Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Americans Can Learn From Canadians

I spent a weekend in Canada during the late 1960's and have not returned there since, but wanted to. It was my first experience visiting a foreign country. It was an eye opener.

I was on 2 week summer duty with the 2nd Battalion, 102d Armor, New Jersey Army National Guard (2/102d Armor, NJARNG) at Fort Drum, New York and had a weekend pass for the middle weekend. A few buddies and I rented a car and travelled to Wolf Island by ferry to Kingston, Ontario and then on to Montreal, Quebec and returned on the United States side of the St Lawrence River border back to Fort Drum.

The following are initial impressions of the trip:
1. Crossing over into Canada, we saw no US border agents but was warmly welcomed by the Canadian immigration officer.
2. Stopping to eat and gas the car, we found that Canadians more than willing to accept US currency and made sure to make change in Canadian currency. (We did not have the chance to buy Canadian currency before we left and since this was the weekend there was no place where we could buy it.) The Canadian dollar was worth less than each American dollar so they made an additional profit on the rate of exchange.
3. Canada has the Imperial gallon which I believe is bigger than the US gallon. We had sticker shock initially when we saw their price of gasoline.
4. Canada highly requards or still honors Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain with her face on the paper money and silouette on the highway signs even though Canada is an independent country.
4. It was mostly undeveloped land between Kingston and Montreal from the highway.
5. Canadians have their own brands of cigarettes. I could not identify any of the Canadian brands. I could not find any American brands there.
6. We had reservations at the Holiday Inn Tower in Montreal, but they overbooked and made reservations at the Hotel Lafayette for us, I believe, which was a severe shock from a new modern high-rise hotel to a very old one in need of rehab. In the morning we saw other hotel guests line up for their buses to continue their trips.
7. Many Quebec province residents do not speak English, or they refused to speak English to us. Some restaurants refused to seat us. We ate most meals at fast food places.
8. We found The American Bar, and were amused that our beer was served in liter bottles.
9. We saw no Canadian border people when we left Canada, but the American border official grilled each of us and we thought we were going to be searched. We were relieved when the official finally warmed up and wecomed us back to the USA and told us to drive through the border crossing.

The population of Canada is less than 33 million and the population of American will reach 300 million in a few months. There is a huge interdependence of the two countries on history, trade, tourism, and jobs....maybe more.

I have wondered why Public Television or 60 Minutes or have not produced an in-depth documentary or program about Canada's national health program. I would like to know, who bears the costs of the program. What are the out of pocket expences for health of a parent for birth, childhood immunization, annual health exams. What are the out of pocket costs for an adult for medication, an office visit, lab work, radiology, minor surgery, major surgery, rehab, nursing home, and the like. What does it cost the poor? What about the waiting times for emergency or elective surgery? Do the provider pay for medical work and hospital charges in other countries? How do the out of pocket expense compare for a senior Canadian and an American on Medicare? Would it be beneficial to an American to relocate to Canada to obtain health benefits, if they would have him or her? How much of the healthcare costs are administrative. Do Canadian providers such as doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals have to bear excessive administrative handling of health benefits as American providers? Can Canada compete in world trade on better terms because of their national health program than America without a national health plan? I think most Americans can learn something from the experiences of Canadians and their national health program.

Canada has long been a country of two languages: English and French. Most of the solely French speakers are in the province of Quebec, and most of the solely English speakers are in the rest of the Canadian provinces. Many Canadians speak both English and French. I'd like to know what this means to the typical Canadian or maybe I should ask for comments from French heritage Canadians and also from non-French heritage Canadians. What accomodations have each group made for each other? Within the past 10 years there was some concern about separists in the country where they were interested in seceding from Canada. What was that all about? The two groups were in the country for hundreds of years and it is difficult to change things after such a long time, what advice or lessons can we learn from the Canadians about a dual language country?

Many movies and tv shows are filmed in Canada. From the movies and tv shows the Canadians seem to live lives that are pretty much carbon copy of American citizens in the United States. I wish there was a comparison of the typical standards of living of Canadians and Americans. Are there any groups better off in one country compared to the other, like children, parents, active senior citizens, the sick, singles, married, the poor, unskilled or low skilled labor, skilled labor, semi professionals, professionals, entrepeneurs, and disabled?

What are the government issues confronting local, province or state, and national officials that are similar and unique to each nation? What are the social relief programs of each nation?

What are the other unique differences between the two contries? I know that the normal mortgage of an American home is 30 years but that is unheard of in Canada. I think it leads to higher prices in America and more affordable prices in Canada. I think legal immigration is easier in Canada than in America. Does Canada have as big a problem as America with illegal immigration? There is a rumor that generally American students and their parents would save money attending Canadian colleges and universities. It is no rumor that many Americans find cheaper prescribed medicines in Canada than in America.

What are the issues about America does Canada have and what are the issues America has about Canada?

I don't think enough has been accomplished by American media including public tv broadcasting to discuss the similarities and differences of America and Canada. If I was to pick one country in the world that is most like America, it would have to be Canada over all other countries. I thought cable or satellite tv services would at least provide one Canadian tv channel to Americans to learn about Canada, but that has never happened. I don't think Americans are as familiar with Canadian newspapers, magazines, websites, tv, geography, history, society, and commerce as Canadians are of those American. I don't remember spending more than a few days in school learning about our northern neighbor which is rediculous.

What do you think? Shouldn't we know much more about our northern neighbor? Do you think that American students should spend more time studying Canada than they do now? Can we write to various editors, directors, and producers to provide more material about Canada?