President Donald Trump gestures from the top of the steps of Air Force 1 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. When people in the United States talk about moving to Canada to escape four more years of Donald Trump, it’s usually either a punchline or a pipe dream. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh

President Donald Trump gestures from the top of the steps of Air Force 1 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. When people in the United States talk about moving to Canada to escape four more years of Donald Trump, it’s usually either a punchline or a pipe dream. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh

Move to Canada? A pipe dream for some Americans is a parachute for Canadian expats

‘If Trump wins again, I’m moving to B.C.’

When people in the United States talk about moving to Canada to escape four more years of Donald Trump, it’s usually either a punchline or a pipe dream.

Ask some of the roughly 800,000 Canadians who live in the U.S., though, and it becomes one of three things: a parachute, a very real possibility or an honest-to-God plan of action.

“If Trump wins again, I’m moving to B.C.,” says Anastasia Synn, a performance artist from Shelburne, Ont., who has been living in Las Vegas for the last 10 years.

Synn is married to Johnathan Szeles, a hard-living magician whose shock-jock mash-ups of comedy, fake gore and sleight-of-hand made him a household name on the Vegas strip a decade ago.

These days, between her husband’s lifestyle and failing health, she lives in a trailer in the driveway, waiting for the right excuse to drag it back to the country of her birth.

To hell with the pre-nup, she insists: she’ll even bring her husband with her.

“I told him, ‘Even if you don’t want to come up with me right away, I’ll do you a favour and stay married to you, even though there’s no benefit to me,’” Synn says.

“But I’m not staying here for this. You could not pay me to stay.”

Synn is not eligible to vote, so she does the next best thing: encouraging everyone she meets to vote Democrat. She’s even convinced the self-destructive Szeles — “The Amazing Johnathan” before he was sidelined by a heart condition — to cast a ballot.

“He’s never voted. The fact that he’s voting is a big, big deal.”

Her activism, however, has come at a steep personal price in the U.S., a country so deeply riven between its political and societal poles that wearing a face mask to limit the spread of COVID-19 has become a partisan issue.

For Synn, 10 years of being south of the border has led her to a single, inescapable conclusion: certain basic human values like empathy and compassion are in short supply where she lives.

“People have actually decided they’re not going to be my friend any more,” she said.

“It’s quite disturbing how many people I’ve lost in the entertainment field as friends. People I used to sit down and have Christmas dinner with every year, you know, they’re gone.”

For others, moving north is more parachute than Plan A. But it’s comforting either way, said Tristan Wallis, who lives with his wife in an affluent suburb of Boston and originally hails from Sherbrooke, Que.

“We periodically — and more so lately — talk about, depending on what happens in November, do we move back to Canada?” said Wallis, 39.

“It gives you the confidence to sort of sit and wait and see what happens, knowing that … if things get really, really, really bad, you don’t have to start freaking out and planning for it.”

Life in the United States these days isn’t all bad, Wallis was quick to add.

“The job prospects down here, frankly, are better in a lot of ways, the salaries are better in a lot of ways, especially in this area,” he said.

“There’s a reason we’re here. And it would have to get bad enough here for us to want to leave and go back to Canada, where maybe we would be giving up some of the benefits of being down here.”

There’s little love lost among Canadians for Trump, polls suggest.

A recent Pew Research survey found only 20 per cent of respondents expressed confidence in the president, the lowest level reported in nearly 20 years of polling north of the border.

And a survey released last week by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found 73 per cent of respondents expect a Joe Biden election victory after Nov. 3, compared with 54 per cent of Americans surveyed.

That could be a reflection of the shellshock that still lingers in the U.S. after 2016, when polls were consistently giving the edge to Hillary Clinton right up until election night.

Rachel Sunshine Bernatt, a caregiver from Toronto who lives in the Georgia community of Acworth, north of Atlanta, said she thinks a lot about returning — especially when the spectre of outright racism finds its way past her front door.

And she knows that a Biden presidency won’t make it all magically disappear.

“I’ve had people in my house, I’ve had to kick them out for using the N-word — they thought, since I’m white, it’s OK with me,” Bernatt said.

“I don’t want to try and have a conversation with them at that point. There’s really no fixing stupid, and, you know, that way of thinking, I don’t know if he can fix it.”

Mark LaPointe, who grew up in Windsor but now makes his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he’s been living in the U.S. too long to consider moving back to Canada now, even if his American friends covet the option.

LaPointe, 40, often ventures out on weekends to watch dozens of Trump supporters who gather on a street corner every Saturday, brandishing placards and Trump flags and encouraging passersby to honk their support.

Given their backgrounds in places like Cuba and Venezuela, he said, members of the region’s large Latino population embrace the Republican message decrying communism and socialism, even if what they’ve experienced bears little resemblance to what progressive Democrats espouse.

His anti-Trump friends and colleagues shake their heads as much as he does.

“This is a very shameful time for them,” said LaPointe, who specializes in internet security.

“A lot of my American friends here can totally acknowledge that. Some of them are, like, ‘Mark, why the hell are you still here?’”

Some of them, men and women alike, have even proposed marriage.

“I have a friend in Michigan who wants to marry me, just so she can get Canadian citizenship,” LaPointe chuckled.

“I’ve actually had a bunch of men propose to me, half-assed serious. And I’m just, like, ‘You’re not pretty enough. Sorry.’”

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake Grade 2 students in Holiday Healing Campaign

Students in Nicole Eleniak’s class worked to share love and joy with other children this holiday

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

The Red Deer Games Foundation has made changes to its grant program as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo supplied)
Red Deer Games Foundation adjusts grant program due to COVID-19 pandemic

The foundation postponed the spring 2020 grant program due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

skip2
Rimbey Christian School students experience the joy of giving

Grades three and four students raised $2,000 for Somalian children

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council asks for a mask bylaw to be brought forward for consideration

The bylaw would require face coverings in all indoor Town-owned and operated facilities

The corporate headquarters of Pfizer Canada are seen in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The chief medical adviser at Health Canada says Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could be approved in Canada next month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Health Canada expects first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved next month

Canada has a purchase deal to buy at least 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine,

Most Read