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Will Canada Be Awash With Americans If Trump Becomes President?

12/18/2015 01:43 EST | Updated 12/18/2016 05:12 EST
Ralph Freso via Getty Images
MESA, AZ - DECEMBER 16: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to guest gathered during a campaign event at the International Air Response facility on December 16, 2015 in Mesa, Arizona. Trump is in Arizona the day after the Republican Presidential Debate hosted by CNN in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

It happens every four years.

The United States holds a presidential election -- and many of its citizens claim they will move to Canada if one of the contenders is elected.

This year, with the advent of people like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on the right (and Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on the left), these mutterings have become increasingly louder.

There is no question that this U.S. election cycle has been a strange one.

As one who travels frequently across the border, both for business and personal reasons, one can get the impression that entire Blue (Democratic) states will be depopulated the moment President Trump puts his hand on the inaugural bible. And a President Sanders, if you believe the cocktail-fueled rhetoric at certain conservative functions, would have a similar effect on Red (Republican) states.

There is no question that this U.S. election cycle has been a strange one. Obviously, there is Donald Trump, the shock-jock of candidates. But you've also got a quasi-Canadian in the race (Senator Ted Cruz, a new kind of birther, one who denies his OWN birth country) and Dr. Ben Carson, who apparently wants to station U.S. troops on the Canadian border.

Question for Dr. Carson: Are those troops to keep people out of the U.S. -- or to stem the tide of those seeking to flee, should you be elected?

The good news, for those Canadians worried about a tidal wave of Americans disturbing our domestic tranquility, is that history shows that all of this bluster translates into very little actual movement.

Sure, there have been large migrations in the past. During and just after the American revolution between 46,000 and 50,000 British Loyalists ("Tories" to Americans) moved to what is today Canada. From the late 1780's until 1812, a further 30,000 moved to Canada, lured by promises of land.

And of course the Vietnam period produced a significant influx -- 30,000 to 40,000 draft-age eligible American males and some multiple of that in terms of supporters and dependents came to Canada (the exact numbers are hard to quantify as a fair number slipped in outside formal immigration channels).

But putting those periods aside, a look at official immigration statistics shows there is little evidence of any post-election spikes, whether the winner was named Obama, Bush, Reagan or Clinton. (Johnson and Nixon are exceptions, presumably due to the Vietnam effect).

Will this time be different? Probably not.

In recent years the number of Americans coming into Canada has pretty consistently hovered around 10,000 (the number was 10,624 in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available.) There are currently 250,535 individuals born in the United States in Canada -- about 0.8 per cent of the total population.

Will this time be different? Probably not. First, consider some practical considerations. Start with those conservatives who say they will flee if Bernie or Hillary win.

Really?

These are the same people who refer to one of the New England states as "The Soviet Socialist Republic of Vermont." They love guns, God and Rush Limbaugh. Somehow I think that, on sober reflection, they might have second thoughts about entering Justin Trudeau's land of "Sunny Ways."

Then there is the matter of actually getting in. As of last year, only 38 per cent of Americans have valid passports (the number is 60 per cent for Canadians). And even if you have a passport, you can't just waltz across the border -- there is a rigorous process to follow. Plus there are the tax issues. You never really escape Uncle Sam. And there is also no home mortgage deduction in Canada, which could seriously shrink the size of a conservative's McMansion.

As for liberals, there is the boredom issue. With national health care, legalized marijuana and military spending at a level just north of Lichtenstein, what will they have to complain about? Canadians pride themselves on being pleasantly bland, but for activist Americans, arriving unaccustomed and unprepared, this sudden cultural shift could prove fatal.

And I haven't even mentioned weather. Or the tantalizing prospect of Cuba.

So, no, there will not likely be a tsunami of Americans streaming across our borders after U.S. election day, Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Even if The Donald wins.

Robert Waite moved to Canada from Washington, D.C. in 1986. He was already sufficiently boring and thus survived the cultural adjustment.

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