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Subject:RE: Trying to flee the country (really long) From:KMcLauchlan -at- chrysalis-its -dot- com To:techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com Date:Thu, 27 Apr 2000 12:26:17 -0400
Have I missed an ADMIN warning on this thread? I sorted by thread title,
by Admin in the subject line, and did a search for Eric in the "From:"
The topic is the possibility of moving from the US to - in this case --
Canada, and working as a technical writer.
Here in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, the market is damn fine for anybody
with engineering, software/firmware/hardware design, telecomms and
network or.... technical writing qualifications and experience.
Housing and other costs are only starting to climb, in response to the
high-tech boom, so what passes for a good income in most of Canada
is quite comfortable around here (not like some areas of the US, where
they've had the boom for a while and you need an immense salary just
to afford housing within 50 miles of your work).
My suggestion is to get here now, and not wait until the boom proceeds
much further and housing (and other aspects of living) begin to get
expensive, scarce and otherwise uncomfortable. (Remember though,
that the delay, between when the American economic boom started
and when the Canadian one finally did, was entirely due to politicians,
and they can do it again... yer takes yer chances.)
FURTHER ADVICE to anybody moving here from out-of-country, please
don't let your eyes glaze over or your attention wander when your
interviewer mentions "standard benefits". That earlier post about the
Toronto mayor being made to wait for many hours to have his chest pains
investigated... was not an urban legend. That's how "health care" now
works around here. Many Canadians are still caught in the rosy glow
of yesteryear and can't quite see the rapid decline.
DO NOT get sick without extended private health-care benefits.
(Anecdote: I waited for four hours in a hospital "emergency" room
with my76-year-old mother-in-law, who had two broken wrists, a broken rib,
neck problems and some other damage from a front-loop down the stairs, then
we gave up, went for food and came back for another three hour wait, until
well after midnight. Of course, in all that time, she had no pain relief
and certainly, no anxiety relief - one is supposed to refrain from
complicating possible injuries and their eventual diagnosis by ANY
kind of self-medication before professional examination.
There are still stories of prompt, effective, caring treatment, but those
are now exceptions.)
If you (as an American, most likely) have private, portable health
insurance... MAINTAIN IT when you come here. Most of us native
Canadians do not have it, because we've had decades of not needing it,
and are sadly out of practice at taking responsibility for ourselves.
Moreover, that "free" Medicare we get is anything but free. We pay at
least as much as Americans do for similar care, only the money is taken
before we ever see it. Crafty accounting and reporting by government
deludes many Canadians, as well as many Americans who used to
demand "Health care like Canada's" - notice you don't hear those
demands so much, lately? Our politicians and bureau'rats exclude
capital costs - buildings and other large purchases - from their public
statements, while published American health-care costs DO include
the costs of the hospitals and not just the costs to run them, thus
the phony differential that gets so much play in the media.)
But now, our single-payor system is breaking down and we are not ready.
You'll be walking into the accelerating stages of the decline. Keep
your insurance if you can - probably you can maintain it, while getting
some deep discounts on the premiums.
Posters who extol the subsidized post-secondary education are
carefully overlooking the inherent moral consideration. They chose
to bear and raise kids, while (for example) my wife and I chose not (or
perhaps were unable to), but the extollers are willing and proud
to make us pay for putting their kids through school. By so doing, they
teach their kids that it's the thing to do, to force somebody else to
carry your weight. There's a LOT of that in Canada. Yes, we here in
Canada are seeing a general moral decline. It's been institutionalized
for so long that it has finally filtered down to ordinary citizens ... and
You'll be walking into that as well. Sheer inertia and a thinly-spread
population will tend to keep our overt crime rate relatively low for
some time, but by the time your toddler is in high-school, you can
expect rates and intensity to be very similar on this side of the
Do not be lulled by comfy rebuttals to the "62.5% tax bracket" remarks.
While it is true that marginal income tax rates mean you don't pay
literally 62.5% of your entire income in income tax, there are many
other government hands in your pocket. Do the math on the 15% sales
tax on all goods and services (yes, some provinces forego their portion
on groceries, but not all). Do some more math on our fuel taxes. The
direct cost for gas you put in your own vehicle (or pay for in your
public transit costs) is the least of it. Every item you will ever purchase
in Canada was carried on at least one truck. More than 40% of transport
fuel costs are taxes, which become part of the cost of everything that
gets transported. At my nominal salary (well over 50K, but well under
100K Canadian) I (unwillingly) work for government for more than half
of each year.
You will too.
If you move here from a southern state, be prepared to pay significant
bucks to keep your home heated - buy a newer home, or one with an
upgraded heating system and good insulation. Note that the state you
are leaving probably sells much of the food that you will buy in Canada,
but that it is bought by our retailers in American dollars that each cost
of our Canadian bucks (the currency you will be paid in, if you move here)
plus the long-haul shipping charges. If you've been in Florida, there's
a *reason* you always hear visiting Canadians exclaiming at how cheap
the food and booze is (even when they include their dollar-exchange costs).
Canada is still a fairly nice place to live, and Ottawa is one of the
nicer areas (if you don't mind a bit of winter... <g> ), but to a
degree, the physical and cultural niceness of the place is achieved
at the expense of other Canadians who don't live here. It's called The
National Capital Commission, and it uses everybody's tax dollars to
beautify the national capital region and to support cultural events and
venues that the local tax-base would not.
Toronto, a larger center with a bigger industrial and high-tech base,
is farther along the curve. It ain't no Los Angeles or Nu Yawk, but
for a Canadian city it is well above the curve with respect to pollution,
crime and unconscionably-long commutes... oh, and poor people and
homeless people - Toronto is, though, exporting their squeegee-kid
problem. Property is expensive there, by Canadian standards. That
means, if you are selling an American home to come here, a Toronto
house might seem amusingly inexpensive - but if you intend to be a
first-time home-owner, while paid in Canadian bucks, the cost of
housing will be at least comparable (percentage-of-salary-wise) to
the place you are leaving. Also, you do *not* get to deduct the cost
of your mortgage anywhere in Canada. On the other hand, Toronto's
a thriving metropolis with lots to recommend it, and local salaries are
generally competitive on the local market. A competitive salary in
Toronto will make you as comfortable with the costs there as you
would be with a smaller salary in a less-expensive city.
Try the West Coast, and most of those remarks apply to Vancouver,
as well... and the weather is much milder.
Back in Ottawa, if you were a moderately-qualified engineer, you
could get a job here with your eyes closed, and just about any local
high-tech firm would gladly sponsor you and pay for your move.
As a technical writer, well, you are probably well-accustomed to being
in somewhat less demand than engineers, but it should still be fairly
easy for someone with solid experience. If you are a technical editor,
may I suggest that you come here as a technical writer and THEN
reveal your true colors? :-)
Either way, there's plenty of room for a bit of additional competition,
here, so c'mon over. Bonus: we're as polite here as the most genteel
Deep South, but we don't have the red-necks. So, if you are black
or any other "visible minority" you trade decreased chill from prejudice for
a bit more chill from the weather. That might not be as true on the
West Coast, but it's certainly true here. My wife is visibly part-black,
and it is
totally a non-issue here. While we might love to move to warmer places
such as the Carolinas or Florida, or the Gulf Coast, the expectation of
insane harassment or diminished acceptance and opportunity, makes us