"That's it, I'm moving to Canada." So goes the liberal response every time the Democratic candidate loses a presidential election. The prospect of four years of Republican rule makes America's northerly neighbor — where everyone has health care, gay marriage is legal, financial regulations are strict, and the death penalty is abolished — seem like a sanctuary of progressive values. However, conservatives in recent years have also jumped on the Canadian bandwagon, claiming that a victory for President Obama would necessitate packing up a U-Haul. (The concept, paradoxically enough, erupted in conservative circles after the Supreme Court upheld Obama's universal health care law.) Here, a guide to this enduring quirk of American politics:
Can Americans actually move to Canada?
Yes... but Americans obviously can't show up at the border and expect a welcome mat. The main ways foreigners become Canadian residents are by marrying a Canadian citizen or receiving a job offer. Other options include possessing work expertise that is lacking in Canada, or promising to invest a lot of cash in a new Canadian business. Those fleeing America could also theoretically claim refugee status based on a "fear of persecution." However, despite the various doomsday scenarios concocted by both liberals and conservatives, it would be a stretch to make such a claim just because your presidential candidate didn't win.
Do any Americans actually try to emigrate after elections?
A small number do. However, "threats to move northward end up falling flat as Americans confront the hoops they need to jump through to get in," says Emily Sohn at Discovery News. "Statistically, numbers of immigrants don't actually peak every four years." The last time there was a significant immigration wave from America to Canada was during the Vietnam War, when many fled to escape the draft.
Is Canada really a political haven for liberals?
Canada has actually been led by the Conservative Party since 2006. However, like their counterparts in Britain, Canadian conservatives are veritable lefties compared to America's Republican Party. As for American conservatives thinking about leaving home, they would probably end up as part of a tiny political minority up north — a full 72 percent of Canadians say they would support Obama in the election, compared with a measly 10 percent for Romney.
What do Canadians think about this phenomenon?
The responses are varied, "but the trend seems to be that Canadians find this funny and a bit flattering," says Max Fisher at The Washington Post. "Who wouldn't enjoy being seen as the preferable alternative to the world's richest and most powerful country?" However, some Canadians are not too keen on an American invasion. If disappointed Americans come north, "every Canadian I know will take exile in Florida," Craig Offman, an editor at Canada's The Globe and Mail, jokingly tells The New York Times. "A massive influx of Americans would generate widespread fear and terror."