The difference between Americans and Canadians
Written by Link Byfield   
Sunday, 20 August 2006

Today, after a mid-summer month off, we resume publication of our weekly Citizens Centre column.

Most of this past month we spent finalizing arrangements for the Calgary Congress, which promises to be a gangbusters national event. (www.calgarycongress.ca)

But I did get away last week to Wyoming with my wife Joanne and my 13-year-old daughter Elise.

Wyoming is one of the Rocky Mountain rangeland states. You drive for miles and miles through sagebrush hills, sparse grass and prickly pear cactus -- past red, rocky cliffs and buttes, cattle, and hundreds of wild antelope and deer. (Whoever wrote about the deer and the antelope playing in “Home on the Range” wasn’t kidding -- but they should stop doing it on the highway.)

With fewer than 500,000 people, Wyoming is empty compared to Alberta, or even Saskatchewan. But it’s wild and beautiful and full of interesting things.

Everywhere there are monuments and references to the Indian Wars against the Sioux and Cheyenne in the 1860s and ’70s.

And it’s still very much cowboy country. We passed one little roadside bar with a huge sign boasting, “Cheap drinks, lousy food.”

I even learned about a murdering desperado named Big Nose George Parrot, who in 1881 was caught, lynched and flayed by 200 angry folks in Rawlins. Turns out my numerous Perrott neighbours in Sturgeon County, Alberta are direct relatives.

We stayed a couple days with a dentist and his wife, good people, who moved there a few years ago from Canada. He says he makes a far higher income than he did here. The main difference is that Americans pay fewer taxes, so everything costs less and everyone's better off.

“It isn’t just income tax,” he told us. “It’s also a hundred little things. For instance, we had to pay over $2,000 a year to belong to the Alberta Dental Association. Here it costs $250. There are fewer people here taking your money for nothing in return.”

With elections going on there were signs all over the state for everything from Congressman to county property assessor. The theme from both parties was “Vote for me -- I’ll spend less of your money.”

Canadians often dismiss this as short-sighted American greed -- letting the poor fend for themselves while everyone else looks proudly at photos of local armed forces volunteers on the walls of roadside diners.

But Americans actually look after their poor better than we do. At the same time they run an enormous defence machine, and they still live better than anyone else in the world.

Americans understand two fundamental truths: Government spending does not create prosperity, and it is not the task of the government to manage society. They know this in their bones. It’s the essence of liberty, and the heart and soul of their constitution.

And this is the whole point of the Calgary Congress we’re hosting from September 29 to October 1. Governments can’t make you rich, but unless they are checked by unbreakable constitutional restraints they will not hesitate to make you poor.

We Canadians once understood this twin truth just as well as Americans, notwithstanding our different political histories. The Calgary Congress will debate and resolve the principles Canadians need to get back to it.

If you’d like to take part in the Calgary Congress, call us at 1-866-666-6768, or e-mail us at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it But don’t delay. It’s filling up fast.

- Link Byfield

Link Byfield is chairman of the Edmonton-based Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, and an Alberta senator-elect.
 
"Just Between Us" is a feature service of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. The purpose of the Citizens Centre is to enhance freedom and democracy by enabling ordinary citizens to become active and effective on important issues outside the normal processes of party politics.