Why Canada is better than the US — and why it’s not

By Johannes Schmitt-Tegge, dpa

OTTAWA — Fewer weapons. Fewer murders. Far more comprehensive health care coverage. The indescribable beauty of its natural scenery.

It would be easy to say that Canada is a “better” version of the United States, a more peaceful and relaxed version of the often vain and contradictory world power to its south. But there’s more to the story.

The 150th anniversary of Canada’s founding on July 1, 1867, provides an opportunity to take a glance at both sides of the border, which stretches from the U.S. state of Maine in the north-east to Vancouver, British Columbia, on Canada’s Pacific Coast, and on up to Alaska.

Since Donald Trump was elected U.S. president, many Americans have flirted with the idea of starting a new life in the land of its northern neighbor. When Trump unexpectedly won in November, the number of Google searches for “Canada immigration,” “Canada,” and “moving to Canada” surged. The Canadian government’s immigration information website crashed.

And there are indeed a number of facts to back up the claim that life is better in Canada.

Life expectancy is higher. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Canadians on average live to be 82, while in the U.S. the overall average is 79.

Healthcare is less expensive. Healthcare-related costs were approximately US$4,860 per Canadian in 2016, according to the independent Canadian Institute for Health Information. In the U.S. health care costs per person exceeded US$10,000 in 2016, or more than double what Canadians paid.

When it comes to education, Canada compares favorably to its neighbor as well as to the rest of the world. In the most recent Pisa study, Canadian students scored an average of 522 points in reading comprehension, mathematics and natural sciences, exceeding the OECD average of 497 points. In the U.S., students scored an average of 492 points. The cost of high school education also favors Canada. OECD data showed that the cost per student in 2012 in Canada was US$22,400 versus US$27,070 in the U.S.

But happiness is difficult to measure, and bare statistics about health and education do not necessarily tell the whole story about how satisfied people actually are with their lives.

Those who are drawn to a dynamic business culture and the incomparable mass culture emanating from the U.S. in film, music, art, literature, fashion and in sports could miss a lot in Canada.

Yet, many top actors, including Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves and Michael J. Fox, and musicians, including Justin Bieber, Celine Dion, and Bryan Adams are originally from Canada. In winter sports such as ice hockey, speed skating and curling, Canadians enjoy vaunted success. Culturally, the two nations are closely intertwined with each other.

That Canada is usually considered a far more peaceful nation is due to the vast difference in the weapons culture between the two countries. Pistols, revolvers, rifles and shotguns are part of the self-identity of many Americans. With 89 weapons for every 100 residents, the U.S. leads all global statistics. In Canada, that number is 31 weapons per 100 residents, according to the Small Arms Survey.

The murder rate in the U.S. is 5.2 per 100,000 people, while in Canada that number is 1.5 per 100,000 residents, according to the OECD. In Canada 82 per cent of the residents feel safe on the streets at night, while in the U.S. that number is 74 per cent.