MY WIFE AND I AWOKE, as usual, to NPR. Before political correspondent Mara Liasson got to the end of her first sentence, I knew the news was disastrous. George W. Bush had been reelected.
"Honey," I said, "remember when we talked about moving to Canada?"
I'm sure a lot of other dyed-in-the-organic-wool liberals muttered something similar that dark morning in 2004, but unlike most of them, we meant it. Plan A: John Kerry wins, we build that dream ski house in Vermont. Plan B: Move to Vancouver, Canada.
So, Plan B it was. We'd had enough of Bush, the direction the United States was going, and this was the last straw. Never mind that we lived in Cambridge, Mass., arguably the most liberal city in the bluest of the blue states. We were packing our bulk granola into our diesel Beetle and heading out.
Eight months later, we were settling into a new home and jobs in British Columbia, when Canada had its own election. For those unfamiliar with the Canadian system of government, the prime minister is elected by parliament — not every four years but after losing a no-confidence vote. After a few of those there was a parliamentary election in January, which led to the election of a new prime minister, Stephen Harper, of Canada's Conservative Party.
Harper ran on cutting taxes and turning a federal child-care program into a monthly payment per child. The opposition's negative campaign ads sounded eerily familiar: He supported Bush's war in Iraq, was against signing the Kyoto environmental accord and wanted to "reexamine" gay marriage (which is legal in Canada). A shiver rippled down from our berets to our Birkenstocks.
Then, a few weeks ago, we awoke, as usual, to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Before CBC morning show host Tom Allen got to the end of his first sentence, I knew: Back in the United States, the Democratic Party had won control of the House and the Senate.
"Honey, did we make a big mistake?"
By "big mistake," I mean, not the kind in which you switch lines at Whole Foods and the line you'd been in suddenly starts to move. We're talking big mistake like selling all of your stock in Ben & Jerry's the day before Unilever buys the company.
But it turns out that Canadian conservatism can look awfully liberal. So far, Harper — derided as "Bush lite" — has, for instance, introduced a partial tax credit for monthly transit passes. The Conservatives have proposed a Clean Air Act for Canada, and although it's not ideal, it's still something. Harper said that these new laws would "institute a holistic approach that doesn't treat the related issues of pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions in isolation." When was the last time you heard any U.S. politician utter the word "holistic"?
Did I mention universal healthcare? Even Harper seems committed to keeping that.
We've come to the conclusion that the United States has drifted so far to the right that any self-respecting Canadian Conservative would be considered a raving liberal in Washington. Stephen Harper is no George W. Bush. We may not agree with him, but we don't feel ashamed every time he opens his mouth. We might yawn, though.
So we're staying in Canada. But good luck with that new Congress, eh?
Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times