Newcomers View

On Traffic
Canadians and immigration
Canadian Mysteries
Eh hey!
It's peaceful dammit!
On Pierre Elliot Trudeau
These are a few of my favourite things

On Traffic

So there I was fighting my way through the 401 gridlock, dodging the potholes, cell phone-wielding yuppies in their Lexus and immigrant's in their rust and faith, when I remembered I needed to write an article.
What to write…what to write …when all of a sudden it hit me. Another damn pothole! Providence at last. Time to rant about a few annoying aspects relating to the roads in and around Toronto.
Toronto is one of the biggest cities in Northern America and yet it boast's a major arterial highway that would make a few third world countries ashamed to talk about. All right I realise that the 401 probably carries more traffic per day than most third world countries per decade but is that any reason for the continuous degradation of the road to such a state that it makes driving along akin to a few of the Wonderland rides? I also realise that the differences in seasonal weather must add a toll. I still wonder though why it is that with all the supposed expertise and technical know how there is no-one in Ontario who has come up with a reasonable way to surface highways so that they last more than a few months. On asking I was told that the best highways in Canada are built in Alberta but as the informant was an Albertan there may have been a degree of bias there. Even if there wasn't perhaps Ontario may do a little fact-finding trip. After all it would be cheaper than the overseas jaunts everyone is so keen on. I wonder whether this may be planned obsolescence in order to add to the employment figures? Or does the Highways Dept. realise that it is losing a battle to the continuous juggernaut of overloaded behemoth thundering along over the speed limit, and no longer cares?
Either way my immigrant special is losing more rust every day as I do the roller coaster to work.
So turning into Yonge St., the longest street in the world I am told, and successfully dodging the Yonge/Sheppard valley of death we come to another Highways Dept. mind-boggling puzzle. Not that this is endemic to Yonge St. It appears in every street in Toronto. In every suburb and nearby town. I am of course talking about the need to place manhole (sorry but I haven't worked out the PC term yet) covers slap bang in the middle of the street in such a way as too catch at least one of your tyres no matter how much manoeuvring you have space to do. Of course over the years the height of the covers has remained the same, while the level of road surface has increased. Just the right amount to catch the whole tyre fully. In the snow and rainy season this helps to camouflage the depth and exact location. This has come to the attention of planners in newer areas where they build the covers so that they stick up at least six inches. The only way to equal out the damage done to the suspension is to map out a route that takes into account new and old residential areas. Still the most puzzling part of this is why these covers are there at all. What is down there that access is needed by having to close off whole streets at a time? Why can't that be placed in more convenient places?
Or is it, as MAD magazine once suspected, some alien form of life that is covertly occupying our planet and driving us insane? Maybe that was traffic-calming circles?
Speaking of which I must applaud the local traffic wizard who attended a congress where the concept of synchronization was put forward. For those of you unaware this is supposedly where you work out how long it would take for a car, travelling at the speed limit to move from a stop at one set of traffic lights to the next set. A simple easy way to ensure that the traffic remains at a reasonably steady flow. It also tends to lower the speed limit to one approximating the legal speed and lastly it saves on petrol use. Given the fluctuating prices at the moment this last is probably the most important one for all of us.
Now if I may be so bold can someone let me know just who this genius at the conference was? I need to point out to them that this whole concept works so much better if the synchronization is done using the “green” lights. Rather than, as at the moment, the Red!
I defy anyone to travel anywhere in Toronto, at the speed limit, without being caught continuously light after light. Frustrating. Really, really, frustrating!
Which just about sums up my daily commute. Shin-splints from driving a car. A hole new experience!

Canadians and immigration

Sometimes you just need to do a serious look at life.
OK I do have a vested interest in the following comments if for no other reason than that I am a fully landed immigrant. I have the papers and lack of money to prove that point! So now, a few years down the line, it is time to have a look at an area of concern that needs to be addressed by Canada. If of course Canada wants to actually admit that it's immigration policy is a farce.
It took me almost two years to get my papers. During that time I had to prove I wasn't a criminal and that I had no disease that would be a drain on the health system. (These appeared to be more important than other criteria). In addition I had to have the educational and working experience that would add to the economy and ensure that I became a valid member of society. In other words get work, pay taxes and don't get sick!  All good, and normal, criteria, for any country to want from potential citizens.
Except for the little quirks that most of this entailed.
Strangely I had to prove I didn't have TB or Syphilis. No problem there. But I do come from the country that has the highest rate of AIDS in the world and there was no attempt to ensure that I was not HIV positive. Considering that TB and STD's are curable and cost a few dollars to fix while AIDS isn't and is a serious drain on the health system this raised my eyebrows somewhat. I couldn't get any serious answer as to why it wasn't necessary to test me either (as an aside the answer is No and I would have been happy to have the test!). Seems to me that any country that can try to deport an eighty-year-old woman as a “drain on the healthcare system” can demand that potential immigrants have an HIV test. After all they don't even pay for any of the testing. The immigrant has to!
I then had to get a Police Clearance certificate stating I was not a criminal. Oddly enough the fact that most criminals can buy their certificates seems not to have been a factor here. Nor was the fact that in most third world countries the police are the criminals anyway.
In case I decided to lie about whether I had syphilis the test was undertaken by Canadian appointed doctors and laboratories. OK fair enough, but as I pointed out earlier, for the rest, I merely had to get a commissioner of oaths to certify that my documents were true “copies” of my records. Once again bribery as a factor seems to be overlooked.
After all that and a hefty little right of landing fee and having proved that I had enough money to keep me alive for three months I was given 9 months to get myself into the country. At which stage the real test of immigration starts. At some other time I will write about attitudes toward immigrants and why they ultimately become successful entrepreneurs, but for the time being let's stick to the actual immigration policy.
If I knew back then what I know now I probably would have jumped on a plane and claimed political refugee status. Not only would I have been placed in accommodation and given food, but a serious attempt to place me in a working environment would have been made. In addition none of the checks made on serious immigrants would have to be done or, if they were, then seemingly it takes years for them to be “lost” by concerned workers who apparently have an agenda different to the regulations laid down. Claim “refugee status' and a whole new set of rules comes into play. Although I have this nagging doubt that my case would not have been treated the same way, however.
I don't know whether this is a result of the almost pathological need for Canadians to be liked or it's a result of the collective guilt, induced by decades of left wing dogma, inculcated in the national psyche. What I do know is that when it comes to criminal activity and being a drain on the welfare and healthcare systems the persons who seem to be the most visible are the immigrants. If the names, and a glance at the photographs accompanying newspaper articles, are anything to go by. Not to mention the, by now common, comment that the perpetrator has been “deported before”.
To put it bluntly - if you want to come to Canada legally, become a hard working tax-paying regular citizen this is only achieved after some major hurdles. If you have criminal intent, wish to take advantage of the system or merely want to jump the queue because you haven't got the correct qualifications then feel free to do the refugee route because you're guaranteed a smooth passage.  
It worries me, and the many other immigrants I know, that we are all going to be tarred with the same antagonism that is slowly building up in Canada toward illegals, because in the end it is hard to distinguish who is here to become a valuable citizen and who is here to take advantage of the situation.
More than anything Canada needs to change the laws that govern both immigration and refugees. Maybe they need to change the Government but until I can legally become a citizen I will have to leave that up to you!
Now I am going to end on an upbeat note. When I landed at Pearson and had gone through the full immigration process, my papers stamped and that all important number inked in my passport and before I was thrust out in to the cold autumn air the young lady who had handled the process looked at me and said:
“Welcome Home”
That was one of the few times in my life I have got reasonably emotional.
What a good touch!
Which is why I have stuck it all out and am determined to be a good Canadian citizen.

Canadian Mysteries

So…. having been nice and kind about Canada and some of the reasons why I like it here…how about a few "Great Canadian" mysteries as seen from the eye's of an old, cynical and jaundiced immigrant.
As most of you will be aware by now I have a total abhorrence of that particularly foul habit that abounds whereby spitting appears to be condoned and ignored. I have yet to hear a plausible explanation as to why it is far unhealthier to smoke than to spit. Thousands of dollars, and words, are expended with particularly spiteful venom, on persons who dare to get hooked on the demon weed and not be contrite enough to apologise. At the same time it seems fine to have anyone passing on all manner of germs by aiming a dollop of mucus at whatever is handy. Mainly the sidewalk outside any store I note. Actually very often the sidewalk outside the local schools but as any mention of the lack of morals, manners and intelligence in the youth of this country brings all manner of violent retribution down I think I had better gloss over this. Suffice it to say that someone needs to start a campaign against this abominable habit before the major pollution in the Great Lakes is caused by bodily fluids rather than big business.

The second great mystery that amazes me is the "Great Highway Stop". I travel to work on the QEW every day and without fail, everyday, there is a snarl up of monumental proportions. Now the mystery to this is…. WHY? I have yet to come across anything that would cause the traffic to stop and start the way it does…. except when the one time there was an accident and the OPP closed the highway and diverted the cars. Subsequent investigation proved that it was a mild bumper bashing and the need to divert traffic off a major arterial route rather than try to control it with good old-fashioned hand waving still baffles me. Still it did provide a reasonable explanation as to why the traffic was stopped for 10 kilometres back.  My main theory is that Canadians are addicted to coffee and this is their way of ensuring that they can drink it at leisure while morosely pretending that they would rather go to work. It could, of course, be as a result of the steam from the coffee fogging up the windows and making it harder to see out at the traffic ahead. As everyone knows Canadians are law abiding and so they would slow down to a crawl so as to follow the two-second rule. At least the presence of Tim Horton's mugs clutched in virtually every car lends credence to this theory. Even the big rig drivers using the left lane as their personal racetrack seem to be addicted to this beverage. At least, during the morning rush hour, when they actually attempt to follow the regulations with a modicum of grace. As an aside here I should point out that at any other time should you wish to miss the normal juggernaut stampede then all that is required is for you to drive in the right hand lane as it is quite empty. I am still however amazed by the "great slow down" and the reason why this occurs and I intend one day to track down the cause of this.

Of course at the moment the “great slow down” is as a result of the truck drivers having a go-slow to protest the rising price of fuel. Aside from the stupidity of annoying the very people who they should be attempting to coerce to their point of view, there is only one question that needs to be asked……Now that the truck drivers have shown that they CAN drive at under the speed limit will they carry this over to normal everyday activities??………….
But this leads on to another of the mysteries. This one is why Canadians put up with all sorts of situations so meekly? It is almost as if the collective psyche has been bashed with so much political correctness and anti-sexism/ racism/ageism and any other `ism that is currently in vogue, that they have retreated from reality. It is probably easier than having to actually have an opinion on anything in case you get accused of perpetuating some foul deed that is not politically correct anyway.  Well no that's wrong! It's having an opinion and voicing it that seems to be the problem. Unless you're part of the “loony left” in which case screaming your opinion seems mandatory. I digress I'm afraid because what I was actually trying to point out is the fact that petrol has risen almost 75% over the time that I have been here and there appears to be a general acceptance of this as a fait accompli. No great shouting, screaming from the great unwashed…just a resigned acceptance. Of the rise, and the rubbish that is given as an excuse for nothing other than greed! Elsewhere Governments have been toppled for less.
For the time being and bearing in mind my comments about political correctness permeating the Canadian psyche like an unfettered virus my last great mystery involves Canadian women. I had been led to believe that Canada was the front-runner in the liberation of women. That Women's Lib had unshackled the fetters and set free the sisterhood to claim their rightful spot in the lemonlight. And to all intents and purposes that is my impression. But.. and this is the puzzling part of all this freedom…. why do I see so few Happy Canadian women?  Have they forgotten how to laugh and smile? Is it a defense mechanism? Is it to show that they have equality and can now be as big a bastard as any man? Or is it as I suspect? That deep down they really aren't happy? For all the talk of equality I find it amusing to see two sections of any newspaper that shout out that there is a problem in this country with the sexes. I am of course referring to the “Lonely Hearts” columns and the adverts for Strip joints. Can the two be intertwined? I think we should be investigating this. It could take some time, as these are the two biggest parts of any paper aside from adverts that is. In the interests of good investigative journalism I believe that I will need to undertake a good portion of the legwork myself. Unfortunately I cannot start my journey in Mensa because this is one of the few areas where I have found happy women. So maybe it is as I pointed out earlier. Because it is inadvisable to be seen to have any form of opinion that may upset the Gualitiers of the PC brigade, are women only being happy in the comfort of relaxed surroundings? I think we should be told!
Ah well a few thoughts to stimulate debate. Feel free to tackle me (especially if you're a women) at the next meeting and we can commiserate. But in case you're wondering if I have run out of Canadian mysteries…. until next time.

Eh hey!

By now, and thanks to a beer commercial, most people are aware that all Canadians say “eh?” When they aren't eating blubber, living “oot” of igloos and mistaking hockey violence as a way to solve problems, that is.
As an aside, isn't it ludicrous that a rather over the top commercial should be responsible for instilling at least some degree of patriotism into Canadians for a change?
Mind you I would rather hear “the rant” and it's “I am Canadian” finish than have to put up with the asinine, brain dead “wassup” that appears to define beer drinkers to the south of us. And theoretically both countries have sprung out of the same rootstock!
Which brings me back to the use of language.
When I first landed here I picked up that “eh” was a word used in many different ways but mainly as the interrogative end to a sentence. An afterthought. And you weren't really supposed to take it literally and answer. Although this can, and did, lead to some interesting discussions.
What is fascinating though is that there is an almost identical word that is used in both South Africa and Australia. In both countries it varies with pronunciation and use. Australians say “A” and South Africans say “Hey”. All three countries pronouncing it in such a similar fashion as to make it the one word that doesn't need translation or alcohol to understand.
The Australians however tend to use their ay at the beginning of the sentence. “A Bruce wot ya doing?” or “A Bruce fancy a frostie?”. Most of the ones I have met, and suffered hangovers with, anyway! So it is more of an exclamation than the others are.
Canadians tend to use the ”eh” as a question and tack it on to the end of a sentence. Any sentence. In some cases all sentences. And as I said earlier it really is not supposed to be answered. If an answer is required then a quick second “eh” is normally added after a reasonable break to allow you to slot in a comment. Say a nano-second or two. “Did you see the puck careen off his head eh! Eh?”
For real round the clock use of the word though you can't beat South Africans. It's used as a noun, verb, adjective, question mark, exclamation mark and any other form of communication you can come up with. And many that you probably couldn't, or wouldn't!
For instance for sheer heart stopping terror nothing quite beats the following:
“Are you tuning me skeef hey!?!” (Don't ask. You wouldn't understand).
When delivered through the toothless mouth of a barfly that has dabbled in the deep end of the family gene pool for too long, this has the potential to make even a Maple Leaf fan think twice. Of course when the same comes from the mouth of a spotty, twelve year old oink (and it does!) then the result is generally mirth, but that is another story. Mind you I have seen the same look of sheer terror pass the features of many women there, whenever the barfly's relatives feel it necessary to use their classic pick up line. “ So tell me hey. How about %^*%^& hey?” (Once again please don't ask!)
So the question that is puzzling me is how these similar words appear to be used in such different locations. The only common factor I can find is that all three countries were British Colonies at one time. I can't find a similar use of a word in the UK though. And how do you explain that the United States does not appear to have the same word as part of their vocabulary? It's an interesting anomaly.
It would be fun to track down where this use first originated. And why. More importantly how it came to be such a staple amongst three countries that, theoretically at least, are so different.
I can't find any other similar words or phrases in use by all three countries either. This may be as a result of my inability to translate some of the locals' vernacular. Or them mine.
At least nowadays when I use “Hey” no one thinks I'm taking the Mickey anymore. Either my own accents softening or Canadians around me are becoming more tolerant. Given the contents of the follow up ad, that may change though. So I am studiously learning all there is about hockey and baseball and changing my use of “hey”.
And just what's wrong with beaver eh?

It's peaceful dammit

I'm almost two years into my life in Canada now. Two years of what I will probably look back on and describe as “interesting”! Two years of still grappling with the vast cultural difference that I really didn't realize existed in my original naivety. Ah well at least it makes for some interesting discussions on occasions. Thank goodness I'm fairly large sometimes!
I'm still surprised at how often I get asked by Canadians,
 “So how do you like Canada (eh?)?
It is like a Pavlovian reaction. Hear an accent. Enquire as to length of stay. Ask the question. The intriguing part is that it is always the same question. No variation on the basic theme. It is always - how do I like Canada! I've never been asked how I like Canadians. How I like the country. How I like Ontario. Why I am here. What I think of the people or politics. What the differences are. How I am coping with the differences.
So here's the very simple answer. I wouldn't be here if I hadn't done my homework on the country, it's people and it's customs. I am a Mensan after all. I chose to come to Canada for what, I reasoned, that it offered to my children and me. Simple. And, I suspect, the exact same reason every other legal immigrant has for coming here.
When Canadians learn I am from South Africa they then say,
“I hear it is such a beautiful country”. Followed by a sigh. Not always mine I may add.
Well yes. God certainly had a hand in shaping the geographic environment. I think sometimes that the Devil decided to balance things out by dabbling with the people there but that is another story.
The funny thing is that no South African ever asks anyone they think is an alien “So how do you like South Africa (hey?)? We just automatically assumed that they knew how beautiful it was. The first questions that are asked revolve around whether the visitor had seen this or that or the other. Done this or that. Eaten or drunk this or that! If it was suspected that they might not have, then a major effort was made to ensure that they did. Honour was at stake! Every conceivable thing that could be thrust upon the unsuspecting visitor was! Including the ubiquitous “braai”. This, to the uninformed, is a Barbeque where copious quantities of meat and alcohol are consumed. This explains why visitors nearly always go home weighing more than when they arrived desperately needing cholesterol testing. Clutching enough film of obscure places that never make it into the guidebooks to keep Kodak's shareholders smiling. Not to mention the souvenirs of carved wooden giraffes that need an airline seat of their own to be taken home.
So here's a small wake up call to Canadians. Actually from what I have seen this country has some of the most astounding scenery around. And some very interesting places to visit and things to do. I am coming to the sneaky suspicion though that most Canadians know very little about their own country and indeed have seen even less.
When I talk to them about certain parts of Canada I also get the “I hear” line. “I hear that Alberta is quite nice”. “I hear that the train ride through the Rockies is beautiful”. I'm still trying to find someone who has traveled extensively throughout Canada. Whenever I hear people discussing their plans for a vacation, future or past, it always seems to involve travel outside the country. If inside the country it seems to be the Cottage Country getaway. The same getaway every year. When I ask if they have been to the Maritimes or BC or indeed the outer reaches of Ontario I mostly get told that “someday” they intend to do it. That is if I get a verbal answer rather than “the look”! The “are you crazy? Why go there when I can laze in the sunshine at some over-priced resort and be waited on?”look!
OK I admit that travel is cheap here. That going to Europe, the UK or the many Islands in the Caribbean is affordable. Even with the Dollar exchange traveling down in the America's seems to be inexpensive too. It is exciting to have tales of overseas travel under your belt. Makes you seem both glamorous and rich (probably the main reason for doing it!), but maybe it is time to get to know your own country and all it's splendour. Before the immigrants do it and become annoying in their smug knowledge of the country.
I seriously suspect that the reason Canadians ask the question is because they are unsure of the country themselves. They feel a little guilty about that and need some reassurance.
Which is why I never allow my warped sense of humour to get the better of me and answer in the negative. I may just try that someday to see if I would get a reaction, but you know, I think that the Canadians damn politeness when dealing with “multicultural sensitivities” would probably overcome any desire to tell me to “go home”.
I hear Mexico is warm this time of the year.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau

It has taken the death of Pierre Trudeau to really make me sit up and take notice of a particular problem here in Canada. Perhaps that should be Ontario rather than Canada though. I get most of my news from the local media.
Because of the continuous media coverage of his life and times it has afforded me the opportunity to quickly get an education in the past 30 years of Canadian history especially from a political viewpoint.
First of all let's get rid of my thoughts on Trudeau. Was he a good politician? Without a doubt! Was he a good father? It really seems so. Was he a patriotic and determined Canadian? Did he believe in and love his country? Absolutely.
He was also a very good at being a playboy, messing up the economy, bulldozing unneeded and unnecessary laws through parliament and ignoring the wishes of the vast majority of Canada's citizens. When he wasn't alienating large portions of the provinces, getting rid of the defence force and laying the groundwork for dubious social experiments that is.
What he wasn't, was a statesman! Statesmen are few and far between and Pierre Elliot Trudeau does not and never will fit into that category. Statesmen work ceaselessly and tirelessly for the good of all men and states and not just their own secular self interest. If I have to think of two persons that would fall into this category then I would suggest Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela as role models. With these two men in mind can anyone seriously tell me that Trudeau has the stature to be classed in the same category?
I also doubt that Trudeau would have liked the hysterical self-pitying adulation that was thrust upon him in his passing. For all his faults I think he would have found it ironic that the selfsame press that disgusted him should put forward such a fawning display at his death.
Which brings me to the problem that I talked about earlier. I wonder if anyone here realizes just how biased and subjective the local media is when it comes to reporting? The mass hysteria that was thrust upon us continuously was interesting to say the least. But it was merely a larger manifestation of a rather insidious propaganda war being waged for the mind of the average Canadian.
My daily news consumption includes three local newspapers, the TV news and some online news reports as well. For some time I have had the sneaky suspicion that there is a strong subjective bias in the reporting that takes place. Aside from the high degree of personal comment that intrudes every article I also note that the commitment to fair coverage for both parties involved is sparse. Just about every newspaper has a line that they will stick to until forced to admit they were wrong and even then it is done so grudgingly as to be almost negligible.
Whether it is a party political line or, more commonly, a social conscious line the media takes a stance and blindly sticks to the argument put forward. Continuously and stridently. In addition woe betide anyone who disagrees with the stance. In this case the full force of the “IST” curse comes out. Racist! Sexist! Whatever other “ist” can be used for that matter. I think Canadians have been so indoctrinated, or perhaps and more kindly, they are too polite, that they cringe and retreat as soon as the dreaded hate words are produced. The media knows this, having been the frontline propaganda troops, and pushes this line for all it is worth. Mixed in with the half-truths that Canadians have to endure is the belief that should they disagree then somehow there is something fundamentally wrong with their mental faculty. It is really rather sad to see this taking place in a country that is supposedly a free democracy. Coming from a country that had total State control on most of the media you get used to picking up the way the media distorts opinion and reflects their master's voice. Having also had one of the best opposition media forces, I have also got used to having the ability to read opposing viewpoints and making an educated decision as to the truth. The problem here is that far from getting an unbiased opinion for both sides I am forced more and more to searches for the truth. Enjoyable, but time consuming, and probably only really useful to my Citizenship test.
What worries me most though is that the local populace seems to be quite happy to accept whatever sound bite is fed to them so long as they don't have to think! (Which might explain the Liberal Party in Government but that is another story.) This, coupled with the lack of education in History, Geography and Basic English, means that the majority of Ontarians are ill served when it comes to intelligent opinion.  
It seems to me that “1984” is alive and living in Ontario and so long as the Leafs are winning all's well with the world!

These are a few of my favourite things

My daughter, who often acts as my copy editor, pointed out to me that I should be careful that my style of writing is not misinterprated. This in answer to the question as to why, when I try to point out that Canadians should appreciate the beauty of Canada, people insist on seeing it as a direct attack upon themselves and find it necessary to seek me out and tell me of every trip they have personally undertaken to Hudson Bay, the Yukon, Newfoundland and all points in between. Mostly in detail!
So in order to show that I do appreciate the opportunity to reside in what is arguably the best country in the world let me spend some time pointing out what it is that I enjoy about living here.
The first and most telling would be the safety aspect. The freedom to go for a walk in the evening knowing that you can look at the scenery and that when you see a stranger the most that is likely to happen is that they smile and say hello. The smile being the most important part of that transaction. When I landed I was astonished one night at about ten pm to see young teenage girls walking around the neighbourhood. My host found that most amusing and spent some time pointing out that perhaps my coming from a country which has the highest murder and rape rate in the world was colouring my viewpoint.
I carried a gun around with me for well over ten years. It was nearby every day and night. Perhaps you don't realize what a part of everyday life this can become. As you know I have been in Canada now for just over two years. The other day I got into my car at the shopping center and automatically felt for my gun. I have no idea why. I can only assume that something was wrong in my subconscious. Something made me uneasy and automatically I reached to ensure that the weapon was at hand. When I couldn't find it I actually broke out into a sweat. I had to sit there in my car for a good 5 minutes while my pulse returned to normal. That is probably a feeling that the average Canadian won't understand and hopefully never will have to either. For me then this is a very safe country.  
I think I have made reference to the beauty of this land already so lets look at a few of the simple everyday reasons why Canadians are so lucky to live here.
When it comes to variety in the food stores there is a wealth of options from erotic to exotic. I must admit to finding it amusing that what is regarded as an exotic fruit and costs a small fortune is the sort of item that would be regarded as an everyday item back home. Mind you we never got fresh Blueberries and Cranberries so I suppose that fresh pineapples at 10c a queen would seem just as amazing to a Canadian as it is to me to be able to pick fresh blueberries. The other aspect which I enjoy here is the year round variety of fruit available. I am used to seasonal fruit so being able to get oranges, apples and peaches all year round is enjoyable even if the prices aren't sometimes.
As for the ability to get, and enjoy, cultural variations in food, well, in Toronto at least, the range is phenomenal. You can eat at a different restaurant every night and still not have sampled all the variations of cuisine in any given year. Unless the food police give out more Red cards that is. I enjoy dropping into different areas in and around town and being able to buy foods, fresh and preserved, from other countries. Hot sauces and cheese being the two that get me going the most but I will admit to coming home with all sorts of weird stuff that I just have to try out. 100-year-old eggs and dried squid being some of the more memorable. As a confirmed capsaicinophylic the ability to add interesting variations to my collection of hot sauces has only been curtailed by my lack of money. Which is probably good news for my stomach.
Still in the food area are the great wines and beers you get here. Having tried them for the first time over here I have a particular liking for the Honey Brown and Red beers especially. Canadian wine is very good but I think it tends to suffer a bit in that the price is fairly high and so you have competition from overseas wines. I try to sample a new wine from a different country every month or so and again the range available here is large and the quality is generally good. Except for one memorable Bulgarian Merlot that is.
When it comes to motor vehicles not only is there a large choice but the prices are generally inexpensive compared to other countries. At the most it is in the region of a years salary rather than the normal lifetimes penury elsewhere. I don't think I have ever seen so many new cars driving around. I suppose this is more as a result of the ability to lease than it is as a result of a need to change cars every year.
While I am on the subject of transport I am also impressed with the local transportation systems they have here in the GTA. The system works and works well. It is also at a reasonable price again. It is also clean. The underground here is the cleanest I have ever traveled on. Maybe I have been lucky but I have only ever been late once using the GO train and that was as a result of some fool cutting signal wires ahead. While I am at it may I also say that I like the “double-decker” carriages for the GO train as well. A bus on wheels almost. Given a choice I almost always use the GO and the TTC when coming into Toronto. Fast, clean and efficient it is a treat to use them.
Houses here are huge and once again, like cars, they tend to be inexpensive. I am still amazed at how they put them up. I am used to bricks and mortar rather than the new wood and cardboard types but maybe that is how the prices are kept in check. Low cost affordable housing. That is one of the really good plus points. Yes I am aware that in certain areas the prices are exorbitant but overall the housing and cost in this country is impressive.
As I am on value for money I would also like to point out that contrary to popular belief Canadian taxes aren't the highest in the world and what you get for your money is helpful and, for a change, mostly put to good use. To put it into perspective where I come from I paid 48% personal tax and then paid an extra 14% GST on everything except bread. I then had to pay for schooling, health, insurance and my own retirement fund. Yes taxes are high here. You do get a lot for them though. Given the depth of emotion here perhaps that may be all I will say on that though.
Like most of you I have a love of books as well and this country is a bibliophiles heaven. Worlds Greatest Bookstore and Chapters being what I classify as a safe haven for my sanity. The range and depth of available books being huge. I can, and have, spent many enjoyable hours browsing. I haven't got into the habit of taking coffee into the store and sitting down reading a book or magazine yet. Must be ingrained fear more than anything else.
Actually these are only a few of the things I like about this country. Oh dear I feel a Sound of Music moment coming on. Time to finish.
So there you have it. You live in a safe, beautiful country with nice people and virtually every conceivable creature comfort available. At a reasonable price. Is there any doubt that having done my homework properly I wouldn't want to immigrate here?
(Last word department.) That still doesn't mean that, when necessary, I will refrain from pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes on!