Brow Beat

Do Canadians Ever Threaten To Move to the U.S.?

When the news broke this morning that the Supreme Court largely upheld the Affordable Care Act, Twitter erupted in response. At one point shortly after the announcement, about 13,000 tweets were sent in a minute. Responses ranged from delight to rage. As BuzzFeed noted, seventeen people tweeted that the Supreme Court’s decision was driving them to Canada—a country with a publicly funded health care system.

Of course, these tweets were meant as jokes—the joke being that it’s not unusual for Americans to threaten to move to Canada when an election or a political decision doesn’t go their way. The day after George W. Bush won reelection the CBC reported that the number of hits from Americans visiting the Canadian government’s immigration website increased six-fold; “Threatening to Move to Canada” is number 75 on the list of Stuff White People Like. But the BuzzFeed post got Brow Beat thinking, do Canadians ever threaten to move to America?

Not really. They just move here.

According to a report by Statistics Canada about 167,300 Canadian residents moved to the U.S. between 2001 and 2006*. That’s about 33,000 per year. By comparison about 9,000 Americans move to Canada each year, and the U.S. has nine times as many people. (And, by the way, only about 1000 more Americans moved to Canada the year after George W. Bush was reelected.)

Canadians move to America for a number of reasons. During the 1990s, Canada experienced a “brain drain”—skilled workers like computer scientists left the country for jobs that, at the time, only existed in the U.S. (Recently, the Canadian government claimed that this trend has stopped.) Others head to the U.S. for better weather or to make more money in professions that have less government regulation.

Threats to move to the U.S., when they happen, often come from the owners of Canadian hockey teams. NHL players are paid in U.S. dollars. When the Canadian dollar falls, Canadian franchises have to pay their players more (in Canadian dollars) to make up the difference. During the 1990s, this problem, in combination with higher taxes, led several Canadian franchise owners to threaten to move their teams to the U.S. unless the government reduced tax rates. In 2009, however, the New York Times reported that the rise in the Canadian dollar helped the N.H.L earn its highest profit in more than a decade.

*Update, June 29th, 2012: The Statistics Canada report provides data from both the Canadian census’ Reverse Record Check (RRC)—the data cited in the piece—and the American Community Survey (ACS). The American Community Survey estimates that, in 2006, 73,000 people residing in the United States lived in Canada one year earlier; 34,000 of those people were born in Canada. Do emigrants from Canada to the U.S. stay in the U.S.? For 2006 the RRC data suggests that “approximately one-third of emigrants from Canada to the United States intended to return to Canada”.