With two weeks to go before the U.S. Republican National Convention opens in Cleveland, Ohio, it is almost certain that the controversial, divisive real estate tycoon Donald Trump will be nominated as he party’s presidential candidate.
Trump has enraged Americans and their neighbors and worried allies and even alienated his Republican colleagues with his outspoken, coarse statements – that he would build walls along the border to stop Mexican immigrants and drugs from coming into the U.S. and “arm-twist” Mexico to pay for the walls, that he would repatriate all illegal immigrants in the U.S., and that he would ban Muslims from entering the country. By inflaming populism and nationalism among Americans discontent with their situations, he has won their support, but at the same time caused fears among ordinary Americans, and even political leaders and news media in Asia and Europe about Trump’s racist and anti-immigration rhetoric.
He has openly spoken derogatory words about women, talked in favor of protectionism against the NAFTA and the just agreed-on TPP free trade deals, and threatened isolationism to withdraw U.S. troops from its allies in Asia and Europe, including Japan – unless they pay more or all costs for keeping the troops there. Coupled with his crudeness, these ideas of “America First” and “Make America Great Again” – Trumpism – have made as many Trump-phobes as many supporters he won – making more Americans threaten to move to Canada if a Trump presidency becomes more real as his nomination as the Republican candidate becomes certain.
Anti-Trumpism has crossed the border to the north and is spreading in Canada. What Trump talks about never fits what the traditional Canadian values, represent such as multiculturalism, especially in Canada after Liberal leader Justin Trudeau came to power. Prime Minister Trudeau has carefully and wisely avoided directly commenting on the Republican candidate. But Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (she is a staunch Liberal, as Trudeau) made one of the harshest attacks by a foreign political leader last month (though without naming his name) while visiting Washington. She said, “A candidate who is as misogynist as the Republican nominee, who is blindly protectionist and seems to be uninterested in global collaboration and cooperation would be a very difficult challenge for Ontario and Canada to deal with,” and warned his election as U.S. president would be dangerous for the world. (Globe and Mail, June 16)
Trump on his part, however, has been so far less mean to Canada. In a televised debate in late February, answering a moderator’s question, he said the northern wall is unnecessary, because “it is not our biggest problem,” and because “it would be too long and expensive.” (Globe and Mail, Feb. 26)
As BBC News (May 17) reported, Google searches for “how can I move to Canada” spiked after Trump won seven out of 11 primaries during “Super Tuesday” (March 1), according to the search engine’s data editor Simon Rogers.
Immigration lawyers in Vancouver told the Globe and Mail that their phones started ringing and their e-mail inboxes started filling with requests for information on how to move to Canada after Trump’s primary wins on Super Tuesday. Immigration lawyer Rudolf Kischer said his firm typically gets a call or two per day from Americans looking to move to Canada, but between that Tuesday and Wednesday, the number took a significant jump. (Globe and Mail, March 2) Media reports say the number further increased after Trump won the Indiana primary on May 3 and it appeared almost certain that he will garner 1,237 delegates necessary to win the nomination.
Canada is responding to these rising “move to Canada” calls with various offerings. As early as in February, when Trump already was looking unstoppable in early stages of campaign, a radio DJ Rob Calabrese set up a website to attract those dissatisfied Americans to the Canadian island of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The website, “Cape Breton If Donald Trump Wins” was visited by “over one million people.” (BBC News, May 17)
“Don’t wait until Donald Trump is elected president to find somewhere else to live. Start now, that way, on election day, you just hop on a bus to start your new life in Cape Breton, where women can get abortions, Muslim people can roam freely, and the only ‘walls’ are holding up the roofs of our extremely affordable houses,” the website copy goes. (Huffington Post Canada, Feb. 16)
A Kitchener, Ontario, startup called Sortable also launched a hiring campaign on Facebook and Instagram urging expats to come back to Canada – and American engineers to come work at the company to escape the Trump – if Trump becomes president. The job ad, which features a grimacing Trump, asks: “Thinking of Moving to Canada? Sortable is Hiring.” (Canadian Press in Yahoo News, June 15)
Even a new dating website got in on the anti-Trump sentiment by offering to pair Americans with Canadian singles. The website, MapleMatch.com promises to save Americans from “the unfathomable horror of a Trump presidency” and “make dating great again,” a pun for Trump’s signature slogan “Make America Great Again!” (Canadian Press, BBC News)
Some major Canadian companies also are trying to cash in on so-called anti-Trumpism in the U.S. Air Canada launched a campaign in June in five large U.S. cities urging Americans to “test drive” Canada with a visit before moving to Canada post-election should Trump succeed in his bid for the White House.
“Before you sell your house and book a one-way ticket, maybe it makes sense to check us out first,” urges a cheery flight attendant in the ad, pointing out that Air Canada operates 240 flights between Canada and the U.S. each day. (Canadian Press, June 15)
Will the rise of these anti-Trump sentiments really make more Americans to Canada? Most Canadians, professionals, media and businesses are generally cool to that expectation.
It’s not new that in presidential election years, Americans dissatisfied or terrified by a potential new president threaten they would move to Canada. According to the BBC article, “the number of U.S. citizens permanently moving to Canada has been relatively stable around 9,000 since 2005. There was a slight peak in 2008 – the year President Barack Obama was elected – although the reasons why people left America [are] unknown.”
Americans threatening to move to Canada are not necessarily only Trump-haters. According to a poll conducted by Canada’s Global News with Ipsos, a global market research company, suggested that 19% of Americans would head to Canada if Trump won and it also found that 15% would leave if Hillary Clinton became president. But similar sentiments in previous elections haven’t materialized, according to BBC News. (May 17)
Globe and Mail (March 2) says that moving to Canada permanently is not as easy to any American citizen as it may appear. It quotes the Vancouver immigration lawyer Kischer as pointing out that immigration laws were tightened under the Conservative Harper government. “You had to be educated, you had to have a degree. Now you need to have an actual employer that can show that they can’t find an actual Canadian for the job,” Kischer told Globe and Mail. On top of tighter requirements, he said, the time it takes to move and the potential costs may also make it more difficult. “Mobility to Canada is really going to be for those who can afford it,” he said. (Globe and Mail, March 2)
By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, Senior Consultant, TOCS