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Could Tucker be right?
December 10, 2004 7:06 AM   Subscribe

Canada's "Brain Drain" has been a growing concern among Canadians for a number of years. There are a number of reports (PDF) indicating that an increasing number of "highly skilled graduates in fields such as health, engineering and natural and applied sciences" have been heading south for work. There are guides to assist, first hand accounts, and even profiles of people who have left.
posted by purephase (29 comments total)

 
This is sort of in relation to what Tucker Carlson said in the quicktime video linked on this thread.

It is a concern for me personally as both my parents, and a number of co-workers have recently moved to the US in favour of higher salaries and supposedly lower taxes. A number of counter-arguments to the drain theory contest that a large volume of highly skilled foreign workers enter Canada each year which, apparently, offsets the cost of those who left.

Personally, I'm not so sure. I've met a number of people that have had a lot of problems getting the required documentation and/or certification to work in their respective fields. The heavily unionized workforce is also a large part of the problem in that it is very hard to find available compliments in fields that need it the most (Healthcare is a good example).

Also, this is my first FPP. Please be gentle. ;)
posted by purephase at 8:10 AM on December 10, 2004


Vancouver Craigslist always has tons of posts by Americans looking for a marriage of convenience so they can get the fuck out. I hope the asshole president, growing claustrophobia and plummeting American dollar help reverse this trend.
posted by ori at 8:17 AM on December 10, 2004


*clears throat, adopts "gentle" tone*

1999Filter.

Sorry, purephase, but this was manufactured news when Conrad Black's rags tried to turn it into a "crisis" during the internet bubble, and it's not at all surprising that almost all of your links date from '99 to early '01. A temporarily overheated US economy attracted a significant number of talented young folks, the right-wing press jumped on it and tried to drum it up into Exhibit A for the argument that Canada needed a more neocon economic policy, and the real world carried on with its regular ebb and flow of continental migration.

At a guess, I'd say the flow in the last two years favours Canadians coming home and Americans pondering moves north, not just because of the bombast of the Bush Administration but because the US has one of the weakest economies in the developed world at the moment.
posted by gompa at 8:25 AM on December 10, 2004


Paul Wells here, here and here talking about cutbacks in research funding in the U.S. and a drop in foreign student enrollments at U.S. universities. Apropos of nothing, except that Canada has been pumping additional funds into university research over the last decade: Wells's point, I think, is that it'd be foolhardy to cut back now. In a few years we may be talking about a U.S. brain drain to other countries, including Canada.
posted by mcwetboy at 8:34 AM on December 10, 2004


I'm with Gompa -- there has been much made recently about Canada's brain gain, due to its reputation as a great country to be employed as an academic, especially in lieue of what is happening in the US.
posted by krunk at 8:34 AM on December 10, 2004


PetCauseFilter?
posted by DrJohnEvans at 8:55 AM on December 10, 2004


I was part of the purported drain in 1995. Happily, I washed back three years later.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:45 AM on December 10, 2004


Bowtie Boy more or less said that Canadians need to move to the US in order to, I don't know, become fully-realized human beings.

I haven't owned a teevee since 1981 and halfwits like Tucker are the reason why.
posted by 327.ca at 10:05 AM on December 10, 2004


Sorry, purephase, but this was manufactured news when Conrad Black's rags tried to turn it into a "crisis" during the internet bubble, and it's not at all surprising that almost all of your links date from '99 to early '01.

Rags, eh? I can tell you're being completely objective here.

Anyway, almost every engineering professional I have spoken to agrees that the opportunities are far better south of the border. In fact, the only reason many engineering companies are able to exist in Canada is that they serve large customers in the States.

At a guess, I'd say the flow in the last two years favours Canadians coming home and Americans pondering moves north, not just because of the bombast of the Bush Administration but because the US has one of the weakest economies in the developed world at the moment.

I suspect that (for the moment, anyway) the truly manufactured news are the claims that vast amounts of Americans are just dying to come pouring over the border. Also, let's not delude ourselves as to what may happen to the Canadian economy should the American economy collapse.


Canada has been pumping additional funds into university research over the last decade: Wells's point, I think, is that it'd be foolhardy to cut back now.

I'm all for more research funding, but again, let's not kid ourselves. The combined research at Canadian universities has *a lot* of catching up to do if we ever hope to even come close.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:06 AM on December 10, 2004


Anyway, almost every engineering professional I have spoken to agrees that the opportunities are far better south of the border.

Only if by "opportunities" you mean "possibility of making vast, vast, vast wads of cash."

Every single engineer I know is happy to be in Canada. The big money isn't the be-all of most folks' existence.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:40 AM on December 10, 2004


My American partner came here (Toronto) to learn, got his 3rd and 4th degrees, met me, and decided to stay. Fortunately, the Canadian government's recognition of gay relationships made the immigration process possible... and, I dare say, respectful of us. Brain gain in action.
posted by stonerose at 11:04 AM on December 10, 2004


Brain gain in action.

Cool, stonerose.
posted by 327.ca at 11:30 AM on December 10, 2004


Only if by "opportunities" you mean "possibility of making vast, vast, vast wads of cash."

Actually I meant creative jobs in companies that have resources to allocate to innovation, rather than crappily managed sweatshop-style outfits concerned only with selling product (e.g. ATI) or the occasional government-subsidized testament to inefficiency and waste (e.g. Ontario Power Generation).

Are you also going to suggest there are more engineering jobs in Canada than in the States?
posted by Krrrlson at 11:46 AM on December 10, 2004


Are you also going to suggest there are more engineering jobs in Canada than in the States?

When, solid-one-love said "The big money isn't the be-all of most folks' existence, " I think he was being pretty clear.

Of course there are fewer engineering jobs here in Canada. But those who do work as engineers (my brother among them) find lots of satisfaction in their profession. Which was his point, right?
posted by 327.ca at 11:52 AM on December 10, 2004


Of course money is not the be-all of existence, but in some industries in Canada (and yeah, this is elsewhere as well) people are woefully underpaid.

Nurses and a lot of general practitioners in the healthcare system is a good case in point. I know of at least 3 doctors that have went south simply because they could work fewer hours, make a decent wage from those hours, and not be subject the vast bureaucracy which is the Canadian healthcare system.

Also, my sister is an RN. Most nurses are working 12+ hours a shift, are unbelievably bitter, and making as much as $15/hr. (they are talking about de-unionizing some shops and dropping some of these wages to $10-13/hr.).

People are going south. As I mentioned above, the influx of help from other countries (apart from some cases) has been coming-up against enormous roadblocks that were originally designed to protect Canadian jobs.
posted by purephase at 12:17 PM on December 10, 2004


in favour of higher salaries and supposedly lower taxes

HA. That's what I gotta say. Lower taxes if you're a corporation that hires good tax dodging firms like KPMG to find the US tax structure loopholes for you, but if you're just a lowly citizen, you're probably better off with the free healthcare/elder care.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:44 PM on December 10, 2004


please come, canadians! please help us win elections! we have hockey and beer, too!
posted by blendor at 1:09 PM on December 10, 2004


In fact, the only reason many engineering companies are able to exist in Canada is that they serve large customers in the States.

Uh...no shit...Canadian Economics 101...just about every industry in Canada largely serves customers in the U.S. simply because they are close and 10X our population. This in no way invalidates that the National Post was a blatantly political paper pushing Conrad Black's anti-liberal anti-tax right wing agenda. I don't think anybody objective would ever call the National Post objective (at least in those Black days when they ran charming editorials saying things like "Now is not the time for equality or human rights because the cdn business is struggling".). I don't know if they are better now because i never even see the paper anymore. but I can't imagine them being worse since you can't fall off the floor.

There will always be those who are drawn to the U.S. by the lure of greater opportunity for earning money or specific types of work just as there will always be those who stay or come to Canada because of the more compassionate egalitarian political & social environment.

I don't see this as a problem at all. In fact I think it is addition by subtraction. The U.S. gets those of us who are more American in their ideology and we get to keep the people who share Canadian Pinko values.
posted by srboisvert at 1:18 PM on December 10, 2004


I can tell you're being completely objective here.

Wasn't even pretending to be. I voted Green in the last federal election, and joined the NDP to help get Jack Layton elected its leader. I'm reasonably fine with being labelled a liberal/progressive. Subjective enough for you?

What follows is my informed but inherently subjective opinion.


How's that?

Okay. So in my unobjectively observed experience, media hype about the purported "brain drain" a few years back tended to appear on the front pages of Hollinger newspapers and the authorities quoted in such stories were very often researchers at the avowedly conservative Fraser Institute. And these stories tended, to my eyes, to reflect a general sense among certain sections of Canada's business and media elites that Canada was doomed to cataclysmic failure if it did not take action fast to further integrate its economy with America's and mimic American economic policy across the board in order to retain talented people. As far as I've seen, the cataclysmic failure of Canadian society has not yet materialized.

almost every engineering professional I have spoken to

Speaking of subjective sources . . .

Almost every engineering professional I went to university with works in Canada, though a few work in the US and a few others work on other continents entirely. My brother, an engineer, works for a defence contractor in Vancouver. I live in Calgary, and I frequently drive past buildings in which engineers are doing highly paid, highly skilled and innovative work - often related to the detection and extraction of gas and oil.

As for purephase's contention that medical professionals are going south, I'm sure it's possible that the tremendous disparity between Canadian and American healthcare policies (and Canada's well-known and widely discussed need for some serious reforms to its healthcare system) have created an imbalance in wages and opportunities in certain kinds of healthcare work. By the same token, and as many in this thread have already noted, there's a disparity in medical-research opportunities created by the Bush Admin's preference for religious dogma over scientific reason.

There is, in other words, a constant ebb and flow in the continental labour market in North America. And yet, owing perhaps to the fact that the vast majority of Canadians like living in Canada, the nation remains a viable one with no serious long-term shortage of talented, creative people capable of innovation on numerous fronts.
posted by gompa at 1:27 PM on December 10, 2004


Of course there are fewer engineering jobs here in Canada. But those who do work as engineers (my brother among them) find lots of satisfaction in their profession. Which was his point, right?

Ah, very well. The lucky few who can find quality engineering work and are not in danger of layoffs are very happy, despite the fact that odds are better south of the border.

Regardless of how happy the politically liberal engineers toiling in the Canadian paradise may be, the fact remains that it is easier to find creative engineering and scientific work in the States. Which was *my* original point as far as "better opportunities" are concerned.


I don't think anybody objective would ever call the National Post objective...

You are correct - we don't have an objective national newspaper.


And yet, owing perhaps to the fact that the vast majority of Canadians like living in Canada, the nation remains a viable one...

I would speculate it is the dominant reason. The only things keeping me in Canada are the desire to be near my family and the fact that I still like living here (for now, anyway). I am, however, pessimistic. With our extreme dependence on and proximity to the US and the inability of our public services to keep up with our growth despite very high taxation rates, and what I see as ridiculously stupid actions by our government, remaining viable is not guaranteed. But that, of course, is a whole other debate for another time. For now just take this as my uninformed opinion and leave it at that.
posted by Krrrlson at 2:35 PM on December 10, 2004


Of course money is not the be-all of existence, but in some industries in Canada (and yeah, this is elsewhere as well) people are woefully underpaid.

I'm not an engineer, and I'm woefully underpaid compared to equivalent positions in the urban US. This isn't endemic merely to engineers.

Like I said, the big money ain't everything. At triple my current wage, a corner office, regular ego-stroking, stock options and the opportunity for innovative and creative work that wil be emulated for generations to come...

...I still wouldn't apply for that job in the States.

Regardless of how happy the politically liberal engineers toiling in the Canadian paradise may be

The politically conservative engineers appear happy, too.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:42 PM on December 10, 2004


In health care, at least, this seems to be the case. I listen to CFCO radio (from Windsor, Ontario) every day during my commute, and Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital is forever in the news for having to send all but emergency patients to other cities for treatment. They punctuate these stories with MPPs debating on how to keep their doctors from "defecting" to the US. My mom recently had minor surgery, and her nurse had an obvious Canadian (or Ontarian, at least) accent. I asked him how long he'd lived in the US, and he replied that he still lived in Canada, but worked in the US for the $$.
posted by Oriole Adams at 5:21 PM on December 10, 2004


for crying out loud, people come and go, it's what humans do, have always done, and always will. also, in my personal experience most of the folks who move away for career reasons eventually come back, just as i did. lately i notice people choosing to move to europe instead of the states tho'. also, i have family that's been in the states for nearly 40 years and they can't return home fast enough, due to the current administration and overall political c

Krrrlson, you make it sound as tho' canada has 10 engineers who rely solely on american contracts and happen to be in complete financial and personal misery. buck up buddy...! it's not the end of the world.

one of the larger engineering firms (which is employee owned) in canada does business with the entire world not just the usa, and has offices all over the globe - the 400 or so engineers working at the oakville compound alone seem to be a pretty happy bunch; it's quite a creative company that's constantly expanding, and making a great deal of money - not relying solely on american contracts at all.
posted by t r a c y at 5:46 PM on December 10, 2004


erm, "overall political climate"
posted by t r a c y at 5:47 PM on December 10, 2004


Anyway, almost every engineering professional I have spoken to agrees that the opportunities are far better south of the border.

This is odd. Nearly every engineering professional I know has recently been through a layoff and would describe the current job market as very, very tough.
posted by weston at 7:30 PM on December 10, 2004


Well, perhaps we can all agree that things are worse in Malawi, where the nurses and doctors have mostly either died of AIDS or fled to Britain in search of a living wage. In other words: have some perspective.
posted by stonerose at 8:27 PM on December 10, 2004


I live in the US for now (not a US citizen), and do research for a living. This is a great country for that, but immigration laws are getting tougher every day. I am in the processes of getting the green card, but if that does not work I may be going north of the border to Canada. It looks immigration laws are less stringent
posted by dov3 at 9:19 PM on December 10, 2004


Darn, that is process
posted by dov3 at 9:20 PM on December 10, 2004


The United States has 10 times the population as Canada; in all industries, there will be more openings than in Canada, and in certain niche industries this will be exagerated (Silicon Valley, Holleywood, Nasa, etc.). I would rather not work in the States when I graduate, but I would be looking for a job in a university, and there are thousands in the U.S. where there are only dozens in Canada. That's no reflection on quality of life in Canada; having lived in both places, I believe I would be much better off at home. But a job is a job.

That said, it's one thing to talk about the differences in the size of the economies, and another to come out of left field (as one of the links does) with the assertion that high taxes are the cause of the brain drain. Because, as a Globe and Mail article pointed out a little while ago, personal income taxes are now the very similar for most medium to medium-high income people (and definitely higher for low income people). This was before Bush's tax cuts, but since Chretien, Canada has had a very low maximum tax level compared to most of the developed world, and I think lower than the U.S. (at least before the most recent set of cuts).

Moreover, if you look at government spending in relation to the GNP/capita (with the recognition that all government spending comes from taxes, direct or indirect), the U.S. has a much higher rate than Canada.

So how does the logic work then? How can people be fleeing Canada due to the high taxes when they are heading somewhere with higher taxes? Where they will also have to deal with two tax regimes? (Not fun - I can give personal witness to that.)
posted by jb at 11:15 PM on December 11, 2004


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