Fortune: Canada finally feels the American love after 150 years

by Diane Francis

Canada turned  150 on July 1, and its biggest present may be that the country—in particular its prime minister—has become the darling of American liberals.

Immediately after U.S. President Donald Trump’s victory, Canada’s official immigration website crashed as hundreds of thousands of Americans sought information on how to move north. Trump’s presidency has not triggered a mass migration, or even a mini one—as the Vietnam War did. But the fact that so many Americans are considering Canada is heady stuff for a country that is usually ignored by its southern neighbor.

Canadians haven’t felt the intercontinental love until recently, but Americans always have. Millions of Canadians work, retire, study, marry, or do business in America. Polls have shown for years that Canadians’ favorite country is the U.S. and vice versa, but this fell in 2016. Canadians sometimes remark that they are actually Americans who don’t want to become U.S. citizens, given the brashness, burdens, and baggage of superpowerdom.

As such, Canadians are baffled and fascinated by American politics. This may have something to do with what current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s late father, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, told Richard Nixon in 1969: “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

Yet as Trump flounders and tramples the sensibility of world leaders, the young Trudeau has punched above Canada’s weight in exerting soft power around the globe. He may not have been invited to Mar-A-Lago when he met with Trump, but their joint press conference was a love-in. Key to the meeting was Trudeau and Ivanka Trump’s launch of a joint initiative to promote the advancement of women in business.

The reality is that Canada has become kin to America. Back in 1867, it was a moribund British colony next to an aggressive republic emerging from a civil war and about to conquer its western territory and launch the Industrial Revolution. Decades later, at the close of World War II, the two allies were the only economies left standing and began to merge economically and socially. As a result, Canada has become more Americanized in a business and cultural sense, and America’s liberals more Canadianized in their politics.

For example, in 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders shocked the American political system by successfully promoting policies straight out of the Canadian policy playbook. These include a single-payer universal health care system, higher minimum wages, low university tuition, and a less aggressive foreign policy.

Integration and interdependence between the two countries will continue, but the relationship remains asymmetrical. America is the greatest economy and military power in history, and Canada, with an economy and population smaller than California’s, is never going to match that.

But as a middle power, and close friend of America no matter who’s in the White House, Canadians certainly have a great deal to celebrate on their nation’s birthday.

First published in Fortune