Danger! A Nation of Socialists Lurks Just Across Our Border!

So, you think Canada is almost identical to the U.S.?

Know what's on the back of a Canadian $10 bill?

Think we'll see anything like that in the U.S., where the psychic exiles at Fox News and their followers are still looking for the U.N.'s black helicopters? Much has been made of feckless Louisiana GOP governor Bobby Jindal's Indian ancestry.

But a decade ago, British Columbia elected Punjab-born Ujjal Dev Singh Dosanjhh as its Premier (B.C.'s equivalent of a governor).

And, on top of that, he was -- brace yourselves - a socialist! And the province is still functioning!

The socialist NDP party has been a major political entity in Canada for decades.

When I moved to Canada in the 1970's (not, oddly, to beat the draft, but because I speak French and fell in love with Montreal) I was a Republican from a staunch GOP family that hated FDR, Kennedy, etc., etc.

But living in Canada is an experience that permanently changes most American expats.

One major thing you learn there is that a bit of socialism, properly applied, benefits everyone -- and makes for a better society. And in the current health-care debate, we could learn a lot from our closest neighbors, although, as usual, we probably won't.

( It's also sure as hell nice to live in a safe place without handguns. But we'll save that for another day).

Ironically, it got harder this week to enter the U.S. from Canada. Passports or enhanced I.D. are now required. That's absurd. If anything, it should be the other way around. After all, WE'RE the loud, gun-owning types living downstairs who could know or care less about their neighbors. And who don't have medical insurance.

Canada's Beloved Health Care

Five years ago, while vacationing in Nova Scotia, we turned on CBC Radio. A major Canadian government commission's report on health care had just been released. Its conclusion: Yes, there were problems with the Canadian single-payer plan, but nothing that couldn't be fixed.

Then they opened the lines to Canadian callers across the vast country.

Here it comes, this Yank thought. A blizzard of anger and criticism about government-run health care. But in those next two hours, surprisingly, I never heard one caller who didn't staunchly defend the Canadian system, even with its flaws.

The Greatest Canadian Ever

The CBC recently asked Canadians to nominate and then vote for The Greatest Canadian in history. Thousands responded.

The winner? Not Wayne Gretzky, as I expected (although the hockey great DID make the Top 10). Not even Alexander Graham Bell, another finalist. The greatest Canadian ever?

Tommy Douglas.

Who? He was another socialist premier - who was also the father of Canadian universal health care. Douglas headed North America's first socialist government in Saskatchewan. (Um, we didn't learn that in our world history classes).

When my wife and I first moved to Quebec, this then-Republican thought it was dangerous socialism when the province of Manitoba took over - socialized -- the auto-insurance business. The result: Province-wide no-fault insurance that cost every Manitoban exactly $49. (The horror of socialism!)

Yes, taxes in Canada were high, but so were government services. The province of Quebec even sent my wife (and all young mothers) a monthly check for $7 -- milk money for our baby.

Peter Jennings' Thoughts A few years later, when too many frigid Quebec winters had caused us to reluctantly move back to the States, I interviewed late ABC-TV anchor Peter Jennings.

"You Americans want government services," the estimable Canadian journalist said after learning I'd lived in his native country and greatly admired it. "You just don't want to pay for them.Canadians realize one has to pay for these things."

Today, I can still see Canada from our house, just across the Straits of San Juan de Fuca. I still watch Canadian TV and listen to Canadian radio, in French and English..

There are significant differences in our two countries, and there's a whole lot we can learn from our more civilized and less materialistic northern neighbors. (Not least of which is their pride in and dedication to national health coverage. )

Instead, we've just made it harder for Canadians to enter the U.S.

Our bad.