Thursday, November 29, 2012

How to Carry Your EDC

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

501 Most Devastating Disasters

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Relocating to Canada

Hi everyone, this is an excellent guest article written by blog reader and contributor J. Vanne. Thanks a lot J for the excellent information. Guys, as everything here this is just more material so as to have greater knowledge. No one is telling you to move, that your country is going to hell or anything like that so please keep it calm in the comment section. As always, I check and authorize each comment and nonsense (and of course spam) gets erased with a simple click.

   Relocating to Canada

Many of you have read all about relocating to places like Belize, Pago-Pago  - or perhaps even the Kerguelen Islands if you really want to get away (extra credit for those who can even find the Kerguelen Islands on a world map without googling it!). There may or may not be some merit a number of relocation  countries, and no doubt some readers here have already done research in that regard. No doubt, there is a wide range of countries with a wide range of advantages and disadvantages.  My goal is not to dissuade you from some place warm and sunny, but rather ensure you have considered the full panoply of possible options – including Canada.

Many of the countries people are examining come with large question marks – such as, for one example,  Costa Rica, which has a large cadre of committed leftists in leadership, even if they are not currently a formally Communist country.  Mexico? Would you really feel safe in an almost-failed country during an economic or grid meltdown?  Will you fit in culturally, and how well have you mastered the language? There is much being written about Argentina at present by certain parties selling “estancias” there, but with a quick flick of the pen, socialist caudilla Christina Kirchner might well simply change the rules. The well regarded, native Argentinian Fernando “Ferfal” Aguirre has a very different take on places like Cafayete than what some of the purveyors of lots there present – see http://ferfal.blogspot.com/search?q=Salta for his analysis. Perhaps these places are indeed good options – and perhaps not. I simply don’t know, for, like most of the readers here, I don’t have the time to investigate, the money to risk, or the ability to do my due diligence before a radical move like this.  Yes, New Zealand, Singapore or  Chile seem like good options – except that in the former case, experts like Joel Skousen think Australia and New Zealand could be taken over, either literally or politically, by China, if war came about.  Even if Skousen is a bit over-dramatic, most of us would still have to get back and forth on a somewhat regular basis from these areas. Not cheap, unless you are Learjet leftist/Hollywood mogul James Cameron, who recently bought a large spread in New Zealand, and has no qualms about adding more of his carbon footprint going between the two countries. On the day of this writing, Expedia showed a return flight for one person of $2,187 dollars Chicago to Auckland. Chile or the oft-written about Uruguay are not much closer.  The point is there are many unknowns in whole relocation game, and some of the “knowns” are significant: language, culture, expenses, time to do due diligence, political change, etc.  My goal is not to persuade you one way or another – simply to provide you with some facts about another country, the Great White North, just across the border. Easy and cheap to get to, you already know the language (except in Quebec), and the culture – while different – is the closest thing you will find to the U.S.  And if you don’t have the time or money to explore (like most of us, you either have the time and no money if you aren’t working,  money and no time if you are working… or, if you are like me, you have neither!), plan on taking an upcoming vacation to a target destination.

Three points to begin with. First, I have nothing to sell. My goal is simply to provide more information to those who are looking for more details about possible options.  Second, I am a dual US/Canadian citizen, and know the Canada very intimately. My personal footprint in Canada extends from having lived on Vancouver Island, as well as in Vancouver, British Columbia,  as well as in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec;  I also own property in Cape Breton,  Nova Scotia (point of interest: the road signs in Cape Breton are in English and Gaelic!). I have family scattered up and down the main highway between Toronto and Montreal , so that I needn’t drive more than 30 minutes  between the two cities without having a family member to visit. Except for a short stretch between Quebec City and Fredericton, New Brunswick, I have driven from the very end of the dock at Tofino, B.C, the western terminus of the Trans-Canada highway, to Glace Bay in Nova Scotia, the last stop before one hits Ireland. Driving through the US, that is total of 4,200 miles, according to Mapquest.  Staying on the Trans-Canada will, of course, set you back many more driving hours, as it will require some two-lane driving.  The third point? I have never been in Newfoundland, so I will leave that province to others.  Long story short, I have lived half my adult life in various locales in the US, and half at various locations across Canada. I know both countries very well.

Now… let’s get one objection addressed right off. Canada is called “The Great White North” for a good reason.  It’s not Biloxi, Mississippi. On the other hand, people do not snowshoe to work in July, and there are indeed more than two seasons as commonly surmised, winter and Canada Day on July 1st. As a matter of fact, approximately 90% of Canadians live within an hour or two of the US border, and with some exceptions, most of the country where you would probably end up living has relatively moderate winters. Vancouver, Victoria, and much of southern British Columbia have winters no more extreme than Seattle. Yes, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg across the rest of the west are cold, as are Ottawa and Montreal. Toronto has relatively moderate winters – somewhat similar to Chicago, but not as hot in the summer due to the moderating effect of Lake Ontario when there are prevailing southerlies in the summer – and the Maritime provinces, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland do not get extremely cold due to the effect of the gulf stream in most areas. For full meteorological details, see http://www.livingin-canada.com, which will provide more information for you, but here are a few highlights: the average high in Halifax, NS in January is 32F, the average daily high for Toronto, ON. is 33F in January, and the average Vancouver, BC high temperature for the same month is 42 F. What this means is that Vancouver is, according to Wikipedia,  in the  USDA plant hardiness zone of 8, similar to  Seattle, Portland, Amsterdam and London, as well as places such as Atlanta, Georgia and Raleigh, North Carolina, far to the south.  Surprised? Read on.

Let me point out one more thing about the winter weather in Canada: As the Russians say, “There is no poor weather, only poor clothing.” Purchasing good winter clothing goes a long way towards alleviating the complaints about the cold. And one more point: if you get cold, you can always put on more turn up the heat, or put on more clothes. If you are unbearably hot, there are only so many clothes you can take off. And of course, for the confirmed winter-hater, you can always join the “snowbirds” who vacate the country from American Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving is in October) through March. If you are susceptible to SADS (seasonal affective disorder, caused by lack of light), make sure you have a good lighting system. No place is perfect! (Remember, South America has what my brother – who live there for many years – the “three stepper” snake – meaning after you are bit, you get about three steps before you die!)

The above being said, Canada is not for everyone. However, if you find moderately cold temperatures tolerable, you may wish to explore further! I will start to explain options below, then finish is a follow up article.

However, before we delve into the “wheres” about Canada, let’s explore the “whys.”  Significantly, Canada hit a Greek-style debt wall in the mid-1990s, similar to what New Zealand experienced in the 1980s. Canada, like New Zealand, was too peripheral to bail out, and there was no political will to do so at that juncture in time. In Canada, this meant the “loonie,” (so named after the dollar coin, which has the picture of a loon on the back of it) dropped in value to the low 60 cent range per US dollar.  I am still  kicking myself for not buying a marvelous piece of land in Alberta back then! Importantly, this
“loonie” implosion happened under the Liberal party in the 1990s and early part of the next decade (the Liberal Party is roughly akin to the Democrat Party in the US) under Prime Minister Paul Martin, who had succeeded Liberal leader Jean Chretien. The significance of this is that, as all the cutbacks were forced on Canada by the Liberals, what could the left do? Canadians were stuck swallowing the cutbacks forced on them by their dear Liberals. Subsequently, the Liberal Party support eroded further due to endemic corruption, and in Feb., 2006, Stephen Harper, the Conservative (Tory) leader was elected Prime Minister, and has been in power up to today, recently being elected with a majority government. One other twist to the story: Harper started his political career with the Reform Party, which one might very roughly equate to America’s Tea Party.  In 2003, the Reform Party – which had split from the Conservative (Tory) Party in the 1980s, merged back with the Conservatives. (Full disclosure:  I was a member of the Reform Party, and am currently very active with the Tea Party in the US. I see many similarities).

What does this mean to you, the person considering relocation? Quite a lot, actually. Simply put,  Canada is on relatively firmer financial footing than many western nations, given that it was forced to swallow its own bitter socialist medicine, being a “too small to care about” country. Canada hit the debt wall during the boom times, and due to its being a small country, very few paid any attention, or provided any bailout support.  Long story short, Canada was forced to clean up its financial act – at least relative to the rest of the world.  For a comprehensive rendering of what is going on with Canada’s fiscal world, may I encourage you to review the highly regarded Canadian site www.thepoog.com , where you can conduct thorough due diligence about the financial state of the country. Particularly revealing is the article on Canadian debt from one year ago at http://thepoog.com/?p=51#more-51.  One of the Poog’s graphs, found at http://thepoog.com/?p=222#more-222 , and shown below illustrates the situation graphically:

Regarding external debt, Canada also sits relatively well:  As a percentage of GDP, the EU external debt is 85%, the US is 103%, the UK is 390%, and even Germany 142%. Supposedly financially sober Netherlands is at 344% and even Sweden – which had its own financial wake-up call in 1995 when its kroner melted down – is at 187%, trailed by Norway at 141%. Bulletproof Switzerland? External debt is 229% of GDP. And if you must ask about Luxembourg, it is at 3,443%.  Canada’s external debt, by contrast, is only 64% of GDP.   Being resource rich has helped the country immensely.

As noted, you will get the good, the bad and the ugly regarding Canada – particularly as it relates to America and the EU – at the www.thePoog.com web site.   Similarly, Canada Free Press, at http://www.canadafreepress.com/ , will inform you as to much of what is transpiring in Canada from a strongly pro-freedom, pro-American perspective.  Importantly, if you do consider relocation, note that there is much variation between provincial debt, and by some accounts, Canada’s most important province, Ontario, is in worse shape than California – see http://thepoog.com/?p=3110.  The cost of living is also not cheap, but this can vary depending on location.

As noted above, there is a very strong socialist presence in Canada, and socialized medicine has been the law in Canada for many years.  Stories you hear about socialized Canadian health care are indeed true, and rural areas can be horribly underserved; on the other hand – and no, you did not read this in the leftist press, nor will you ever do so – even the Supreme Court of Canada (for whose staff I have done computer training) ruled in June, 2005 bans on private health insurance are unconstitutional, viz. “The prohibition on obtaining private health insurance…. Is not constitutional where the public system fails to deliver reasonable service.”  Yes, you read that correctly. Socialized medicine is being eroded in Canada at the same time America dives in to the Pelosi-esque nightmare of ObamaCare (which Pelosi conveniently excluded herself from, her Congressional cronies, her district, and all her union chums – nice gig, if you can get it). The ever-funny Steven Crowder, also a dual citizen, has a boots-on-the-ground video of Canadian healthcare at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TryMmn13Xp8  Incidentally, my job is in hospital project management, and I have managed a number of large hospital projects across Canada, so I know whereof I speak. The long and short of the matter is that you will get healthcare, that you can get private care, that Canada is making strides to improve healthcare, and once ObamaCare is implemented, it may be a wash as to quality of care you get on either side of the border, unless you are a buddy of Nancy Pelosi’s.  One other note about socialism to be aware of. In addition to the Tory and Liberal parties, there is one party you need to be forewarned about – the New Democratic Party, aka the NDP. Think of a whole party who would consider Nancy Pelosi is “conservative.” Any location you consider that has the word “NDP” associated with it you should avoid like the plague, unless you disagree with
Frederick Bastiat’s 150 year old dictum that “Socialism (government) is the great fiction, whereby everybody endeavours to live off of everybody else” is a valid economic principle.

In terms of financial freedom, Heritage.org puts Canada at #6 – ahead of the US, which is #10 – see http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking ). Transparency.org ranks Canada ahead of the US in financial transparency (no comment from Obama money bagman Jon Corzine on this), and in the top grouping of countries – see http://www.transparency.org/cpi2010/results . The only countries that are as clean financially as Canada are Switzerland, the Nordic countries and New Zealand.  As many readers are aware, Canada did not experience a banking melt-down in 2008, and the banking system is much, much more stable than in the U.S. In my personal opinion that, in many ways, Canada is less socialist than the U.S. is under Obama, at present, as long as Stephen Harper remains Prime Minster.

This, then, is the financial world you will enter – a critical piece of the equation for any relocation calculus you do.  You can also – unless you live in Key West, FL. – conduct your due diligence on this with a simple car drive across the border.

If you are thinking about relocating to Canada, also consider that, just like the US, there is a very, very wide diversity of attitudes, mores and lifestyles between provinces and regions.  For the “beginner,“ Canada is much more than just English and French Canada. Rather, there are the following distinct regions:

(1)    The West. Everything west of Lake Superior, starting with Manitoba is considered a western province. The western provinces also have significant divisions, but British Columbia (BC), Alberta (AB), Saskatchewan (SK)  and Manitoba (MB) are considered the western provinces.  In contrast to the US, once one leaves Winnipeg., MB. – which is roughly north of Fargo, ND – and drives east, the next large population area of any significance is the London/Toronto region – almost 1,400 miles! Thus, there is a very clear division between the west and the east simply in terms of physical distance – which then translates into subcultural and political distance as well. Further, there are historical grievances from the west, which has harboured resentment of Central Canada  as using them simply hewers of wood and drawers of water (or oil), for the benefit of the easterners. Settlement in the west also historically had a much larger percentage of people like the Ukrainians (Edmonton is often disparagingly called “Edmonchuk” by some due to its Ukrainian population) and even Russian Doukhabors. These provinces will be examined in detail in my next article, as there are some definite targets a person relocating might want to examine. Note that the western provinces are not monolithic – British Columba, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are as different as – if I were to use American cities – Seattle, Boise, Fargo and Minneapolis.
(2)    Central Canada, the province of Ontario. This is also known as “Upper Canada,” in that it was “up” the St. Lawrence River from Montreal. Ontario in many ways is Canada.  With a metro Toronto area of over 6 million, out of a total population of 34 million, Toronto runs the country, and is said by many to be the most multicultural city in the world. This makes for great restaurants, and it is a great business town, but in any type of “meltdown” crisis, it is simply that – another megalopolis.   The major highway through Toronto, the 401 – is twenty-two lanes wide in the heart of the city. However, with the natural resources boom in the west, population – just like the U.S. – continues to shift people west, so Ontario is very gradually losing some of its clout.  Toronto is a megalopolis, and its demographic footprint extends for many, many kilometres out into the surrounding country. This has skewed prices far out into the countrysid, and many consider the Toronto area market very overheated and due for a fall. However, there are a couple other sections of Ontario I will examine in the next article, northern Ontario, as well as eastern Ontario, which may be of a better bet for someone considering relocating. Importantly, as you consider Canada, both Toronto and Vancouver, along with probably Alberta and Saskatchewan, are in housing bubbles.  Don’t believe me? Check out the prices at Crackhouse or Mansion website (focusing on Vancouver prices, possibly the highest in North America) at http://www.crackshackormansion.com/.  The Poog, at http://thepoog.com/?tag=house-price also has published some research on this. Unfortunately, Ontario has been led by Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty for many years, and – though he is stepping down soon – he has left a socialist imprimatur on the province.
(3)    Quebec, or French Canada. Quebec historically was also known as “Lower Canada”. Yes, Montreal has great night life. It is also coming back as a business centre, after driving businesses to Toronto with threats of separatism in the 1980s And yes, the “pure laines” (the old pure blood Quebecois, who generally tended towards separatism) are dying out. Nevertheless, the politics there are very leftist, separatism is not completely dead, and there is much dependence on English Canada bailing out Quebec, simply so they won’t leave confederation. In a financial pinch, this is not a place you would want to be, when the money stops. One other small point: most of the province – which is Canada’s largest – is not inhabited by French, but rather by aboriginal peoples (e.g., Cree or Mohawk, Indians, Inuit, etc.) There is ongoing, low-grade friction between the Indians and the French, and in 1990 this actually became violent, with the army called out (one famous picture from that period is below). At least one person was killed (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oka_Crisis during this crisis, in which even tanks were called out.

This being said, the French/English battles – essentially the re-fighting of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, where the British defeated the French 250 years ago – is much more muted from 20 years ago. Quebec ranges from being very bilingual in the far west around Ottawa, to almost only unilingual French speaking in places like Quebec City (the only walled city in North America, and a wonderful place to go on a honeymoon – but for someone relocating due to economic, geo-political, or other risks, not a place I would recommend, even if you are fluent in French). However, if you are dead set on Quebec, the historically English “Eastern Townships,” such as towns like Sherbrooke, might be of consideration, in that they are smaller, and more agriculturally fertile – almost like a Vermont North. Of course, today even those towns are also majority French.  Quebec is Canada’s largest province – but almost all the population is centred around the St. Lawrence or Ottawa rivers.
One other point about Quebec. As the “pure laine” French embraced abortion whole heartedly after their so-called  “Silent Revolution” in the 1960s (where they rejected the authority of the Catholic church over their society, as one aspect of this revolution), these pures laines have dropped as a percentage of the population, which in turn has necessitated much immigration into the province. These immigrants know that, in a sea of almost 400 million in North America (excluding Mexico), French is not the ticket to educational or career success, by and large (outside of getting a job in the Canadian government, where it does indeed help). And besides, Dancing with the Stars, Lady Gaga and all the other media stars do their thing in English.
One other consideration for those of you concerned, as I am, about the genesis of why our society is imploding: ethics.  At one point, Billy Graham called Montreal the least churched city in North America. And there are serious ramifications of this. But let me simply warn you by paraphrasing Fyodor Dostoyevski about cultures like this: “If there is no God, everything is permissible.” Not an environment I personally would like to be in when times get tough. Given the above, for the purposes of this paper, I will ignore examining Quebec further.
(4)    The Maritimes: I admit I am biased here. While most of the rest of Canada has seen a housing boom – which, in my estimation, leaves one at risk of buying too high – the Maritime provinces – New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland, have not seen a price boom. I will examine each of the Maritime provinces in depth in my next article, but suffice to say I believe there is much opportunity here.  While I have absolutely zero connection with this company, other than having purchased my own property from them, Dignam.com – which has been in business almost 100 years – has a very large offering of rural properties for sale.
(5)    The Far North.  As with Quebec, I will not examine the territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. With the possible exception of Whitehorse in the Yukon, these are not areas that would be tenable for an off-the-grid lifestyle.
Still interested? Some official sites to get you started are Citizenship and Immigration Canada, at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/index.asp , or Immigrate to Canada, at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/index.asp . There are initiatives for people starting a business in Canada that might be of interest to you, as well.

In the next article, I will examine selected areas of Canada you may want to consider. More to follow!