July 4th Thoughts: We can do better, America

The Declaration of Independence launched the separation from Great Britain on this day, in 1776.  The U.S. was at war with Great Britain at the time that the Declaration was approved on that special Thursday in Philadelphia.

Here we are 241 years later, and there's a great divide that impacts our country.  That divide is within.  

If you believe media reports, the country seems split right down the middle, on every subject under the sun.

I don't believe the media.  While I don't think they're lying to us, I do feel that their opinions have self-bias, and they will align with whatever political camp they were told to follow. #Sheep

My gut is that most of us have more in common, than differences.  We all want to have accessible and affordable healthcare when and where we need it.  We want our roads and infrastructure to be safe.  We want great education for our children.  We want to feel safe and protected when we are at home, work, the mall, etc.  We want a life where we can afford the things we need, and the opportunities to earn more, if we are willing to do what it takes to earn that living.

Social media gives us all a great platform, but I'm thinking instead of having normal, deep conversations, we're having 140 character rants.  Some of those comments are thought provoking, but many are the equivalent of leaving a flaming brown bag of 💩 on someone's front porch.  We can do better, America.

On this 4th of July, I encourage you to have conversations with people.  Don't be judgmental if their opinion differs from them.  Ask them why they feel the way they do, in a non confrontational way.  Listen.  Learn their perspective.  

United We Stand.  Divided We Fall.  Reunite, America.

Be well!


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Want to Move to Canada? Advice from An American Who Did It

So the US Presidential Election is (finally, mercifully, thankfully) over, and the Electoral College results declare that Donald J. Trump is now the President-Elect of the United States of America.

Based on commentary that I've read and heard over the past year or two, people indicated that they would "Move to Canada" if Trump won.  Well, let's see you are committed to that declaration.

I'm an American (and Canadian) citizen.  I was born in a suburb of Detroit many moons ago.  I immigrated to Canada in 2004, and call Toronto my home.  Since I've lived here for over a decade, I have a good grasp on the differences between Canada and America.  

Grab a Timmies, sit in your Muskoka chair, and let Uncle Mike fill you in on what it will take for you to immigrate to Canada.

1. Leave your guns at home.  The Second Amendment doesn't apply here.  Remember when General Washington gave the Brits the middle finger? Well, that created your Independence (of course after some battles, Canada torching the White House, War of 1812, etc.)  Canada doesn't follow America's Constitution, because it's for you guys south of the 49th Parallel, not us maple syrup, mountie hugging, beaver cherishing Canadians.  

Guns are not allowed up here.  Rifles for hunting are ok, but there's paperwork involved.  That's a key point throughout this post.  Get prepared for paperwork.  A lot of it.  So right to bear arms doesn't apply.  

2.  Socialism.  For those of you that paid (somewhat) attention to 9th Grade Government class(In Canada, we call it Grade 9, just like the Barenaked Ladies song), Canada is basically a Socialistic nation.  We care for people in such a way that there are several Government funded social programs, that help people.  Not just poor people, but people with a variety of needs.  How do we do that?

3. Taxes.  We pay them.  A lot.  In Ontario, we basically pay 13% sales tax on goods and services.  I know in Michigan the sales tax is 6%.  So more than double tax.  Have fun with that.  Also your pay check (paycheque in Canada, get used to French-like words, and based on America's love affair with France, that may take some getting used to.) will net you about 70% of your gross pay, if you're lucky.  Taxes are high in Canada.  There aren't all the 1040 loopholes that the IRS allows in America (referred to from here on out as "The States".)

4. Healthcare.  Let's make something quite clear.  Healthcare ain't free.  See item # 3.  Our taxes pay for our healthcare system.  So you shouldn't typically get a bill in the mail for lab work, or services that your insurance company decided not to pay for, because the billing clerk (who hates her job) didn't click the right code, before submitting to Insurance.  

You also normally shouldn't get a bill if you need to visit the emergency room.  However, be prepared to wait in the ER for hours.  Yes.  Hours.  Bet on at least 4, maybe longer.  There's no 29 minute guarantee to be seen in our ER's, baby.  But you won't get a bill (typically) either.

5. Housing.  You know that Tri-Level you own that cost around $150-200k in The States?  In Toronto, that same style home will run you from $750,000 to over $1 Million.  Yes.  That's Million with an M.  Housing prices in Toronto have exploded, as has the population.  The average home price increases about $150,000 per year, over the past 5 years.  There's strong demand to live in Toronto.  It's not because of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I can assure you that.  That demand shows no signs of slowing down, so if you want to live in Canada, plan on renting.  For a long time.

6. Population.  Canada is actually a true melting pot, unlike what The States says it is.  In Toronto there's pretty much every culture on the planet living and working here.  We all for the most part get along without issues (having no guns helps.)  We also don't care what religion you are, and we don't ban Syrian Refugees.  Hell, our Prime Minister greeted the first wave of Refugees at the Airport.  

7. Traffic.  Toronto and LA tend to toggle places on the list of the worst traffic in the world.  Toronto has about 7 million people and they're all either on the 401, The Gardiner Expressway, or the Don Valley Parkway roads.  It takes at least an hour to go 24 miles (39 kilometres...I'll get to the metric system in a moment) across the city.  So you either have to leave really early to beat traffic, or get to enjoy bumper to bumper traffic for most of your adult life.  I recommend podcasts, to learn stuff.

8. Metric system.  Unlike The States in late 1975, that adopted the Metric System as a unit of measurement, Canada actually uses it.  Mind you, you'll find some senior citizens here that will say miles, but for the most part, everyone follows Kilometers (commonly called Klicks) for distance measurement.  Same goes for temperatures.  Unless you live in Windsor, Ontario, get used to figuring out Celcius.  23 Celsius is actually comfortable (approximately 72 degrees Fahrenheit.)  See?  You learned something!

9. Booze.  Yeah, Canadians love to drink.  So do you.  Deal with it.  However, this may be the biggest culture shock to your system.  For you beer drinkers, a case of Budweiser (The King of Beers) that you can get at your local store for $16, will run you $45 here.  Yes.  $45.  24 Cans.  12 Ounces (or 355 ml.)  The hard stuff liquor that you can get for $20 in The States will run you double here.  

10.  Weather.  I'm sure you've heard of Canada referred to as the "Great White North."  There's a reason for that moniker.  It's fkg cold here.  And we get snow.  Sometimes tragedy strikes and we get Snow In Toronto.  The horror.  If you want to leave The States, why are you picking a cold climate?  Mexico is much warmer!