The Plague-Ground – Yearning to breathe free

It’s Christmas. The vaccine is working, as are most of us.

Much is calm. Much is bright.

Mainly because Joe Biden won the Presidency a month ago and Donald Trump agreed to go quietly, wrapped in blanket immunity for himself and his family.

But the best news of all is that political refugees are flooding across the 49th parallel. They’re not coming from Central America, but the United States of America. Ever since November 4th, thousands of them are choking the border crossings at Buffalo, Blaine, and Champlain.

Nearly all of them are job-ready. They have university educations. They speak one of our two official languages. They’re begging to live in Canada. For them, free healthcare is not a right, but a goddamn miracle.

Their once-greatest nation is a husk. On a single day in July, Ontario had 125 new cases of the coronavirus, while Florida had 10,000. America’s economy cratered that same month when, as Paul Krugman wrote: “We were supposed to be seeing a fading pandemic and a roaring recovery. Instead, we have a fading recovery and a roaring pandemic.”

By September, even the most committed doctors and nurses knew it was over:  they saw every one of America’s one million beds in its 6,000 hospitals would always be filled — and still not be enough.

This is not the first time in the pandemic that Canada has welcomed hordes of American immigrants. Back in June, Trump capriciously (now there’s a redundant word) halted visas for hundreds of thousands of resident aliens who came to America on H-1B visas. These are the hyper-skilled tech workers, rocket scientists, theoretical physicists, film directors, and master chefs.

This led Canada to expand its Global Talent Stream program that recruits precisely these kinds of people. Yung Wu said it best. He arrived in Canada in the 60s with his family from Taiwan and he’s now the CEO of MaRS, the world’s largest innovation hub, at the corner of College and University in Toronto. As he told Fortune Magazine:  “…… for the past four years, we have been throwing our doors wide open to court the smart people [America] is rejecting, as well as the companies that want to hire them. And it’s working.”

Now we have a second chance to do even more for ourselves – and our friends to the south. Of course we should let in their best and brightest. And the skilled workers where we have too few, like mechanics and yes, nurses. And America’s entrepreneurs, who are the best anywhere and can create the new companies who will employ us – and them.

In fact, I think we should throw open our doors to America’s refugees in numbers we dared not even imagine before the pandemic.  I say this as a resident of the world’s most diverse city, where one in two citizens was born outside Canada, and where two years ago the visible minority became the visible majority. We’re good at this.

In 2019, we let in 330,000 immigrants, and this year, Ottawa plans to let in 340,000. But what if we let in half a million this year instead? Not just as a gesture to just what an annus horribilis 2020 has been everywhere. But as a small start on a much bigger number each year.

This is not my idea. It was hatched by Dominic Barton, Mark Wiseman and other blue-chippers as a way to get Canada to grow to its full potential. Three years ago, they created The Century Initiative to help Canada’s population grow to 100 million people by the Year 2100. Today, there are 37 million Canadians, which means we only need to create 63 million more in the next 80 years. Since our birth rate is falling, virtually all of that growth will come from immigration.

The math is hardly daunting. But why do it at all? Because, as the pandemic has taught us, our domestic market is too small to support many industries – like making medical masks and respirators. We’ve had to rely on other countries for far too much, and especially on the U.S.

We sold so much to America and bought so much from them that we almost drowned in their politics.

If the pandemic has taught Canada anything, it’s not to rely on the kindness of friends who act like strangers.

So as winter falls on us and the pandemic rises, let’s use this precious opportunity to rise out of America’s ashes.

Merry Christmas.

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8 thoughts on “The Plague-Ground – Yearning to breathe free”

  1. Interesting thesis, Bob. But if we’ve learned anything in the last three months, it’s that what we’ve got here in Canada is pretty terrific and pretty enviable… so while, yes, it would be intelligent and moral and kind to open up our borders; let’s be very careful that we don’t risk what we have by opening the floodgates too fast, or too wide, and find ourselves quickly over-populated, under-prepared, and over-politicized. Future growth must be very carefully planned and managed.

    1. Yes, more immigration will be beneficial but I totally agree it must be carefully planned to ensure both the new immigrants and the country will succeed. In the past, when throwing the doors open for political reasons resulted in hardships for both.

  2. To paraphrase Shakespeare (was it Banquo who said it?) Let them come [down] in!
    My only umbridge at this is our medical care, while universal, is not free. It appears free because no billing to Canadians and soon to become Canadians. But definitely not free. But a damn sight better than the alternative south of the 49th parallel.

  3. Diana Tremain

    Good articles Bob, particularly yesterday and today. I sent today’s “Plague-ground” to my friend in Old Lyme, Connecticut. She grew up in Ottawa and wants to join your blog as she is always on the outlook for good Canadian writing. I sent her name and email and pressed “subscribe” so I hope that works? I am a rather hopeless older techie and Luddite so I hope that does the trick?
    Diana Tremain

    1. Diana — Thanks for the vote of confidence. Old Lyme….my, my! Jean and I hiked there 30 years ago.
      Cheers. Bob

    2. I agree. Keep those borders shut until it’s safe. And when we deem it’s safe, not them!
      Cheers and thanks for checking in. Bob

  4. Bob

    Thanks for this. You are always positive and a breath of fresh air.

    However, this time I think you may want to stop and think about what you are proposing.

    Remember that Americans, no matter how liberal, no matter how educated, aways take their American prism with them and wherever they go, they view and judge by what they see through that prism. Remember that the Americans you are proposing to invite, even if they are a minority, are the ones who created the dis-functional society to the south. The last thing we need are hundreds of thousands of Americans with American attitudes.

    All best wishes


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