The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

A Better Life, For All (Or, Why I’m Still Not Moving To Canada

Remember back in 2004, when Dubya won re-election and liberals started threatening to move to Canada? Well, maybe I should have considered it. Because according to OECD’s Better Life Index, Canada is where I belong.

But, I’m still not moving to Canada.

Hows Life?

Happy Canada Day!

Canada performs exceptionally well in measures of well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top countries in a large number of topics in the Better Life Index.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Canada, the average household earned 27 015 USD in 2008, more than the OECD average.

In terms of employment, nearly 72% of people aged 15 to 64 in Canada have a paid job. People in Canada work 1699 hours a year, less than most in the OECD. 71% of mothers are employed after their children begin school, suggesting that women are able to successfully balance family and career.

Having a good education is an important requisite to finding a job. In Canada, 87% of adults aged 25 to 64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school diploma, much higher than the OECD average. Canada is a top-performing country in terms of the quality of its educational system. The average student scored 524 out of 600 in reading ability according to the latest PISA student-assessment programme, higher than the OECD average.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Canada is 80.7 years, more than one year above the OECD average. The level of atmospheric PM10 tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs is 15 micrograms per cubic meter, and is lower than levels found in most OECD countries.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community but only moderate levels of civic participation in Canada. 95% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in a time of need, higher than the OECD average of 91%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 60% during recent elections; this figure is lower than the OECD average of 72%. In regards to crime, only 1% of people reported falling victim to assault over the previous 12 months.

When asked, 78% of people in Canada said they were satisfied with their life, much higher than the OECD average of 59%.

Of course, as Ezra pointed out, there are things that the index doesn’t take in to consideration. Like cuisine, which was Ezra’s concern. Climate is one I’d have to take into consideration, because I’m a wimp when it comes to cold weather. Sure, I make it through winter every year, but I bitch every step of the way.

That doesn’t rule Canada out entirely. Sure, Montreal may not be the best place, but if I’m choosing where to live in Canada, there are still plenty of places to choose from. Vancouver sounds like a possibility. It’s one of the warmest Canadian cities in winter, second only to Victoria. Plus it tops the list of Canadian cities with the most days above freezing during winter.

Speaking of lists, Canada topped mine, but here’s how the rest of the top 10 shaped up.

  1. Canada
  2. Australia
  3. Sweden
  4. New Zealand
  5. Norway
  6. Denmark
  7. Switzerland
  8. United States
  9. Luxembourg
  10. Netherlands

How about that? The U.S. made it into the top ten, and beat out Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Given that, and seeing as how I’m already here, I think I’ll stay put. But it’s nice to know I have options.

Of course, there’s another incentive: my husband and I can be legally married in Canada. But we’ve already managed to do that right here. And while our marriage isn’t recognized everywhere in the U.S., as it would be in Canada, the trend is moving in our favor. Even a major equality opponent like Focus on the Family is giving up that fight, because they can read the writing on the wall too. That’s actually more of an incentive to stay put, continue fighting so that other families can do what we did.

Besides, I found plenty of reasons not to move to Canada in 2004. And if I need more reasons now, I can always ask my blogging colleague Bill Sher, who wrote the book on not moving to Canada.

Not that I need to. In 2004, most progressive didn’t move to Canada. Yeah, some of us threatened to in fits of pique. But then we got to work, trying to move the country in a different direction. In 2006, and 2008, we saw the results.

Have we been thrilled about all that’s happened since then? No. But that just means we’ve got more work to do. The OECD index starts with a set of questions that spell out the job in front of us.

Ever since the OECD started out in 1961, GDP has been the main factor by which it has measured and understood economic and social progress. But it has failed to capture many of the factors that inuence people’s lives, such as security, leisure, income distribution and a clean environment.

Is life really getting better? How can we tell? What are the key ingredients to improving life is it better education, environment, healthcare, housing, or working hours? Does progress mean the same thing to all people or in all countries and societies?

Jobs. Health care. Education. The topics in the Better Life index echo the work progressives are and have been doing toward a goal the of … well … a better life for all of us.

So, once again, I’m not moving to Canada, even if that’s where my “better life” awaits. I’ll stay put, keep working to move the U.S. closer to the top of that index, and make that better life possible for more of us right here.


  1. It really is very cold here. The food isn’t particularly good, even in big cities in most cases. The big cities are extremely expensive to live in. Schizophrenically, Canada officially and legally enshrines both multiculturalism and Christianity. We have a majority conservative federal government, with an anti-gay prime minister. There’s a lot less Buddhism to go around up here. Canadians have collectively decided to forget their history of legal slavery and segregation, as well as their ongoing terrible treatment of First Nations people. And there is a laissez-faire attitude about your health: you’re a lot more likely to be told to wait and see if something heals on its own rather than to get further testing to see exactly what is going on and what might have been missed.

    So, potential immigrants from the States have to keep all of these facts in mind: most are more or less permanent and you’ll have to live with them the rest of your life if you come to stay. But all of the good things you listed about Canada are quite accurate and wonderful, I hope they stay this way. Not included on that list you offered is the strength of our banks, our still productive but generally more relaxed way of life, and many of the excellent social safety net provisions that we are able to take for granted (and do). We are no paradise, just one more human society with as much good, bad, and ugly as everyone else.

    Also, FYI, it’s _quite_ expensive and laborious for Americans to immigrate here. For readers contemplating the move, better make sure you’ve got plenty of money saved up first, and preferably a job already lined up.

  2. I live in Canada and although there are (still) alot of good things about it the right wing government that was recently handed a federal majority here are pretty scary. I, like the 60% of voters who didn’t vote for them, worry about the amount of damage they could do to social programs and human rights in four years’ rule. So you’re definitely doing the right thing in *not* moving up here, at the moment anyway. Most of the other countries on your list are places that would make mine too. Wish I spoke Norwegian!

    By the way, Montreal is terrific but as bitterly cold in winter as you fear and Vancouver (equally awesome in different ways) nets nearly twice the annual rainfall that they get in Ireland. It’s crazy rainy. Love ’em both but can’t sell myself on either of them…not yet anyway.

  3. I love me some Canada…

    I’m surprised that USA was in the Top 10 of OECD countries, frankly.