and well-meaning citizen analysts trying to sort out what had “gone wrong” or at least had not gone according to plan.  Some felt that governments should just never called referenda anyway as it is like rolling the dice on any issue. In fact, referenda tend to attract negative opinion more than positive. Cameron, many felt, had committed a grievous political error that would hurt the whole country, if not the whole continent or Western World.

Others saw it as an indication of contentiousness among the British population – unhappiness at not having a “better life,” at not being truly represented by their political process, their financial leaders and the decisions made at the European / continental level.  We certainly noticed in the cities – in hotels and restaurants – many non-British Europeans (Italians, Eastern Europeans) at work. This is certainly the theme that has arisen in the wake of Cameron’s departure: that people feel that their government doesn’t represent their best interests, but rather those who are already well-off and people who live on the continent.

As we traveled about, we found that both before and after the vote, Brexit was on everyone’s lips.  We visited with a number of relatives around the country, from the South to near Scotland, and also chatted with folks on trains, in farmyards (doing ancestry research), and in restaurants and cafeterias (staying on campuses and in bed & breakfasts). 

Some said the divide in the vote was young vs. old (the young especially believe this!).  Some said it was urban vs. rural, South vs North, better-off vs not-so-well-off.  And all of these hold some truth.  We didn’t hear anything about race, nothing about opposition to legitimate refugees or manageable numbers of economic migrants coming to Britain.

One of my favourite websites is BBC World News to catch myself up on the latest news from around the world.  In the wake of Brexit and the angst surrounding the American election campaign, the BBC ran an article about the growing number of people looking at Canada (as well as Australia and New Zealand) as places to move to.  This particular article focused on the reasons why NOT to make this move.

No.1 was “bugs.”  It boggled the British mind to think that despite our frigid winter temperatures, mosquitoes and their ilk return from cryogenic freeze every spring to once again hound their Canadians hosts.  Second was, of course, the aforementioned weather!  How can people, they wondered, put up with sometimes weeks of minus 30 or lower temperatures, thigh-high snow and worse?

Other negative factors included high Canadian taxes, although we were struck by the way the British get away with their sales tax (their VAT – Value-Added Tax).  As one London relative laid it out for us, while we pay – in Manitoba – 13% sales tax (and seem to have defeated our provincial government because of it), they actually pay 20%!  However, theirs is not added at the till – it is just rolled into the price.  Thus, they live in blissful ignorance and don’t get upset!

A further issue that should prevent mass migration to Canada, says the BBC, is very high housing prices, especially in our largest cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver, which seem to be the most attractive place we offer to relocate.  Again, our experience in England was that buying that home or piece of land in an attractive area is also very expensive.

Safely back in Canada now, my wife and I tune into the BBC on TV regularly to see where they have gotten to post-Brexit. They have a new Prime Minister and Cabinet, and a pledge by government to bring British society together and represent the poor as well as the rich.  The devil may be in the details.

Next up: the US election campaign.  Mosquitoes don’t seem so bad in comparison!

Zack Gross is a former Executive Director of Brandon’s
The Marquis Project.

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