The U.S. presidential race has been depressing to watch. The portrait of America that has emerged from the conventions and the debates and the attack ads is grim: a country plagued by vast unemployment and a shrinking middle class, where many average citizens can’t pay the bills. For the first time in generations, Americans anticipate their kids will never make as much money as they do. Even the flow of illegal immigrants to the U.S. is slowing; since the economy crashed in 2008, the number of Mexicans sneaking across the border has declined.
Both presidential candidates think they know how to fix the country. Obama believes in sharing the wealth, and Romney believes in the power of the free market. The only thing they agree on is that the American dream is in tatters.
Or maybe it just got displaced. Maybe it moved to Canada. We have our share of economic challenges, as anyone in Stephen Harper’s office could tell you. But compared with many troubled spots on the globe, Canada is paradise. Our middle class is relatively stable, and people from all over the world are desperate to move here. This country, of course, has always attracted immigrants in search of a better life. But Canada wasn’t necessarily a first-choice destination. Now, as Europe experiences extreme economic volatility and the U.S. becomes a place where people are working three minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet, Canada’s status abroad has greatly improved.
Canada is one of the last remaining Western countries where economic mobility is a real possibility. A recent study by a team of international scholars published in the journal Child Development concluded that immigrant kids who move to Canada learn language and reading skills faster than they do if they move to the U.S. or the U.K., dramatically increasing their likelihood of success. When you hear the U.S. presidential candidates talk about resuscitating an America in which rags-to-riches dreams come true, the society they describe sounds a lot like ours.
That’s one reason Canada remains attractive to immigrants who come with nothing. And in the post–economic crash era, Canada has become even more seductive to upper-middle-class immigrants who could live anywhere—a new cosmopolitan set who have been educated at the best schools and have worked all over the world. As Carolyn Morris discovered in her interviews with recently arrived professionals, they are lured here by the stability of Canada and the excitement of Toronto. It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago we were all fretting about a brain drain. Now the opposite is happening.
In this, our annual money issue, we explore the impact of Canada’s new global appeal in a variety of stories. One theme that emerged: it turns out that a big draw for wealthy foreigners who buy property here and young professionals who move here for work is Toronto’s multiculturalism—not as an idea or as a landscape for good restaurants but as something much more significant and valuable. Multiculturalism affords them an environment where they can comfortably be themselves. Our financial stability coupled with an accepting, open-minded social environment appears to be a potent formula. For America’s sake, let’s hope the next president, when he’s planning America’s comeback, takes a good look north.