By Linda McK.Stewart
Well, that fateful day, November the Sixth in the Year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Twelve has come and gone, leaving in its wake both triumph and despair. Looking back to the days before the election, how many Dems and Repubs alike vowed, with equal passion, “If (fill in the name of your the-most-despised-candidate) wins, I’m outta here!”
Brave words! But outta here to where?
For the lucky few on a first-name basis with the Dame of Sark or maybe with Mr. Virgin Atlantic who owns that lovely little island in the Caribbean, no problem. But for most of the Outta Heres, it probably comes down to the more pedestrian choice of Mexico or Canada. Since very few of us can speak more than one language, (and that all too haltingly) let’s set Mexico aside, citing lingual complications.
Glancing northward, we can draw comfort from the fact that, “up there” English is the lingua franca except of course in those bits and pieces where French prevails. No need to go into why this is so. We’re pretty shaky about our own history much less anyone else’s.
Some Outta Heres doubtlessly look back rather sheepishly, regretting their brash avowals. But there will surely be those among us who spoke those words and by gum are now ready to stick by them. So it is to them, the Outta Heres that these words are addressed. What with putting the house on the market, shutting off the utilities and packing the car, they are already sufficiently stressed. No time for anything but the briefest of prep courses. So let’s get started.
First off, delete E Pluribus Unum. From herein it’s Canada’s A Mare Usque Ad Mare. From Sea to Sea. A nice ring to it, don’t you think? Next, forget about our 50 states. In their place, pencil in 10 provinces and three territories. Out goes our duly elected president, replaced by a prime minister. His name is Stephen Joseph Harper, 53 years old and a good head of hair, elected in May 2011 and, oh happy day, a member of Canada’s Conservative Party. Harper answers to the Governor General, one David Lloyd Johnston who in turn answers to none other than Queen Elizabeth II.
But those fealties are pretty much window dressing. In the first place the queen has to oversee 15 other Commonwealth nations, which takes up a great deal of her time, besides which politically speaking, when push comes to shove, it’s the PM who has the last word. As far as capitals go, Washington, D.C., gives way to Ottawa, no additional initials necessary. Instead of a Congress, Canada has a Parliament that consists of a Senate and a House of Commons. Canada is larger than the U.S. by several million square miles. Reportedly some of those square miles even remain unexplored. (U.S. entrepreneurial op there?)
Canada’s largest cities are Ottawa, Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Ottawa has a splendid Changing of the Guard, every day, rain, shine or snow, not to be missed. Quebec has the world’s greatest cheese fondue. Montreal has an Old City, New City setup nicely larded with just enough but not too much history. Toronto is a northern version of Wall Street with all the delights and groans inherent thereto. Calgary, of course, is all about the annual Round-Up. No need to bring your own buckin’ bronco. In Calgary you can lease a bronc by the hour, day or week. Finally we come to Vancouver, aka Asia-East. When the Chinese reclaimed Hong Kong, all the financial scaredy-cats packed up their numbered bank accounts and fled. Many went to Singapore but many more landed in Vancouver. There they are richer than ever, which means marvelous dim sum and stock market tips in your fortune cookies.
Canada and the U.S. have long maintained a pleasingly you-scratch-my-back, I’ll-scratch-yours attitude in the world of sports. As for instance, when the Baltimore Colts upped and moved without so much as a by-your-leave to Indianapolis. Into the breach leapt our northern neighbors. In a twinkling they shipped off a football care package in the form of their homebred Stallions. The Stallions gallantly held the line until Baltimore’s city fathers could cobble up a team of their own, the Ravens with thankful homage to Edgar Allen Poe!
TV and radio coverage of sporting events up there have fewer commercials than we have down here – a definite plus. But sometimes coverage can get a bit muddled as, for instance, when the Saskatchewan Rough Riders played the Ottawa Rough Riders. It was, “There goes the Rough Rider wide receiver for a long pass but Oh-h-h…he’s brought down on the 10-yard line by a Rough Rider linebacker.”
God Save the Queen is much easier to sing than the Star Spangled Banner and despite all the British-ness of Ottawa, Toronto etc., please continue to drive on the right.
One final word for any Outta Heres: If by chance conversation with new neighbors slips over into historical matters, do go easy. Just remember that during our War of 1812, the United States attempted to invade Canada. In nothing flat the U.S. forces were summarily repelled. So best to head northward, hat in hand!