Why Canada is better than the USA right now, and why it is not

A visit to our northern neighbor sparked some comparisons

My daughter and I recently spent five days in Canada, visiting Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and a few places in between. It was my first time out of the US in two decades, a move spurred by events in my native country of the last two years that have led me to more directly research how other countries operate.

In getting a brief firsthand glimpse of how my neighbors to the north live — as the White House occupant continues to antagonize Canada’s leaders with higher tariffs, lukewarm responses to Canada’s human rights feud with Saudi Arabia, and even more immature Twitter insults — I came away impressed by certain aspects.

For instance, the big cities of Montreal and Toronto appear cleaner and better developed than nearby US cities such as Buffalo and Detroit. While there is crime, homelessness, and other social problems in the northern nation, those issues don’t hit you in the face the way they do in the US.

Look at almost any study, and Canada is ranked higher than its southern neighbor, except in areas such as technological innovation. Canadian students score higher on tests and more have post-secondary degrees. Life expectancy is higher in Canada and the suicide rate lower. Health care and higher education costs are significantly higher in the U.S. Crime is lower in Canada.

Many think the US supposedly wins with lower taxes, but that is changing. A 2018 OECD study found that Canada had a lower average tax rate for a single person without kids than the U.S. at 22.8% to 26.1%. The estimates include federal and provincial or state taxes, as well as social security contributions and money returned through family benefits.

Besides innovation, the US wins in better weather — I wouldn’t want to face Canadian winters year after year. And there was a noticeable difference in the average price of gasoline at about $4 per gallon in Canada compared with almost $3 in the US. Despite higher gas prices, I still observed a substantial number of large SUVs on the Canadian highways and roads.

The US also has better corny and sarcastic attractions, such as the World’s Largest File Cabinet, in Burlington, Vt. But then, Canada better recycles international events such as the 1976 Summer Olympics into attractions that continue to pay dividends long afterwards.

The bottom line for many people on where they live is whether they grew up there and consider it home. Even though I get frustrated at many of the problems we face in the US and enjoy my visits to other nations, I can’t see myself moving to another country unless I really have no choice.

Despite its warts, the US has an abundance of creative people working for positive change. It hasn’t ever been great for all of its people — what country has? — but many people try to make improvements. We may not be doing such a good job lately, but maybe that’s only on the surface, and things will change in time. Hopefully, sooner than later.

Written for 45+ newspapers/mags. Written some books — see https://www.amazon.com/Kevin-J.-Shay/e/B004BCQRTG. Visited 48 states, 30+ countries.

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