You don't want to go there
You have probably heard the idle chatter: ''I'm thinking of moving to Canada." You may have received the JPEG Sent 'Round the World, labeling the northern part of North America -- the right-thinking part, as liberals would have it -- as the United States of Canada, and the pro-Bush leaning ''red" US states as Jesusland.
It sounds so alluring. Good beer. Cheap Viagra. Hardly any crime. Friendly, if somewhat ineffectual, people. Terrific, if underappreciated, novelists. (This means you, Rohinton Mistry.) Secure borders, courtesy of the US Department of Defense.
But before you pack, consider this: There are plenty of reasons not to move to Canada. Let me count the ways.
1. They don't really want you. Canada is full of losers like you. If you're really rich, or a brain surgeon, maybe. But if you are, say, a newspaper reporter, be prepared to wait at least a year just to live there legally, and several more years to become a citizen.
If you have some special qualifications, like a PhD, plus a lot of work experience, and if you are under 50, you have a better chance of crashing the gates of Snow Mexico. Or if you're loaded. That's right. If you have a net worth of $800,000 Canadian or more, and are willing to invest $400,000 of it in Canada, come on in! And you thought George Bush's America was a plutocracy. . . . Think again.
2. Speaking of brain surgery -- have you tried Buffalo? Here is what John Kerry didn't tell you: The problem with free, single-payer health care is that you get what you pay for.
Even the Canadians acknowledge that their health system is in crisis. (Sound familiar?) They speak about the inequities of their two-tiered system, where publicly funded patients wait weeks, if not months, to consult specialists or have routine surgery, while private patients get quick service. In fact, it's a three-tiered system. The very well-to-do travel to the United States for some procedures.
We refer you to a recent editorial in The Windsor (Ontario) Star: ''A growing number of sick and tired Canadians are beginning to look to the US for ideas on how to improve our failing health-care system. But Kerry, inexplicably, is looking north for health care ideas."
3. Parlez-vous francais? Somehow I doubt it. And yet if you want to work for the Canadian government -- the country's largest employer -- chances are that you have to be bilingual. And the private sector is following suit. C'est dur, eh?
4. How do you like your free speech -- well chilled? Canada has no First Amendment and adheres to primitive British-style libel laws.
Here is a hilarious definition of defamation la Canadienne, from the Media Libel website: ''A defamatory statement exists if the publication tends to lower the plaintiff's reputation in the estimation of those who are commonly referred to as 'right thinking' members of society." Allow me to reiterate my widely known position: Celine Dion is the greatest singer who ever lived.
Just this year, the Canadian Parliament passed what the religious right has branded a ''Chill Bill," or ''The Bible as Hate Speech Bill," effectively preventing churches from using the Bible to preach against homosexuality. ''With the passage of Bill C-250, Canada has now embarked upon a course of criminalization of dissent," according to a statement released this spring by the Catholic Civil Rights League.
Fine, you say. Enough gay-bashing by Bible-waving Christian loonies. But remember John Ashcroft's motto: Your rights are next.
5. It's the black hole of sports fandom. You would seriously consider leaving the home of North America's greatest baseball team -- ever -- and of North America's greatest football team, for . . . what? Canadian football is played on a field that's too long (that's why each team has 12 players), and there are only three downs. Huh?
Fifty percent of Canada's Major League Baseball infrastructure -- les Montral Exposjust decamped for Washington, D.C., because of audience indifference. Canada's one great sports treasure, professional hockey, isn't being played this year. You hadn't noticed?
And you can't even name its national sport, can you? What if that question is on the citizenship application?
6. Have you heard the joke about the Canadian dollar? Not lately. Without putting too fine a point on this, Canadian currency has been laying a Euro-style smackdown on the US greenback. What this means to you: less purchasing power.
Wait, there's more. You think you're living in a high-tax state right now? Hahahahahaha.
7. The biggest argument against immigrating to Canada is: You're going in the wrong direction! With all due respect to our northern neighbors, anyone who is anyone bolted years ago.
Peter Jennings, Mike Myers, Joni Mitchell, Jim Carrey, Frank Gehry (would they take him back?) -- the list goes on and on. Have talent, will travel -- southward. You might want to ask yourself why.
So please, think twice. They don't want you, and we would prefer that you stay. If the new administration is a problem, just don't turn on your television for the next four years.
Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is firstname.lastname@example.org