The American Dream — A Candid Canadian Perspective...


Several years ago, I took a trip to New York City for a writer’s conference, and while heading out for the evening, my Uber driver asked where I was from. I told him Canada. And as an obvious immigrant to the States himself, he said, “What’s it like there?” And I said, “Better than here.”

That confused the bejeebers out of him, forcing the driver to ask, “But don’t you want the American Dream, too?”

I simply said, “Canadians have it without the guns, the lack of healthcare, and the slavery to capitalism.”

His look: utterly confused.

I smiled.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love America. Half of my family, on both sides, were American, and as such, that makes me a hybrid of sorts, a person who identifies more as a proud North American than merely Canadian or American, which offers me a clear perspective on both.

Ill-informed Americans think Canada is a socialist state, which is the furthest from the truth. We do, however, believe in the motto, High tides lift all boats, so we are happy to help those who are needing help. It’s our belief, and it’s held true for generations, that if all Canadians gain a solid education, have the ability to acquire a sound career, can save and purchase a house within their means, end up becoming productive members of society, paying back in taxes what was given to them, which increases our country’s coffers by far then letting the underdogs stay underdogs. In Canada, we strive for a sound middle class, not an existence of extremes — the filthy rich on one side of the proverbial tracks versus just the plain filthy on the other.

My first few trips to the U.S. stunned me as a child. You’d leave this very affluent area of mansions and manicured streets, only to cross one street over and see a broken society with tar-paper shacks and refuse and graffiti warning gangs away from other gangs.

  • A street back from Atlantic City, God help ya.
  • As you drive farther up the mountain road to the Whitefish, Montana ski hill, you literally go from tar-paper shacks to log cabin mansions.
  • If you get take the wrong freeway turn off in Los Angeles, it might not just be the beauty you’ll lose, it may be your life.

The U.S. is a constant maze of Yes’s and No’s, of Go Here, Stay Away from There.

I remember my first visit to Palm Springs. I was staying out at a gated community near the polo field in Indio, and one night after being in town, my late husband and I decided to go to the Ralph’s grocery store instead of Von’s, as it was closer, and we were beat. Yes, even in stores, if you don’t go to the right one in the right neighborhood, you’ll be stared right out of the place, and not in a pleasant way. The Ralph’s in Indio is frequented by the field laborers, the fruit pickers and farmworkers who come from the immigrant class. My husband and I got what we needed and got out. It wasn’t that those poor people meant us harm. Their stares held more confusion and fear, their expressions saying in silence, what were two well-off white people doing in their grocery store?

That dichotomy, that Ying and Yang of extremes, it’s just not a part of the Canadian psyche. Yes, Canadians strive for an excellent education, and solid career, a place to call home, but we don’t amass wealth at the expense of others. Every Canadian has a chance at personal success, surely, but we don’t bow to the Almighty Dollar as the only definition of that success.

Since the 2008 stock market/housing crash in the U.S., Americans are seeing the Canadian light and taking sips of the Canadian coffee. They are beginning to realize that regulation is NOT a four-letter word and that protection for the unfortunate means protection for all. But I’ve watched this show before, of disaster and righteous talk, so when it comes to Americans changing for the better, I don’t hold my breath. The complete stock market crash of ’29 very nearly happened in 2008. It might be that America chooses to live that financial roller-coaster, to chase great wealth at great risk, the unfortunate be damned, ad infinitum. Personally, when I think of America’s All or Nothing at All mindset, I look down at my Canadian passport and smile like the Mona Lisa was painted yesterday.

Is it easier as an American to become an uber-millionaire, to get a huge mortgage and a flashy car you can’t afford, and go bust as quick as you hit Boomtown? Yes. Is it a gamble most immigrants to the U.S. hunger to take on? Yes, again.

Me, I’d rather be less uber anything, obtain a mortgage I will qualify for and drive a car that’s paid for in full, so I can sleep soundly at night. Does that make me and all Canadians boring, staid, predictable? Maybe. But there’s something to be said for cheating the Bankruptcy Man.

“A Canadian Dream?” You ask. “Is there one?” Yes, each and every one of us north of the 49th live it right now, today, in so many ways.

  • No Dodge City at High Noon gun control gone a muck. Automatic assault rifles, handguns are banned in Canada, and most Canadians don’t own guns, and yeppers, we rest easy with that fact.
  • Mortgage Companies must be regulated in Canada, ensuring that no home buyer purchases a home beyond their means, eliminating any housing crash.
  • Universal Health Care. Yes, there are wait times for some procedures, but the care is superb, and Canadians don’t have to be worried about going bankrupt if a chronic illness or accident occurs.
  • A sound social welfare system that supports those in need but expects the recipients to work for those benefits in return.
  • A stellar education system which is nationally coordinated, so your child won’t be left behind if you move provinces.
  • A solid WCB, Workers Compensation Board, benefit system if you suffer a work-related illness or injury.
  • Low crime, clean air, clean cities, and suburban peace and quiet, thanks to our immense country and its relatively low population.

I could go on.

The Canadian Dream. Canadians don’t dream about it. We live it. And we don’t have to run over our grandmothers in cars we can’t afford to do it.

Will an American of similar background and education have a better chance to strike it uber rich over a Canadian? Probably. But moderation for Canadians insures no great financial plummet risk after that money-grabbing soar either.

I often think about that New York Uber driver… his look of utter confusion, and his fear that he may be missing out.

Citizens from around the world fantasize about immigrating to the U.S. to reach for that elusive American Dream. Canadians do not. And as we are not a people wont to toot our own horns, we quietly smile our Mona Lisa smiles as we gaze lovingly at our Canadian passports, and thankfully fly back home.