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Memo from Canada to US: Hey, Open Your Windows!

By   Shlomo Maital   

   I am currently at York University, Toronto, Canada, on a brief visit speaking for Technion Canada and assisting a colleague with an entrepreneurship program.

   I am deeply happy to be in the country of my birth, and not in the US. On entering Canada, at Pearson Airport, a huge sign reads: Canada Welcomes Everyone!   In contrast, US border officials recently hassled my wife, who is an American citizen (!), probably because we live in Israel.

   America has a friendly, liberal neighbor to the North. Canada has solved problems the US still struggles with. Yet – America’s windows to the north are dark and shuttered. Why?


     * Under Canada’s Live-In Caregiver Program, established in 1992, Philippine caregivers get six months of training in their home country, contract to care for Canadian elderly in their own homes, and in return, eventually get citizenship for themselves and their families. Our loved one had 17 years of loving expert care by Philippine caregivers 24/7, enabling her to live in dignity in her own home to the end.  In contrast, America’s eldercare system, or lack of one, is, according to MIT Professor Paul Osterman, “a train wreck”.

     * Under Canada’s nimble immigration system, 330,000 immigrants will be admitted in 2019! That would be equivalent to nearly 3 million immigrants, if the same proportion were admitted to the US. Disaster? Invasion? No. In Canada 60% of foreign nationals are ‘highly educated’, according to the OECD. Canada’s “Express Entry” system invites immigrants to become permanent residents weekly, as spots open up.

   Here at York U., I am privileged to observe a phenomenal program, led by my friend and colleague Prof. Andrew Maxwell, that leads 19 incredible Canadian teenagers through a startup boot-camp. Today and then again Friday, they will ‘pitch’ their startup ideas, tackling tough problems, in teams of 3 or 4.   Of the 19, I believe at least 14 are from immigrant backgrounds.  They won their place through a series of challenging competitions.

       It is no coincidence. Immigrants’ children are driven by high aspirations. I know. I am a child of immigrants, whose parents were welcomed by Canada and thus saved from a bitter end, later, in Europe.

      I wonder why America’s windows to the north are permanently shut.   In business, companies regularly do best-practice benchmarking, to find ways to do better. Why doesn’t the United States, led by a self-defined business tycoon, do the same? Forget the President — why don’t elected politicians open their windows and look North? They might learn a few things.  

       Canadians are regularly mocked in the US – our accents, our naivete…. Too bad, America. We have national health care, we look after our elderly, we have affordable college tuition, and we don’t have assault weapons in every closet.   Ever wonder why?    






What I Learned from Lee Kwan Yew

By Shlomo  Maital   

  Lee Kwan Yew

Singapore’s legendary founding leader, Lee Kwan Yew, has passed away; he was 91. 

 I personally learned a great many  things from this wise and courageous man, who led Singapore to independence in 1965 and like the founding leader of my country, David Ben Gurion, knew the odds were strongly against survival.    He shaped a prosperous country with per capita GDP of over $60,000, double that of my country Israel. 

   I recall two things vividly.  First, in the early days of Singapore, he appealed to the mothers of Singapore, to “urge your children to study math”. Why? So they could study engineering in college. Why? So Singapore could build its wealth on knowledge, having no resources or land.  And it worked. They did, they did, and it did. 

  Second – he explained why America leads the world.  China has 1.4 billion people.  Among them are geniuses.  America has only some 340 million.  But America is a magnet. It attracts talent from the whole world – its talent pool is 7 billion, not 340 million.  That is a huge advantage.  My own parents migrated to Canada as immigrants from Bessarabia, now Moldova, worked hard, and passed their aspirations on to me.  Canada, I think, benefited.  

    Recently, Harvard Professor Joseph Nye wrote a book, with the title asking a question, is the American excellence and domination over?   His answer was, no.  But I’m not sure. Because many Americans (especially the Republican party) are anti-immigrant,  and I personally have waited hours and hours and hours to have my visa approved (in Toronto), just so I could go to Boston to teach a course FOR FREE. (Babson insisted I enter on a visa, rather than as a Canadian visitor).  Amusingly, I had to show my Princeton diploma to the immigration official; it was in Latin!  That took another few hours. 

     I know Singapore well, having taught there.  I got to know a very senior civil servant, a man of enormous wisdom.  I often wished my own country could have civil servants of such quality – and leadership like Lee Kwan Yew.  Very few countries do.  He will be missed.   

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital