Some Canada Day Fun Facts

In honor of Canada Day, here are some fun facts about our neighbor to the north:

➡️ Canada is the second largest country in the world after Russia. Subsequently, it boasts the world’s longest coastline and is home to 30 percent of the world’s boreal forest and 10 percent of the world’s total forest cover. Some of its natural parks are bigger than whole countries.

➡️ Despite its size, Canada’s population is roughly the same as California, with close to 40 million people. Moreover, most Canadians live within 93 miles of the U.S. border, and half live just along the Great Lakes region. Talk about living space.

➡️ Canadian inventions include the paint roller, garbage bag, the pager (remember those?), peanut butter, road lines, the wonder bra, the first Internet search engine (Archie), IMAX, the pacemaker, basketball, the alkaline battery the Java programming language, the electron microscope, the electric wheelchair, and the wireless radio.

➡️ Canadian discoveries include insulin, T-cells, the Polio vaccine, the structure of the atomic nucleus, stem cells, black holes, and more. Canada was the third country to design and construct a satellite after the Soviet Union and the United States.

➡️ According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, Canadian students perform well above most developed countries, particularly in math, science, and reading. As of 2012, Canada had the fourth highest quality scientific research in the world.

➡️ Speaking of creativity, some of the biggest bands and musicians have Canadian roots: Sarah McLachlan, Nickleback (yes, yes, I know), Alanis Morissette, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Rush (personal favorite), Drake, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Michael Buble, Billy Talent, and a ton more.

➡️ Canadian cities like Toronto and Vancouver are often nicknamed “Hollywood North” for being go-to film locations for the U.S. To that end, Canadians are disproportionately represented in Hollywood: Keanu Reeves, Ryan Gosling, William Shatner, Will Arnett, Nathan Fillon, Seth Rogan, Ryan Reynolds, Jim Carrey, Rachel McAdams, Neve Campbell, Michael J. Fox, and Ellen Page, are just a few Canadian-born actors and actresses who are ubiquitous in U.S. media.

➡️ Canada has one of the world’s most diverse populations, which is supported by one of the highest rates of immigration per capita. Nearly one out of four Canadians were born abroad, and about a fifth of the population is a “visible minority” (i.e., nonwhite), compared to less than two percent in 1961. Canada also takes one out of ten of the world’s refugees.

➡️ Toronto, its largest city, is subsequently the most diverse city in the world; half the population is made up of visible minorities, most born outside the country, and among its residents are 200 ethnic groups and 160 languages. Even 911 is reportedly available in over 100 languages.

➡️ Unsurprisingly, multiculturalism is considered a cornerstone of Canadian identity, perhaps because Canada has historically been influenced by British, French, and Indigenous cultures and traditions (and the practice need to compromise between the three, however often flawed that’s been).

➡️ Contrary to its peaceable image, Canada has a history of martial prowess. In 1812, Canadians, with some British support, managed to beat back American efforts to conquer it. The First World War saw decisive Canadian participation in some of the biggest battles, including at Vimy and Somme. In the Second World War, Canada had the second toughest beach landing at Normandy, but managed to be the first to break through and to penetrate the deepest into French territory. Canada also played a key role in liberating the Netherlands and Belgium during their war-induced famine, for which they are still remembered. The country emerged from the war with one of the biggest navies and armies in the world.

Of course, this list is far from exhaustive, as my time is short. Feel free to share your own Canadian fun fact!

Happy Canada Day to all my northern neighbors.

The Countries With the Most Positive Global Influence

According to a recent poll by Ipsos MORI, a market research groupCanada is seen as having the most positive impact in the world, followed by Australia, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.  The study involved around 18,000 respondents from 25 nations, including those subject to the poll.



Only 40% of respondents think the U.S. has a positive global influence, down by 24 points since last year’s survey (which had asked which country would have a positive influence in the next decade).

Note that this less than emerging powers China and India (at 49% and 53% respectively) and not that far ahead of Russia (35%).

Respondents from almost every country that was polled had a worse view of U.S. influence than the previous year; Argentina, Belgium, Spain, and South Korea saw some of the biggest drops, by over 30 percentage points. Only New Zealand and Serbia were unchanged in their (already) fairly low opinion.

India, Brazil, Poland, and South Africa retained highest approval rating for the U.S., being the only countries (besides the U.S. itself) where more than half of respondents had a favorable view (even if it was less than last year).

Interestingly, China saw the lowest dip from 2016, at just 3%, with close to half its respondents holding a good view of American influence.

The poll also included international organizations, which are playing an increasingly visible and decisive role in our globalized era.


Continue reading

Canada Shows Moral Leadership In How To Handle Refugees

Count on the Great White North to be an exemplary member of the international community. While by no means just and progressive in all matters — what state or society yet is? — Canada has long been a shinning example of how to create and manage a free, democratic, and pluralistic nation.

Case in point: amid the ugliness and rancor surrounding the accommodation of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, the Canadians have gone above and beyond protocol to welcome and accommodate the first of thousands of new arrivals. The front cover of its largest daily says it all.

Welcome to Canada

As Foreign Policy reports, Canada pulled out all the stops to be hospitable. Continue reading

Canada: The World’s Freest Country?

A recent article at Foreign Policy makes the provocative case that our neighbor to the north has overtaken us as the world’s leading beacon of liberty and prosperity (a claim that, to be sure, was always suspect in practice, yet has remained a bedrock of American identity, prestige, and soft power).

The claim is based on the results of the newly published 2015 Legatum Prosperity Index, an annual report issued by the Legatum Institute that measures countries’ performance in eight categories of human flourishing, such as personal freedom, safety and security, and governance.

While Canada did not reach the top spot — that honor went to Norway for the seventh consecutive time — it did rank a very respectable sixth place, compared to the United States’ 11th place. Aside from seventh-place Australia, Canada was the only medium sized country to make it to the top ten; the rest were small European (mostly Nordic) and Anglophone nations.

Canada shined mostly on account of its people’s attitude towards immigrants and the trajectory of their country. It is all the more impressive given the many woes and troubles attributed to the much-disliked Conservative administration of Stephen Harper, which over the last decade has been accused of making the country increasingly authoritarian, intolerant, and socially backwards (a development that some Canadians tellingly, only half-jokingly, called “Americanization“) . Continue reading

Canada In The Second World War

Pictured: Wait for Me, Daddy by Claude P. Dettloff. Taken on October 1, 1940, it depicts Warren Bernard running away from his mother to his father, Private Jack Bernard, who is marching with the British Columbia Regiment of Canada. The picture received extensive exposure and was used in war-bond drives (Private Bernard survived the war).

Many Americans are unaware of Canada’s extensive contribution to World War II. It was one of the first nations to declare war on the Axis, and by some accounts it fielded the largest volunteer army of any nation in the war: over 1 million Canadians — out of a population of only 11 to 12 million — joined the war effort, constituting 10 percent of the population and nearly 20 percent of all men.

Canada’s bountiful prairies and rich mineral resources were invaluable to the war effort (as well as to reconstruction efforts in Europe). For example, half of Allied aluminium and 90 percent of Allied nickel was supplied by Canada.

The Canadian Navy played a decisive role in the Battle of the Atlantic, and was given responsibility of covering two strategically key points in the ocean. Throughout the war it accomplished 25,343 successful escort voyages and delivered nearly 165 million tons of cargo, and also sank 52 German submarines. Meanwhile, Canadian airmen were some of the best performing in the Battle of Britain, comprising a disproportionate number of flying aces.

As in the First World War, Canadian troops served with considerable distinction in several campaigns. Most notable was D-Day, in which the Canadians faced the second-hardest landing point on Normandy, Juno Beach, yet were the first to break through enemy lines and the ones to reach the deepest into enemy territory. Canadians almost single-handedly liberated the Netherlands and Belgium, saving hundreds of the thousands of civilians from famine. Canada also fought in North Africa, Italy, and the South Pacific.

Canada was among the first nations to develop what are now known as special forces (through its cooperation with the United States), and was instrumental in the Manhattan Project, to which it supplied personnel, research, and resources.

By the end of the war, Canada possessed the fourth largest air force, third largest navy, and fourth or fifth largest army in the world. Much like the U.S., it had become shaped by the conflict and forever oriented towards global affairs, albeit with far less gusto (though it would become a major part of NATO, it reigned in on the size and funding of its military, and directed much of its diplomatic energy towards developing multilateral institutions and initiatives like U.N. Peacekeeping).

The Fruit of Canadian Multiculturalism

You don’t have to be a fellow Canada lover to appreciate that nation’s tremendous success in creating a prosperous and democratic society that is nonetheless one of the most immigrant-friendly and multicultural in the world. As Toronto- based Al Jazeera columnist Murtaza Hussain notes in a recent piece, the country has excelled not only in integrating its foreign-born population, but also in promoting acceptance and even pride among all Canadians towards immigrants and their cultures:

In major cities such as Toronto and Vancouver, roughly half the population consists of visible minorities, yet the type of social segregation and alienation prevalent in Europe is nonetheless conspicuously absent.

While immigrants tend to settle in the same neighbourhoods upon arrival, they also partake in Canadian society to a far greater degree than their European counterparts. Immigrants to Canada tend to achieve economic success, high levels of education, and social integration at a level unseen in European societies. Correspondingly, Canadians also tend to have a much more positive opinion of immigration than Europeans. In a 2006 poll asking what made them “proud to be Canadian”, multiculturalism ranked second place, behind only the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Furthermore, while immigration from Muslim-majority countries has become an increasingly contentious issue in many Western countries, the experience of Canadian Muslims defies many of the stereotypes promulgated about this community. In his book, Unlikely Utopia: The Surprising Triumph of Canadian Pluralism, the Canadian author Michael Adams conducted one of the broadest studies of the Canadian Muslim population ever, and found a community which strongly identified with the country and its institutions. To this end, a 2007 CBC News poll concluded that “Canadian Muslims appear to be the most contented, moderate and, well, Canadian, in the developed world.”

Thus, if multiculturalism has failed, one would be forgiven for being oblivious to this as a Canadian, where it is widely considered one of the nation’s most cherished attributes.

Indeed, Canada has long had the highest per-capita immigration rate in the world, a status that hasn’t changed despite the global recession and the coming to power of the Conservatives in 2006. Uniquely, multiculturalism pervades Canadians of almost every background and political persuasion, as demonstrated fairly recently:

This multicultural attitude recently appeared to come under siege when French-separatist politicians in Quebec – mimicking their ideology counterparts in Europe – caused a stir by introducing laws to ban hijabs and other religious attire in their province.

The feeling of dread amongst many immigrant Canadians – especially Muslims – that they were about to become the target of politically-charged xenophobia during an election season began to rise; but what was most telling was the reaction of the rest of Canada to these moves. Instead of winning support,  the Parti Quebecois  has come under fire while the rights of minorities have been overwhelmingly defended.

Politicians across the political spectrum spoke out to denounce the crude – and, significantly, un-Canadian – attitude taken in these proposed laws. Incredibly, newspaper ads were even taken out in other provinces welcoming Muslim women with the message: “We don’t care what’s on your head, we care what’s in it“. This is a sentiment which strikes to the core of what most people understand a multicultural Canada represents, and it is thus unsurprising to see why Muslim-Canadians identify so strongly with their country.

Indeed, both Canadian-born and foreign-born citizens shared similarly positive sentiments regarding immigration, integration, and cultural pluralism, as evidenced by a 2012 poll undertaken by five nation organizations. As CBC News reported:

When asked what makes a good citizen, the top five responses were: obeying laws, actively participating in the community, helping other people, being tolerant of others and sharing or adopting Canadian values.

But when asked to list what they did to be good citizens, respondents cited volunteer work, being kind/generous to others, paying taxes, obeying laws and voting.

The survey suggests Canadians have a broad, inclusive view of citizenship and see immigrants as their equals: nearly 9 out of every 10 respondents agreed that a person born outside Canada is just as likely to be a good citizen as someone born here.

“There’s no real evidence of people feeling threatened or a sense that, ‘Well, people can come live here from other countries, but they’re not quite the same,'” said Keith Neuman, executive director of the Environics Institute.

When it comes to immigration and citizenship, the views of the majority of Canadians born in the country and the 20 per cent born outside it are largely aligned. Canadian-born and foreign-born respondents were equally likely to feel fully like citizens (78 percent versus 75 percent).”

So what accounts for this remarkably amiable relationship? Well, much of it seems to be the product of a positive feedback loop triggered by Canada’s own deliberate promotion of the benefits of immigration, which included the constitutional recognition of multiculturalism as an inherent Canadian values — an officiation that few other countries have done.

Usha George, dean of Ryerson University’s Faculty of Community Services, says the survey’s findings confirm a lot of what those working with new Canadians know already.

The willingness of Canadians to not view a person’s foreign background as an impediment to citizenship is a product of the country’s multicultural policies and the visible effect of immigrants on the economy, George said.

Integration of immigrants has worked in Canada because the government has funded programs that teach immigrants about Canadian values and society has adapted its institutions to accommodate diversity.

“The mutual recognition that we should be respectful to each other and celebrate diversity in a genuine way, those values permeate the whole society,” said George, whose faculty trains many of those who provide social and other services to new immigrants.

Whatever Canada is doing, it seems to be positively influencing immigrants’ views of the country, the survey suggests: 88 per cent of respondents who were born outside Canada said they were very proud to be Canadian, compared with 81 per cent of those born here.

Vikram Kewalramani immigrated to Canada from India in 2006 and is now a Canadian citizen living in Toronto. (Roma Andrusiak/CBC)

“Canadians who were not born in Canada are more proud than naturally born Canadians simply because we had the choice of being Canadian,” said Vikram Kewalramani, who immigrated to Canada in 2006 from India. “It wasn’t something that, literally, was a birthright. We consider it a privilege.”

For Amal Ibrahim, a Palestinian who became a citizen last year along with her two children, Canadian citizenship is primarily about respecting differences.

“It’s a great diverse culture where people learn how to live in harmony with each other while they have different ideas, different religions and different backgrounds,” she said.

As with most sociocultural developments, I imagine a big part of this sentiment also has to do with Canada’s historical and geographical character: the immense country — the second largest in the world — has always been sparsely populated, relying on a hodgepodge of different groups to settle its vulnerable and difficult frontier against the much larger neighbor to the south.  This is most exemplified by the centuries of cohabitation and compromise between the distinct English and French communities, which precipitated a tradition of mutual acceptance, cultural tolerance, and cooperation (however begrudging).

As a “new” country composed of disparate settler groups, Canada also had less cultural and traditional baggage than the longer-established nations of Europe (and to a degree the United States), and thus was formed through the various waves of different immigrants that have come through during its brief history. Canadian readers can feel free to enlighten me, as my time is too short to explore the topic further.

In any case, the combination of practical and idealistic views towards immigration have created a surprising amount of consensus and cohesion among this diverse nation, one that is based largely on mutually-beneficial sociopolitical values:

Tolerance of others who are different was among the top five behaviours survey respondents considered a “very important” part of being a good citizen. Others were:

  • Treating men and women equally (95 per cent ranked this “very important”).
  • Following Canada’s laws (89 per cent).
  • Voting in elections (82 per cent – the same as tolerance of others).
  • Protecting the environment (80 per cent).

Immigrants’ views of what makes a good citizen were strikingly similar to those of native-born Canadians, said Neuman. In the majority of cases, the responses of the two groups varied at most by only a few percentage points.

“People might think … that newcomers are coming [into] this country … with their own sense of what it means to be a citizen, and they don’t really buy into the same perspective that native-born Canadians have,” he said.

“And this research pretty clearly suggests that they’re largely the same perspective, and the more somebody is in this country, the more immigrants buy into the native-born view.”

Thus, as Canadians accept and accommodate their immigrants, so too do those immigrants “return the favor”, so to speak, by being productive, law abiding, and dedicated citizens. Hussain wraps up his article with a seemingly simple formula for how it all works:

Herein lies the great success of Canadian multiculturalism; a society which integrates newcomers not by force but through generosity, benevolence, and sincerity to its values and principles. Given such a national character it is unsurprising why Canadian immigrants of all backgrounds tend to become “Canadian” so enthusiastically -i and it is for this reason that Canada has become an exemplar of social cohesion in an increasingly globalised world.

I would love to see how this compares to Canada’s southern neighbor. The US tends to be very accommodating of a variety of immigrants as well, albeit with a much greater emphasis on assimilation and a much stronger undercurrent of anti-immigration sentiment. I imagine we’re somewhere between Canada and Europe in this regard, but that’s a topic for another day perhaps.

Of course, I have no delusions about Canadian society being some multicultural paradise on Earth; obviously, racism and discrimination still exist, as do issues of integration. But by global standards, Canada has come much farther than most nations, and could probably serve as a vital example of how to create a diverse nation that is nonetheless fairly cohesive, stable, and prosperous.

As always, I welcome all readers — especially Canadians — to weigh in. I wrote all this quite quickly, so forgive me if I missed anything.



Canada’s Charter of Rights: A Global Model

This past Tuesday, thirty years ago, Canada signed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, their equivalent to the American Bill of Rights. They were the first nation in the British Commonwealth to establish such rights, solidifying one and for all their status as an independence.

But not only was the Charter a landmark for Canadian identity and political development: it’s apparently become a model to nations across the globe, superseding even the much-vaunted US Constitution. According to theGlobal Mail:

Both the Charter itself and the nation that gave birth to it serve as an example to the world. “Some countries may be especially prone to borrow from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because they perceive themselves as sharing the same goals and values as Canadian society,” write David S. Law, who is professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, and Mila Versteeg, who teaches law at University of Virginia.

In contrast, professors Law and Versteeg conclude that the American constitution, once the foundational document for new nations in search of a government, has fallen out of favour. It fails to protect rights, such as freedom from discrimination based on race or sex, that are considered fundamental in our time; it enshrines rights, such as the right to bear arms, that other nations don’t value; its courts increasingly interpret the American document so perversely – by claiming that it must only be applied as the founding fathers originally intended – as to render it useless as a tool for tackling modern problems.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms not only prohibits discrimination based on race or gender, it protects mobility and language rights and enshrines the presumption of innocence. It balances the rights of legislatures and courts through the “notwithstanding” clause, which gives the federal and provincial parliaments limited powers to override court decisions.

Indeed, the Constitution has been little-changed, relatively speaking, since its creation. In fact, we’re the only developed democracy that still relies on an 18th century document to ground our political and legal systems. And because of both procedural hurdles and growing political polarization, it’s unlikely that our Constitution will be brought up to speed any time soon. Even our comparatively more astute judicial system seems lacking:

Beyond the Charter itself, the Canadian Supreme Court is considered an exemplar in balancing constitutional and legislative powers, a role the American Supreme Court lost entirely after Republicans and Democrats turned it into an ideological battleground.

“The Charter is widely admired, and so are the decisions of the Canadian court,” observes Peter Hogg, one of Canada’s foremost constitutional authorities. “And one reason is that Canada is not the United States.”

The U.S. study, which offers a meticulous comparison of how constitutions around the world reflect and influence each other, leads the authors to conclude that “other common-law countries are looking either directly or indirectly at the Charter,” as they draft and amend their own constitutions, Prof. Law explained in an interview Sunday.

“Overall, the evolution of global constitutionalism has tilted more toward the mild-mannered country to the north than its superpower neighbour to the south,” the report concludes.

Canada’s CBC news also reported on this trendsetting, citing the same study (albeit with more detail):

One chapter — “Is Canada a constitutional superpower?” — says that “among common law countries, Canada has served as a constitutional trendsetter.”

To reach this conclusion the authors analyzed 729 constitutions drafted between 1946 and 2006 and found that the U.S. Constitution, the oldest national constitution still in force, “no longer serves as the primary source of inspiration for constitution-making.”

Their findings are consistent with the work of other scholars about the Canadian charter’s significant global impact. It has been described as the leading influence on Israel’s basic laws and the bill of rights of Hong Kong, South Africa and New Zealand.However, they also found that, “from the enactment of the Bill of Rights in 1960 through the dawn of the 1980s, the overall global constitutional trend was one of increasing similarity to the Canadian constitution.”

Another study found that “the decisions of Canadian courts are cited by New Zealand judges far more than those from any other jurisdiction.”

The article goes on to note how Egypt, by the advice of a US Supreme Court justice, is looking to Canada’s constitution as it works on drafting its own. Israel and South Africa did the same, with the latter citing the Charter’s superior enshrinement of minority rights, especially of ethnic groups and women.

Indeed, the Charter officially defines Canada as a multicultural nation, and places an explicit emphasis on equality of the law. Freedom of expression is actually stronger in the Charter than in the Bill of Rights, such that certain acts not protected by the US First Amendment are accepted in Canada.

But is this fair to the US Constitution? After all, it did inspire its Canadian counterpart, and in practice both countries courts reach similar conclusions from similar cases. What are some of the pros and cons of each nation’s supreme legal document?

(In fairness, the Charter isn’t without detractors from both sides of political spectrum, although that could be said of any constitution of any country).

The War of 1812: A Canadian Perspective

Most Americans don’t know much about the War of 1812, other than the date of course (the unique obviousness of which is a source of many jokes in history class and pop culture). That’s partly why so few people noticed that a few days ago, on February 18, was the 200th anniversary of the conflict’s end.

What little most people learn is that it was a pretty pointless conflict that didn’t change much, though it does have the distinction of being the only conflict in which the independent United States was invaded and occupied. Oh, and the White House, along with much of the capital, was burned to the ground.

But our neighbors to the north have a very different perspective. The war remains a significant event in their nation’s history, to the extent that it is sometimes considered akin to a war of independence – the creator of a distinct Canadian identity. That’s right – we had fought a war with Canada, albeit before it was a full country.

Nowadays, it’s odd to imagine our two nations having anything more than a diplomatic spat (if even that), much less a full-blown war – aside from the lighthearted jabs against each other’s culture. For as long as anyone in North America can remember, relations between Canada and the US have always been markedly peaceful and productive – for example, we’re one another’s most important trading partners.

But each country’s early history was tenuous. Today’s famously open border wasn’t so welcoming, and the war of 1812 was in many ways a continuation of hostilities from the Revolutionary War. Some historians consider the war to have been a test of American independence too, given how close we came to defeat. The conflict was a lot more significant than most people realize.

In any case, there’s a great article from The Walrus, a Canadian general interest publication, that provides an insightful perspective on the war from the other side of the border. It’s a pretty long read, and a bit nationalistic, but it’s well worth it, whether you’re a history buff or someone who wants to understand another point of view (to me, both are one in the same).

Like most people, Canadians are hardly monolithic in their views. I welcome any readers from the Great White North to share their own viewpoint (not to the exclusion of non-Canadians of course).

The Canadian Model

Canada has distinguished itself as one of the few countries in the world, especially among developed nations, to have weathered the recession virtually unscathed. It accomplished this unique feat through comprehensive financial regulation, fiscal prudence (including the paying down of government debt over the last decade), and economically sound policies, such as promoting the immigration of skilled and educated people, or providing cash transfers that boost spending power for the unemployed (which thus drives demand and, subsequently, economic growth).

NPR offers a brief but interesting report (the transcript of which I’ve posted below).

As Europe works to solve its financial problems, closer to home and with a little less fanfare, America’s biggest trading partner is thriving. Canada has built an impressive track record throughout the recession. It’s got low unemployment, little government debt and some of the healthiest economic growth in the industrialized world. Brian Mann traveled to Toronto for WBEZ’s Chicago’s Front and Center project and has this story.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: It’s early morning and Toronto’s central business district is in high gear with people crowding into street cars, heading to work.

MANN: This city of five million people sits just a few hours’ drive from America’s rust belt – from Buffalo and Detroit. While those cities have shed population and are struggling to reinvent themselves, Toronto is on fire. Matthew Mendelson heads the Mowat Center for Policy Innovation.

MATTHEW MENDELSON: Our financial sector, our financial institutions are the healthiest in the world. And so that creates enormous opportunities.

MANN: Canada has some of the strictest banking rules in the world. While hundreds of banks failed in the U.S. during the recession, this country hasn’t seen a single major bank failure – not one. In fact, banks here are posting record profits. There’s also no mortgage crisis in Canada. And while U.S. politicians feud over government spending, Mendelson says political parties on this side of the border have done the hard work of balancing budgets.

MENDELSON: The last decade has been one of Canada paying down debt, while it’s been one of the United States ratcheting up debt. And so that creates much more flexibility for Canada to invest and make choices when a recession arises.

MANN: It’s a huge turnabout for a country that in the 1990s was an economic basket case. In those days, the Canadian dollar was so weak that it was known as the northern peso. Now, Canada’s dollar trades on par with American greenbacks and economic growth here is a third higher than in the U.S. Unemployment remained relatively low during the recession and people who do lose their jobs in Canada can expect to be out of work for half as long, compared with jobless workers in the U.S. Economists credit Canada’s prosperity to a wide range of factors, including the rapid expansion of the country’s oil industry and a very different approach to immigration.

MARIO CALA: We’ve instituted a managed, point-based immigration system.

MANN: That’s Mario Cala, head of a nonprofit that runs a network of immigrant welcome centers for the Canadian government. While the U.S. grants most of its green cards on the basis of family connections, Cala says Canada actively seeks out immigrants who can bring money, high tech skills or new businesses to boost the economy.

CALA: Canadians understand that while these people coming from other countries may be very different from us, they’re coming with great talents and skills.

MANN: As a consequence, Canadian cities have emerged rapidly as high tech international hubs with deep ties to China and India. Not everything here is perfect. Canada has seen government debt creep up during the recession, and there’s a growing environmental debate here and in the U.S. over the impacts of Canada’s booming oil industry. But many economists in Canada say their biggest economic vulnerability long-term may be an over-reliance on the United States, which now buys more than 70 percent of Canadian exports. Matthew Mendelson with the Mowat Center says Canada is racing to diversify.

MENDELSON: We are in the process of a historical pivot. Our future can not only be tied to exports to the United States. It also has to be tied to the emergence of Asian economies.

MANN: That pivot will take decades, and for now, Canadian exporters are watching nervously to see if the American economy and American consumers will continue to bounce back. For NPR News, I’m Brian Mann.

Of course, Canada isn’t all idyllic – no country is. Canadians are  pretty indebted individually, and there seems to be a growing housing bubble that may burst in a few years, which may adversely affect the economy. But given the government’s track record, and the fact that neither Canadian society nor its politicians are paralyzed by partisanship and polarization, they seem far better suited to handling future issues than they otherwise would be. The US could certainly try to learn something from it’s banking rules or socioeconomic policies.

Germany, Australia, and South Korea are other developed nations that have done well through this recession, and offer valuable lessons to consider (Scandinavia, Singapore, and a few others have remained economically healthy, but I’m focusing on comparatively larger countries). Each had stringent but fair rules for banks, practiced sound spending and taxation policies, and undertook innovative programs to address economic contagion. The Korean government, for example, funded pubic works programs that kept people employed while also improving infrastructure (which helps economic growth); Germany, meanwhile, had it’s politicians, employers, and workers unions come together to hash out compromises that demanded sacrifices from each, yet kept unemployment low and economic growth high. The Australians, meanwhile, practiced fiscal integrity by maintaining a rainy day fund of cash reserves in the event of an economic slowdown.

Perhaps most importantly, their politics, like Canada’s, haven’t become so partisan and ideological so as to obstruct vital decision making. The civil service of each country is largely competent, technocratic, and un-politicized.  Laws governing taxation, lobbying, and fiscal policy, among other things, are relatively more streamlined and less exploitable. Public discourse is more conducive to compromise and dialogue, which are vital in forging the national unity needed to better the economy.

To be sure, these examples, and any other, are hardly perfect. These countries have numerous socioeconomic and political problems as well. They too contend with creeping cynicism and indifference towards politics, and looming economic and fiscal threats. Furthermore, each of them have different societies, political systems, and demographics, which renders some comparisons unfair.

But my point isn’t to copy them entirely, or hold them up as perfect models to naively glorify. We simply need to look closely at alternative models and approaches, and see what we can learn and implement. What are these nations doing that we aren’t? How are they running things more effectively? What are the pros and cons of any given policy or system? Given the persistence of economic malaise, and the dearth of either leadership or sound ideas, it’s seems like the sensible thing to do. We wouldn’t have to look to far either.