Coming in from the cold

We Canadians are not perfect. Among our flaws, we say “Sorry” too much, say “Have a great day” too much, hold doors open to strangers too often. And, while it hasn’t been documented, it’s been reported some us say “Thank you” to banking machines.

We Canadians are not perfect. Among our flaws, we say “Sorry” too much, say “Have a great day” too much, hold doors open to strangers too often. And, while it hasn’t been documented, it’s been reported some us say “Thank you” to banking machines.

Among the lesser-informed beyond our borders, our nation is apparently covered by ice 14 months out of the year; we live in igloos; we eat whale blubber; we don’t have cable TV; and the verdict is still out on whether we have microwave ovens.

But all those faults aside, Canada is apparently America’s sweetheart, according to a recent survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Canadian Press reported that when Americans were asked to rate their favourite nations, “the cold country to the north elicited the warmest feelings.”

Canada came out with the top score of 79 per cent, beating out Britain at 74 per cent. Germany, Japan and France all scored in the 60s. Mexico was left in the dust with a rating of 54 per cent — that’s surprising, given that country’s reputation for violence, drug cartels, corrupt government and tourists coming to harm.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ survey has been conducted since 1974. This year, it asked “a sample of 2,108 Americans to rank a list of 25 countries on a scale from zero to 100,” reported the Washington Post. “Zero means they had ‘very cold, negative’ feelings towards that country, while 100 means ‘very warm, favourable feelings.’ ” (The survey attempts to provide an annual comprehensive assessment of American’s views on global politics and U.S. foreign policy.)

In 2010, 84 per cent of respondents said that when it comes to world affairs, the Great White North was “very, or somewhat” important to the U.S.

The Washington Post reported that this year’s survey asked a sample of 2,108 people to rank a list of 25 countries on a scale from zero to 100.

While Canada finished first, Russia, Palestinian Authority, Iraq, Iran and North Korea scraped the bottom of the popularity barrel with scores of 36, 33, 31, 27 and 23, respectively.

What’s not to like about Canada? Even Americans choose it as the country to relocate to when things aren’t going well south of the border. And despite being the butt of jokes, Canadians tend to take it in stride: we are, after all, also know for our sense of humour and the ability to laugh at ourselves.

And the love just keeps coming. A Reputation Institute international online survey of 27,000 people in 50 different countries ranks this country as having the best reputation in the world — edging out Sweden. Not bad, eh?

And even Canadians think living in Canada is awesome. A Better Living Survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which represents 31 countries, says that on a scale of one to 10, Canadians rank the level of satisfaction with life here at 7.6. That’s third in the world, with Norway and Sweden residents the most content.

The OECD also concludes that Canada is a pretty safe place to live, with most Canadians feeling safe to walk outside at night. The believe they are less likely to get assaulted or murdered than Americans.

We are also a healthy bunch, and expected on average to live to 81 years. That puts Canadians’ life expectancy two years ahead of the United States and one year above the OECD average.

We also have bragging rights about how smart our kids are.

The OECD says “Canadian students average top scores in the Programme of International Student Assessment, a regular survey that tests kids’ reading, math and science abilities in 44 countries.” Our high school students came in fifth internationally in the most recent PISA ranking with a score of 522, above the OECD average of 497.

But, for shame for shame, Canadians are an embarrassment in exercising their democratic privileges: we are slouches when it comes to voting. We have some of the worst voter turnouts in the world — a paltry 61 per cent in recent federal elections. More people turn out to vote in Hungary, Slovenia, Mexico “and pretty much any other 35 OECD countries,” said one report.

When you boil it down, we Canadians have it pretty good, and we would likely have it even better if we were more vigorously involved in the democratic process. And, for the record, the country is not encased in ice all year round. We have two seasons: winter and almost summer.

Rick Zemanek is a former Advocate editor.