Monday, December 17, 2012

Relocating to Canada: Ontario

Blog reader and contributor J. Vanne continues to share his knowledge regarding Canada. Thanks J. for taking the time!

Central Canada:   Ontario

In this article, I continue to look at Canada as a relocation possibility. This time, we examine Ontario, known as Upper Canada (as in “up” the St. Lawrence River) in olden days. We will not examine “Lower Canada” – Quebec – as in my opinion, anyone relocating to Quebec, known as La Belle Province (The Beautiful Province), to avoid an economic or societal meltdown may as well also look at Greece, Spain or Argentina. Yes, Montreal is a fun city, and there are indeed areas, such as the eastern townships (for example the area around Sherbrooke, Quebec) that are similar to Vermont in terms of agricultural activities. However, Quebec has serious issues. Yes, the separatist movement has died down, as the “pure laines” (the pure blood French) have aborted themselves into oblivion, and immigrants know their collective gooses would be cooked in an independent Canada. They are also aware that Quebec, which has a population of around 8 million – not all of which are francophones – exists in a sea of just under 400 million in North America (if one excludes Mexico). Exactly what kind of economic future does one have as a unilingual francophone is not question that goes unasked for immigrants to Quebec. All of this notwithstanding, Montreal – which was originally the hub of business for Canada until the separatists pushed that down the 401 highway to Toronto in the 1980s – is making a bit of a comeback relative to economic activities today.

There are other issues. Quebec is dyed in the wool socialist. In fact, one individual ran for provincial premier a few years ago advocating for a four day work week (heck, why not advocate for a TWO day workweek, as long as one is at it!). The aboriginal peoples want nothing to do with the French – and they inhabit around 90% of the landmass, including the area up around James Bay and Hudson Bay, which are the sites of massive hydroelectric dams that create a goodly amount of revenue for the province. And here’s the issue with that: During the last serious separatist referendum in the early 1990s (I lived in Ottawa, and also just across the border in Quebec during that period), a referendum was taken of the aboriginal peoples. The result? 95% (!) wanted to stay with English Canada if there was a separation. Would this result in violence? The Oka crisis of two decades ago showed the native peoples could, in fact, resort to violence. What would happen to revenue from electricity transmission to the US, a major source funds for Quebec, if the aboriginal people blew up a pylon providing electricity to the US? You can bet your bottom dollar that would be a social and political nightmare. Meanwhile, If you are anglophone, there still is some anti-English sentiment (you will be a “squarehead” or one of “the evil English” if you are not French, to some people). There is more, but the key issue is that  I will not take the time to review Quebec in that it is mostly kneejerk leftist. End of story in my books.

Incidentally, if you really want Gallic culture, have you considered St. Pierre and Miquelon? Two small islands off of Newfoundland, they are literally part of France. They are tiny – but something to keep in the back of your mind, if for no other reason than to win a pink pie in Trivial Pursuit.

Note that I do not have any animosity to Quebeckers. I have many Quebecois friends, and some are as conservative as you or me. I have lived in Quebec, and was married in Quebec.  But, similar to California, you will be in sea of leftists, and that should be a central consideration, if, in fact, there is some type of economic meltdown. Quebec alternates between being run by the uber left Bloc Quebecois, the leftist Liberal party, and now the hyper left NDP party is also making inroads. You might be better off in Chavez’s Venezuela – at least the gasoline is cheaper.
The above being said, let’s turn to Ontario. As noted in my previous articles, the great divide between west and east is that after one leaves Winnipeg, Manitoba – which is just off the map on the far left of the chart below – there is very little until one reaches the Toronto area. Thus, there is a massive, discrete physical, geographic divide in Canada that the US simply doesn’t have. This is due to the Canadian Shield area north of Lake Superior, which does not support much of anything other than fishing,  mining and a few polar bears if you get far enough north.

A nice smaller city – around 100,000 people – is Thunder Bay, right on Lake Superior, and just up the road a few hours from Duluth, MN.  One of the economic strengths of Thunder Bay is that Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba grain shipments – which aren’t going away anytime soon, no matter what the economic situation – all route from the Canadian prairies through the massive port facilities in Thunder Bay. A second small city Sault Ste Marie, a town to the east of Thunder Bay, with 20,000 less souls in its census, is also nice, if you like the terrain of northern Michigan.  As with the prairie provinces, towns like Thunder Bay are cold in the wintertemperatures can easily reach below –40 F and more (minus 40 C is approximately the same in Fahrenheit, by way of reference).  Two other limitations of these cities – and others in Ontario: the choices of the politically correct masses in Toronto, which continue to drift leftward, will drive your electoral realities in these outlying areas, even if Toronto is a very full day’s drive away; the other negative is that you will also find the soil is not as rich for farming or gardening here as in the west – although hunting and fishing will be superb.
On the plus side, Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie (called “the Soo” by locals) feel bigger than their populations, as they are regional centres for the surrounding towns. Thunder Bay has a university (see Lakehead University’s website at,) some cultural activities, regularly scheduled jet service, and I have spent many years working on projects for the main hospital there, which provides good care for patients, given the limits of Canadian socialized medicine. Housing prices have not skyrocketed in these areas as they have in the Toronto region. This region (particularly the town of Sudbury, although I do not recommend this as an option) is also a centre for metals mining (such as nickel). If your analysis is bullish on the mininig sector, you may want to examine this region more.

My suggestions for northern Ontario are three-fold: Thunder Bay, St. Joseph Island, outside of Ste. Ste. Marie, or – if one wants to be more isolated – Manitoulin Island (which is the world’s largest fresh water island) in northern Lake Huron.

I have already alluded to the strengths and weaknesses of Thunder Bay, so let’s move on to St. Joseph Island, just over 35 miles outside of Ste. Ste Marie (Sugar Island is another, closer option). As noted, “the Soo” is a regional centre. Yes, it does get a lot of snow in the winter; on the other hand, you are surrounded by the fresh water of Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Does your calculus include water shortages in the future? This is one place you certainly will not have to worry about that problem!  As you see in the map below, St. Joseph Island is just to the east of the upper peninsula of Michigan. Access by any “zombie hordes” – if it comes to that – would have to come cross the international border, cross the bridge into the Soo, then drive down to St. Joseph Island by crossing another small bridge. Most likely, there will be very few of those “Golden Horde” leftists from California or “where’s my free phone and food stamps” types from Detroit in your locale there, if we do have a zombie apocalypse!