Why Shouldn’t Canada Be More Like The United States?

I just finished watching the debate between Canada’s political leaders. For those who don’t know, there’s a national election happening in Canada right now and the parties are promising this and that to get your vote.

The theme for the three opposition parties seems to be that the ruling Conservative government, if given a majority, would turn Canada into another United States. They make it sound like this is a really bad thing, and I’m sure many Canadians want to maintain their distinctness. However, this got me thinking. Why shouldn’t Canada be more like the United States? I came up with a few reasons.

Canadians Like Making Less Money

Let’s compare Vancouver to Seattle. Other than Vancouver being in Canada and Seattle being in the US, the two cities are very similar to each other. They have similar populations. The climate is pretty much the same – it rains just as much in both cities. Both cities lost their NBA team, and both have a very high tech community.

When it comes to making money, the average Vancouver household brings in $68,670 while families in Seattle make an average $79,137. Seattle is by no means the richest city in the US. That honor goes to Bethesda, MD, where the average family income is $172,541. The highest income earning city in Canada is in oil rich Calgary, Alberta. The average family income there is $91,570, which is good but pales in comparison to Bethesda.

Canadians Like To Pay More Taxes

Not only do Canadians enjoy making less money than their American counterpart, they like to pay more taxes as well so they can have even less money to take home. In Vancouver, the top income tax rate is 43.7% (federal and provincial) and kicks in at $128,801.

The top income tax rate in the United States is 35% but doesn’t kick in until you’re making more than $373,650 a year. Washington State (where Seattle is) has no state income tax so 35% is all you pay. At the $128K level, the rate is 28%. That sounds a lot better than 43.7% to me but hey, Canada doesn’t want to be like the USA.

Canadians Like To Pay More for Everything

So Canadians make less money and pay more taxes. Surely, the cost of living must be much cheaper, right? Guess again. Even though the Canadian dollar is worth more than the US dollar, everything is more expensive in Canada. An Apple iPad cost $499 in the US, $519 in Canada. Compare the prices at the Whole Foods in Vancouver with the Whole Foods in Seattle and you’ll see that some items cost up to twice as much in Vancouver.

Thinking of buying a nice sports car? A Porsche 911 Turbo starts at $159,400 in Canada but the same Turbo can be had in the US for $135,500. And then there’s the cost of putting gas in it. While Americans are complaining about gas price hitting almost $4 per gallon, it cost $1.34 per litre in Vancouver. That works out to $5.64USD per gallon.

If the cost of operating a high-end sports car doesn’t scare you, the cost of housing will. The average house in Seattle cost $362,000 or 4.57 years family income. In Vancouver, the average house cost $987,500 or 14.4 years family income.

Canadians Like To Have “Free” Medical

This is the thing that Canada likes to use to justify their lower income and higher cost. Their medical system is universal and free! This is only partly true.

The Canada Medical Services Plan (MSP) isn’t free. You do have to pay for it if your family makes over $30,000 a year. If you make less than $22K a year, then it’s free. There is premium assistance between $22,001 to $30,000. The monthly premium rates are $60.50 for one person, $109.00 for a family of two and $121.00 for a family of three or more.

MSP is universal in that every Canadian is covered by the plan. However, universal is also a code word for, “hurry up and wait!” Yes, MSP will pay for that MRI scan, if you’re willing to wait six months to a year. This is why you see so many Canadians going to the US for treatment but not a single American coming to Canada for treatment. Unless your case is considered life threatening, you will be waiting far longer than a patient in the US with private/company medical.

Chances are, private medical in the US may cost more than $121 a month (depends on the company you work for) but I’m pretty sure that will be more than made up for by the higher income, lower taxes and lower cost of everything.

Why shouldn’t Canada be more like the US? You tell me.

BTW – I live in Vancouver. 😛

68 thoughts on “Why Shouldn’t Canada Be More Like The United States?”

  1. Moulinneuf says:

    BEEEEEERRRRRRRRR , BEEEEEEEEEERRRR and hockey , enough said 😉

    1. John Chow says:

      When was the last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup? 🙂

      1. If you want to classify “Canadian Team” based on the nationality of the players, then EVERY TIME. 🙂

        1. Hey John,

          Canada should perhaps be more like the United States in areas where the US is better. They aren’t better in everything though.

          In those areas, Canada should adopt things from other countries if they are better.

          Canada should also keep the good things that it has and not discard them because of pressure from other countries.

          The things you brought up are mostly true but everything needs to be viewed in larger context. Narrow comparisons can be misleading.

      2. Moulinneuf says:

        ask me when the season is over go habs go and go canucks go 😉

  2. Brent says:

    Hmmm well, we barely went though a recession… compared to the states where the unemployment rate went through the roof and killed local economies in certain cities (Detroit comes to mind). I don’t know about you, but I’d rather live in a stable country with some regulatory practices than one where I can barely have anything to fall back on. The beer is better too 🙂

    1. While both countries are pretty good, not everything is just about money to some people.

      Canada is gentler and more polite. It has a much lower deficit and it doesn’t print money at an ever increasing speed every year and thus diluting its value like they are doing in the States.

      The fact that prices are lower in the US is due to its 10 times larger market place and distribution channels.

      The corporate tax is actually lower in Canada now.

      The health care in the US is better on the surface. No waiting if you can pay. But more money is spent on healthcare there per caspita than in any other country in the world.

      Health insurance is multiple times more there too than in any other country and the general health of the population if only judged by life expectancy is at around number 30 or so in the world. Canada is doing better there.

      So much for getting value for your money in that area.

      The US is also said to have the largest prison population in the world per capita and in absolute numbers.

      It consumes the most drugs too, both legal and illegal.

      So while you named a lot of things that are better in the USA, and I could add plenty to those, not everything is better there than in Canada.


      1. Aaron Koo says:

        Good insight Vance. I agree. There are things that people would like from both sides, but unless you have unlimited wealth, you have to pick and choose what’s most important to you and vote for whoever will give you that.

  3. Emmet Gibney says:

    Using Vancouver as an example of how expensive Canada is probably a little extreme. We’re one of the most expensive cities in the world and our prices are artificially inflated.
    I just finished watching the documentary “Inside Job” about the financial crisis and the ridiculousness that goes on in the US financial industry, it reassured me that our financial regulations are justified and protect the average person from being pillaged by the wealthiest. I would also say that comparing average income is probably not as good an indicator as median income. The richest of the rich in the US make sooo much more than everyone else, but remove them as outliers and then how much does the average person make? Most people think that someone is “rich” when they’re making $100,000 or $200,000, but that is not really all that rich in the grand scheme of things. The problem in the US is not these people, it’s that their system is structured for the top 0.001% of people to make HUGE sums of money. Hundreds of millions or billions. The “average” American may be better off than before, but remove the richest of the rich and that equation falls apart.

    1. John Chow says:

      Remove the outliers and the results would be the same. If your assumption was true, then New York (Where most of the Billionaries and big bankers are) would be the highest earning city in Amercia. However, the average family income in New York is only $53,683.

      Average family income is based on taxable income. Here’s the thing, the super rich know better than to make taxable income. Mark Zuckerberg may be worth $15 billion but his taxable income is about $60,000. Steve Jobs may be worth $7 billion but his taxable income is $1.

      The same holds true for Canada too so this is an apple to apple comparison.

      1. I do not think that his taxable income is only $1 because I am sure there will be scope of wealth tax as well.

        1. John Chow says:

          Well, unless Steve has a job flipping burgers that we don’t know about, his taxable income is $1. That’s what Apple pays him for working there.

          At any rate, that’s not really the point for my comment. There are many ways to make money. Some are taxed and some are not and some are deferred. The rich know the way to get and stay rich is to make as little taxable income as possible and as much non taxable or deferred as possible.

  4. Rick McBride says:

    Well said! I always try to tell my friends down here who complain about medical this. But, you know what, we have the same medical here too for lower income families! And for kids, it’s only $15/month for all of them!Call me if you want to move to warm sunny Florida!

    1. I do not think that John will like warm or hot place.

  5. Abhik says:

    John!! Are you aware that Canada played in this year’s cricket world cup? In fact, Canada played in 4 cricket word cups.

    1. John Chow says:

      What does that have to do with this post?

      1. Abhik says:

        Nope!! Nothing.. Just trying to make you feel good after all that comparisons.. That’s all 🙂

  6. Joel says:

    I believe you have the power to influence how people think about this debate. This blog post is a good start. Although you may not want to become as polarized as the US is when it comes to politics.

  7. David Hodge says:

    Well for sure Canada health care is much better than United States?

    1. John Chow says:

      Canada’s health care is universal, meaning it’s available to every Canadian. As for being better. You’ll find tons of Canadians heading down to the US for treatment but not a single American heading to Canada for treating. Hmmm.

      1. So, You have just compared candians to usa people regarding the health care? Yes, i do agree, because us people do not go for treatment to canada. But canadian people go to usa for treatment.

        1. People that have the money go there so that they don’t have to wait.

          But a lot of Americans who aren’t so rich come to Canada to buy medical drugs because they are much cheaper in Canada.

          Why would that be, considering that just about everything is cheaper in the US?

      2. I wonder how many Americans go bankrupt paying for their health care? Canadians have to get in line for health care, but we aren’t left with a $20,000 hospital bill.

        1. John Chow says:

          You seem to think that health care insurance is bloody expensive in the US. It’s not. My wife was paying $20 a month for her US health insurance before we got married. Here’s a better question. I wonder many Canadians died waiting in line?

          1. If health care is so cheap in the US, then why is that 52 million people there can’t afford it? How many Canadians died waiting in line? Americans would like to think that the number is extremely large, but the fact is that there are no statistics on this. So you can only speculate on it, while 18,000 Americans die each year because they can’t afford health care or their insurance company is delaying in paying for it.

            If a Canadian wants private health care, why would they go the US? There are many private hospitals in Canada. There is a private hospital right across the street from Whole Foods in Vancouver.

            The health care system in Canada isn’t perfect, but unlike the US, its accessible to all people regardless of their income.

          2. John Chow says:

            All I know is Health insurance down here isn’t that expensive and there is assistance for those who need it. Like Rick said above, there is health care for low income family and kids only cost $15/month for all of them.

            Why are 50 million uninsured? Because most choose not to have it.

            According to the 2008 Census Bureau (I don’t have later stats), 17.7 million out of 46.9 million people with no health insurance make over $50,000 a year.

            9.3 million with no health insurance make over $75,000 a year.

            19.1 million with no health insurance are between the ages of 18 and 34. An age when you think nothing can hurt you. They represent 42.6 percent of uninsured.

            15.2 million uninsured are of Hispanic origin. We can guesstimate that a large percentage of those people are illegals.

            There are definitely people who legitimately need health care and can’t afford even $20 a month. But for most, not having insurance is a choice and not because they can’t afford it.

  8. dg says:

    The US govt is using debt to live far beyond what it can sustain. Canada’s debt is 40% of GDP, while the US’s debt is 100% of GDP. Including wars the US is spending $4000B/yr (growing at 16%) with revenues of only $2100B/yr (growing at 6%). US taxes need to be increased 90%, spending cut by 50%, or the dollar devalued by inflating the money supply (causing higher prices). Most likely there will be some combination of these, leading to a poorer future for the next generation.

  9. dg says:

    So overall, do you want your daughter to grow up as an American or Canadian?

    1. John Chow says:

      Other than the border that divides the two countries, there really isn’t that much cultural difference between Canada and the US. However, Sally will be able to choose her future because she’ll have both US and Canadian citizenship.

      1. One big difference is the guns anybody can buy and carry in the US.

        1. Michael Kwan says:

          The irony, as far as I can remember, is that there are more guns per capita in Canada than there are in the United States. How those people choose to use those guns is a different matter altogether.

          1. I’ll have to look into that Michael. I don’t know anyone in Canada that owns a gun and isn’t either a hunter, a policeman, a police woman or a professional soldier.

            I’ve heard of people from the US attending a church event in Canada who brought guns with them.

            I think that is where the difference lies. I understand that if everybody has a gun you’d want one too but traveling with it to another country is a bit too much perhaps, unless you are going for a hunting trip.

            As for the use of them, it may help to look at the statistics too.

          2. Michael I have checked the numbers for 2007 and the US is number one in the world with 88.8 guns per 100 inhabitants, almost double that of the next country.

            In 2007 Canada had 30.8 guns per 100 people (all this is talking of personal, hand held guns), which is slightly less than France and slightly more than Germany. (within 2 guns per 100).

            Contrast that with Mexico with 15 guns per 100 and China with 4.9 and India with 4.2 guns per 100.

            I don’t think that this has changed that much in the last 4 years.

            The US is still number one in personal gun ownership in the world and will continue to be so for a very long time.

          3. Michael Kwan says:

            I stand corrected. I think I picked up that mention from Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore).

          4. John Chow says:

            I think that was referring to a single neighborhood only. Kinda like the Downtown Eastside has the highest concentration of drug users and HIV infection in North America.

  10. work online says:

    Well,So many things are wrong with the bill. First of all, to have a common currency, we’d need to work in harmony politically, so we’d end up having to form our own version of the EU (Europe’s Economic Union). Our Constitution is simply not geared for something like that). Our national sovereignty cannot be breached. Our legislation cannot be influenced by foreign nations.

  11. Rick says:

    Well…in the US people like to shoot at each other a bit more than in Canada.
    They make more money, have more stuff, but are also more afraid. Weird.

    1. Radman says:

      Afraid? I don’t think so – that’s why we’re not afraid to shoot back.

    2. John Chow says:

      I think you can be afraid no matter where you live. I have no problem walking around my place in West Vancouver but I wouldn’t want to walk the streets of the Downtown Eastside or Surrey at night!

  12. Interesting post, judging from the comments it’s a little controversial but I think we can all agree on one thing… we all dislike paying taxes!

    1. PPC Ian says:

      That’s true! What really worries me: the thought of potential affiliate marketing taxes!

  13. Devon says:

    I thought you moved to Washington?

    1. John Chow says:

      I visit the US a lot but I don’t live there. However, that can change in the future since the Internet allows me to live anywhere in the world.

  14. Tyler says:

    They were saying on the radio yesterday that the US’s day where they stop paying for their taxes (via income) was yesterday. Where us Canadians have to keep going till about June/July until our income is our own 😉

    Then again, our taxes are higher, but our medical is better. It’s not free like people think it might be. I was on EI (employment insurance) and I still had to pay into MSP (Medical Service Plan). Granted if you make under a certain amount you don’t have to pay but on EI, and not having them bill me to my current location, I owe them $320. Oops

    Look at the other places that pay higher taxes, aren’t their medical and various other services better than ours?

    I hate taxes. The government never seems to be satisfied with what I have paid them and always wants more….

    1. John Chow says:

      The medical is not better. It’s just universal. Ask the guy who’s been waiting a year for a surgery, when he can get it done next week in the US, if it’s better.

      Before Sally was born, we did doctor visits in both the US and Canada so I had a good chance to compare the two. When we did the ultrasound in Canada, it was your normal ultrasound. The US hospital had a 3D color one. You can tell the US hospital was way more modern than BC Women’s.

      Keep in mind that my wife has private medical in the US that covers 3D ultrasounds and private rooms. In Canada, she’s covered by the universal MSP and has to accept whatever room/service they give.

      1. Michael Kwan says:

        American health care can be better FOR THOSE WHO CAN AFFORD IT (and/or have the appropriate medical plan). As a whole, Canadians have better health care because even the poorest of the poor can get help when they need it.

        “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

        This is (partly) why the Scandinavian countries consistently rank among the top when it comes to overall standard of living. If you’re talking solely about how the richest of the rich live, then you’re better off looking to a place like China.

        1. As for the number of the richest people in terms of billionaires the US still has the lead.

          Ironically the richest person in the world is not an American anymore. The oligarchs are growing faster in other countries right now and may soon overtake the total number of billionaires per country that the US boasts to have right now.

          1. John Chow says:

            The only reason Bill Gates is not the richest in the world is because he gave half his fortune away to his foundation. Also, if Sam Walton was still alive, he’ll be worth over $100 billion. Instead, the fortune is divided among five family members.

            I think Michael meant to say quality of life instead of standard of living. The two measurements are quite different. Income and taxes play a much bigger role in standard of living than quality of life.

  15. PPC Ian says:

    Interesting post! Are these some of the reasons you moved to Seattle, John?

  16. Joanne says:

    Right on the mark! I have been saying the same for years.
    Our political stances or climate may be different but the politicians and politics are poor in both countries.
    It’s true that we earn less AND pay more taxes, thus our take home pay is low. Add to that the fact that we pay more (considerably more in many cases) for just about everything from food to housing, it makes living a worry-free life (money wise) difficult. And then, if you aren’t careful throughout the year, you end up paying again at tax time. And the more you make, the more you pay which makes getting that promotion or pay incentive not worthwhile.
    Medical coverage is not better, just universal as many others have already stated. In the US, they don’t play the waiting game – you have a medical problem, you get medical care quickly. Sure, they pay out of pocket for health care insurance, but we pay too – we just don’t see the money first. I’m not saying that their medical system is perfect, but it does have it’s benefits over Canada.
    All in all, I’d say life in the US is monetarily better than in Canada. At least they are able to keep more of their hard-earned money!
    I love to vacation in the US – at least my money goes a little farther and we can enjoy ourselves more.
    Canada is a beautiful country that I love but I’m very Discouraged, especially since the more we earn, the more we seem to be struggling to get by…

  17. Allen Walker says:

    Why shouldn’t Canada be more like the US:
    – More income, but more divorce
    – Fancier houses, but broken homes
    – Faster foods, but slower digestions
    – Taller men, but shorter character
    – Steeper profits, but shallow relationships
    – More leisure, but less fun
    – More kinds of food, but less nutrition
    – Looking for world peace, but ignoring domestic warfare
    – Long on quantity, but short on quality
    – More computers, but less communication
    – Higher incomes, but lower morals
    – Always rushing, but seldom waiting
    – Writing more, but learning less
    – Planning more, but accomplishing less
    – Spending more, but having less
    – Buying more, but enjoying it less
    – Taller buildings, but shorter tempers
    – Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints
    – Bigger houses, but smaller families
    – More conveniences, but less time
    – More degrees, but less sense
    – More knowledge, but less judgement
    – More experts, but more problems
    – More medicine, but less wellness
    – More possessions, but less values
    – You can make a living, but not a life
    – Larger things, but not better things
    – More information, but less reading


    1. What as list.

      Some of it rings true but there are a plenty of beautiful people in America with great character and everything.

      When it comes to that, it’s always better to look at each individual rather than generalize.

      The house sizes are different in different states and regions. Not always bigger by any means everywhere than in Canada or other countries.

      Did you just make this list impromptu or have you had it for a while?

  18. guru says:

    You know, sometimes I wonder what the ruckus about universal healthcare is all about. With this article I may understand a bit, just a little because both US & CANADA are so far away from my world.

  19. The U.S. is so messed up:

    The economy is still bad

    Dumb laws keep getting looked at/passed

    We have Republicans that are more worried about Obama’s birth certificate than the well-being of the country (surprise, surprise)

    The rich (I’m talking billionaires) pay lower taxes than everyone else – Warren Buffett actually touched on this & said “I don’t pay enough in taxes.” When a billionaire makes a comment like this, you know something is wrong

  20. Mike says:

    Just a side note….There is a show on TV right now called SHARK TANK, the 2 Canadians led by Kevin O’Leary are running roughshot over their US counterparts. I laugh when I see how timid the American Sharks are.

    1. John Chow says:

      I expect nothing less from Kevin. 😛

  21. I thought you lived in Seattle. 🙂

  22. Bill Swain says:

    I only have one question. Why do wealthy canadians come to the U.S. for health care? Thanks for letting me comment Bill

    1. John Chow says:

      Because they don’t want to wait for their treatment. They rather just pay and get it done the next day in the US than get it free but face the stress of waiting to die.

  23. The U.S. is way better than Canada!!

    1. Ashish Patel says:

      Everyone Knows it 🙂

  24. fas says:

    And add to that Canada does not even have such a high tech military to justify the high tax.

  25. Entrepreneur says:

    Canada and the USA are two beautiful countries. These countries are different because different people live there. So, no wonder why Canada shouldn’t be more like The United States of America.

    1. I really do wonder, how you said different people live there. USA is of course a beautiful country till now, i ever seen. Canada still needs to get developed in lots of cases.

  26. Rick says:

    In Canada total tax and non-tax revenue for every level of government equals about 38.4% of GDP,[2] compared to the U.S. rate of 28.2%.
    A significant portion of this tax differential is due to spending differences between the two countries. While the US is running deficits of about 4% of GDP, Canada has consistently posted a budget surplus of around 1% of GDP. Considered in a revenue-neutral context, the differential is much smaller – Canada’s total governmental spending was about 36% of GDP[5] vs. 31% in the US. In addition, caution must be used when comparing taxes across countries, due to the different services each offers. Whereas the Canadian healthcare system is 70% government-funded, the US system is just under 50% government-funded (mostly via Medicare and Medicaid); adding the additional healthcare-spending burden to the above figures to obtain comparable numbers (+3% for Canada, +7% for the US) gives adjusted expenditures of 38–39% of GDP for each of the two nations.

  27. Every country is different we can’t expect all the things in different places

  28. Stephane says:

    this post = FAIL


  29. Johnny says:

    I have to advise more research on the health care issue, because some of the key points in this article are a little questionable.
    As a Canadian tax payer, I was confused as to why I was not familiar with the Canada Medical Service Plan, or that I had to pay for it if I was earning $30000 or more, so I took a moment to look it up…
    It turns out there are actually a good number of Canadians not even eligible for it, and I’m one of them. The article is not correct when it says that the “MSP is universal in that every Canadian is covered by the plan.”

    The reason I, as well as the majority of Canadians neither pay into nor receive benefits from MSP is that we don’t live in BC and therefor don’t qualify for BC’s provincial health care. There is no Canada Medical Service Plan. http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/msp/

    And aside from perhaps a few tragic cases I can really find no documentation on, nobody in Canada dies in line. Canadian doctors tend to know the difference in urgency between a patient needing emergency cardiac surgery and someone who needs to have surgery for an ankle plate. I had to wait a whole three days for that one. And I was approved by my health insurance provider after my Surgeon advised me it was a good idea

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