Monday, August 06, 2007

Bush has nothing to do with it

Despite wishful thinking on the part of the Toronto Star, general contempt for George Bush has likely had little effect on increasing immigration flows from the United States to Canada.

An analysis of immigration statistics done by the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies showed the number of Americans who moved to Canada in 2006 hit a 30-year high, almost double the number who moved north in 2000 when Bush was elected for a first term as U.S. president.

The analysis also showed the southward brain drain is being narrowed somewhat, and most of the American migrants are highly educated people who may be moving to Canada for quality of life and social reasons.

The numbers were not huge – 10,942 Americans moved to Canada last year, far smaller than the influx predicted when bogus maps of the United States of Canada began hitting the Internet in the waning days of the 2004 campaign.

Sure, the number of U.S. immigrants almost doubled. But we are talking about an increase of only 5,000 people. That would hardly be a story even if every single one of those immigrants came here explicitly because of George Bush.

If you want to go down the path of spurious correlations, one could just as easily say more Americans are moving here because Canadians have finally come to their senses and elected a Conservative government. Undoubtedly, that will motivate some Americans to overcome their reservations about moving to high-tax, socialist Canada.

That interpretation, of course, is anathema to The Star. It is far easier to interview one gay, antiwar, labour organizer from Seattle to make the case of Canada as a progressive nirvana providing refuge against the Republican fascists:

For 34-year-old labour organizer Tom Kertes, the move last April from Seattle, Wash., to Toronto was based on human rights.

"The words 'human rights' are foreign words in the U.S.,'' Kertes said.

"They only apply to other countries.''

He moved to Toronto with his partner Ron Braun and the two plan to marry, something they could not do in Washington state.

He also cited the war in Iraq and the torture of Iraqi prisoners by Americans – and the failure of the Bush administration to clearly disavow such practice – as contributing factors to what is a major decision.

Much has happened since the year 2000. The election of George W Bush coincided with the bursting of the technology bubble. Several people I know (Canadians all) who moved down to the States have since retreated back to the land of free health care after being let go by Nortel and other technology firms. They made a lot money while it lasted. And the fact that U.S. income taxes are low and the Canadian dollar was trading at 67 U.S. cents made it seem like even more.

Today, the tables are turned. Resource industries such as oil and metals are going gangbusters, while the Canadian dollar is trading a little shy of par. The unemployment rate is the lowest in more than thirty years.

With the Canadian dollar having risen more than 30% over the 2000 to 2006 period, Canadian salaries look much more attractive to any American considering the possibility of working here, even taking into account higher personal income tax rates in Canada. That is tantamount to a 30% raise.

It is a real stretch to try to read anything political into the latest immigration statistics. Economic factors are driving migration flows, no matter what Toronto Star editors might believe.