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

The old home at 785 Island Rd. is coming down as the developer was unable to find a feasible business case to save it. (Black Press Media File Photo)
With no takers to move old Oak Bay home, teardown begins

‘We tried a last hurrah,’ developer says

Leah Davis, store manager at Oscar & Libby’s in downtown Victoria, sets out stock at their Fort Street location. The pandemic has changed the way this retailer and others do business, says owner Teri Hustins. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Pandemic alters holiday business strategies for Victoria merchants

Many independent merchants count on holiday shopping to get them through quiet periods

Goldstream Food Bank vice-president Walter Dubeau is happy to help others by volunteering at the food bank’s Christmas hamper program. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)
Goldstream Food Bank Christmas Hamper program in full swing

Gratitude evident as hamper helpers happily give back

The Vancouver Island Crisis Society has seen a five per cent rise in call volumes compared to this time last year. (Black Press Media file photo)
Winter blues a concern for Vancouver Islanders during COVID-19 Christmas season

Statistics show British Columbians anticipate worsening mental health

Jason Soukochoff is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, say Victoria police. (Courtesy VicPD)
Victoria police seek man with violent criminal history against elderly

Jason Soukochoff wanted on Canada-wide warrant for parole violations

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 24

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Haven Daley)
POLL: Do you think the current COVID-19 restrictions should continue beyond Dec. 7?

One week into the new restrictions to curtail the spread of the… Continue reading

The COVID-19 test centre at Peace Arch Hospital is located on the building’s south side. (Tracy Holmes photo)
B.C. woman calls for consistency in COVID-19 post-test messaging

‘Could we just get one thing straight?’ asks Surrey’s Deb Antifaev

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

An excavator was stolen from a rural property south of Nanaimo this month, say police. (Photos submitted)
Excavator stolen from property south of Nanaimo

Bobcat Mini believed to have been stolen between Nov. 12-14, say RCMP

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

Most Read