'Canadian Dream' for many Americans if Trump is president
(AFP) Donald Trump's inflammatory presidential campaign and the prospect of the brash-talking tycoon actually becoming commander-in-chief has left progressive Americans obsessing about one thing: moving to Canada.
Stars from Cher to Lena Dunham have declared their intention to head north if the former reality star, famous for insulting Muslims and Mexicans, and under the microscope for alleged sexism, reaches top office.
According to one recent Morning Consult/Vox poll, 28 percent of Americans would "likely" consider moving to another country if Trump wins in November. Google said the search "how can I move to Canada?" surged 350 percent on March 1 when Trump won seven Republican state elections.
Money makers on both sides of the border have turned the hype into a savvy marketing tool. "Leaving the country if TRUMP is elected PRESIDENT? Give me a call and LET'S GET YOUR HOME SOLD!!" advertised one US realtor.
A millennial entrepreneur in Texas set up dating site Maple Match promising to help Americans "find the ideal Canadian partner to save them from the unfathomable horror of a Trump presidency."
The site is the brainchild of 25-year-old Joe Goldman, who always wanted to set up a dating site but used the Trump bandwagon to drive publicity.
While actual introductions and dates are a way off, Goldman says that more than 30,000 people hungry for love have already signed up.
"The Donald Trump campaign for president has provided us with an opportunity to make something positive," he stated. "But ultimately Maple Match itself is not political. It's about bringing Americans and Canadians together."
Fear stoked by election
After Cape Breton Island, off the tip of Nova Scotia, offered a refuge to Trump-hating Americans earlier this year, visitors to its tourism site exploded from 65,000 last year to 600,000, says tourist chief Mary Tulle.
US academic Neda Maghbouleh moved to Toronto three years ago with her husband when they were offered attractive faculty jobs at a university.
Their daughter was born in Canada, the couple have acquired permanent residency and now they want to sponsor Maghbouleh's parents to join them.
"My urgency and fear was really stoked by this election. It was a feeling that we need to be very proactive about this," she said.
Businessman Nuri Katz, who helps people acquire second citizenship, says "tens" of clients have given Trump as a reason for wanting to relocate, but warns that there are huge obstacles to actually getting up and moving.
"All this anecdotal talk about moving to Canada, it's really tough," he told AFP during a business trip to New York. "It's not going to be a flood of people just driving into Canada and saying 'here we are'," he said.
Sortable, a web advertising company in Ontario, targeted US-based developers by cheekily offering "a safe place for smart, nice people" looking for an alternative to a Trump presidency earlier this year.
But while the ad generated a lot of interest, the company has yet to recruit any Americans although talks are ongoing, says digital marketing officer Brenden Sherratt.
Canada has tightened immigration procedures for many categories of people, although it has been liberal in accepting Syrian refugees. Americans opposed to Trump hardly meet the UN definition of a refugee, Katz warned.
"It is a tough argument to make that you are being politically persecuted in the US," said Katz, president at Apex Capital Partners Corp.
"Canada started accepting American political refugees? Boy, China would have a field day with that. Could you imagine?"
Katz says Dominica in the Caribbean is the cheapest place for Americans to buy second citizenship -- yours for an investment of $100,000.
He has also signed up his first American client for Cyprus, where nationality can be acquired in three months for a one-off investment of 2.5 million euros.
But Americans are a minority of those shopping for a second nationality and although a record number are renouncing citizenship, often for a combination of financial and political reasons, Katz says the industry is "tiny."
And even if Americans have itchy feet, their country remains a premier destination for foreigners, particularly Chinese.
An investor programme grants green cards to those who invest at least $500,000 and create 10 full time jobs. But it's so inundated that the wait time is eight years, Katz said.
As the daughter of Iranian immigrants, Maghbouleh grew up feeling lucky. "The US in so many ways is still the promised land for so many people," she admitted.