Monday, 15 July 2013

The Amazing Race Canada

[A rare moment when some sun broke through the storm clouds as we approached Toronto on the Waterfront Trail. Torrential rain resumed as we reached the vicinity of the CN Tower, visible in the background. More rain fell in the next 48 hours than ever before in such a time period in recorded Toronto meteorological history.]

We expect about a third of our route across North America this summer to be in Canada. And by happenstance, we’re in Canada for the long-awaited launch of The Amazing Race Canada on the CTV television network.

(Full episodes of “The Amazing Race Canada” will be available for streaming from the Web site, but only to Canadian IP addresses or via Canadian proxy servers, not directly to the USA.)

Since the first season The Amazing Race, the show has drawn a much larger share of television viewers in Canada than in the USA, but the cast has been limited to citizens of the USA.

I don’t work for CBS or the show’s producers, but the comments on my article about How to apply for “The Amazing Race” have been full of complaints about this “No Canadians need apply” policy.

To add insult to injury, Israel and Australia got their own franchised around-the-world versions of “The Amazing Race” years before Canada, even though the US version of the show has consistently gotten higher ratings in Canada than anywhere else in the world where it has been broadcast. Ratings of the US version in Australia have been high, but not as high as those on CTV in Canada.

The Amazing Race Canada may acquire a fan base of its own. For the Canadian international travellers who have been the core Canadian audience for “The Amazing Race”, however, the Canadian show is likely to be taken as a further outrage: Unlike the original US version or the franchises in Israel and Australia, “The Amazing Race Canada” will be a race around Canada, not a race around the world. Part of the grand prize for the winners of “The Amazing Race Canada” will be a trip around the world, but the race itslef will be conducted entirely within Canada.

Disheartening as this is likely to be for Canadian armchair and boob-tube travellers, “The Amazing Race Canada” should provide travellers from the USA with a reminder that one of our closest neighbors is also one of our most under-visited (compared to its proximity) and under-appreciated destinations. As with (un)awareness in the USA of all things Canadian, it’s not so much that people in the USA choose other foreign countries over Canada as that too many of us are oblivious to the possibilities offered by Canada as a travel destination, and don’t even consider it.

Or we think of Canada as not really a foreign country. That misperception is enhanced by failure to consider Québec, either on its own or as part of Canada. But even anglophone-majority parts of Canada are not the USA — as has been apparent to us on this trip.

We’re currently in Ontario’s “Loyalist country”, where the regional heritage and identity is defined by the legacy of people who chose Canada over the USA 200 years ago, when that choice had very different (and in some respects opposite) connotations than choosing Canada over the USA would have today:

[Monument to a monarchist counter-revolutionary on the Loyalist Parkway along the north shore of Lake Ontario. Click image for a version large enough to read.]

For an amateur anthropologist, one of the pleasures of travelling by bicycle is a typically more immersive experience than if you travel by airplane or car. On a bicycle tour, you are more likely to notice more subtle differences between places in both physical and cultural geography.

Toronto is a Hollywood stand-in (with some suitable set-dressing) for a variety of US cities. In reality, there’s no way that you could mistake the distinctive streetscape of a central Toronto neighborhood for that of any of the US cities that it plays in the movies.

People in the USA know much less about Canada, and therefore have more to learn from it, than vice versa. Today, however, a larger percentage of Canadians travel regularly to the USA than vice versa. For various reasons (including differences in political culture), the 2007-2008 recession and the decline in real-estate prices weren’t nearly as severe in Canada as in the USA. Since then, Canadians have led the flood of foreigners buying bargain homes in the US, especially in depressed sunbelt vacation and retirement markets like Florida and Las Vegas.

Most of these Canadians snowbirds don’t have US permanent residency or dual citizenship, and don’t want to be considered US residents for tax purposes. So they have to count their days in the USA carefully and limit themselves to no more than six months as a visitor in the USA in any calendar year. Typically, they return to Canada in the summer (who wants to spend the summer in Florida or Las Vegas anyway?), and we’ve met many Canadian part-time US residents and homeowners as we travel through Canada this summer.

Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 15 July 2013, 23:59 (11:59 PM)
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