16 February 2019
Canada is jubilant as it celebrates its 150th anniversary. Photo: Fredericton Tourism
Canada is jubilant as it celebrates its 150th anniversary. Photo: Fredericton Tourism

Canada: Getting stronger though 130 years older than Hong Kong

As I leave Toronto on a flight back to Hong Kong, I cannot help but feel odd bothered and bewildered, if you will. 

Canada, as you know, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and the air of jubilation is unmistakable. But this is something I cannot say about the people’s mood in my dear old Hong Kong, which is marking the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule.

First things first. You don’t block Wan Chai, the heart of the city, to ensure the safety of President Xi Jinping at the expense of the toiling, heaving masses of the district.

And why should anyone prevent reporters from bringing their own towels and umbrellas while covering our dear leader? As temperatures soar, such a prohibition – a security precaution, they say – is simply absurd, and in no way would it generate positive coverage of the three-day visit.

Ah, there are bright red flags everywhere so the big man feels welcome. But most citizens, despite the extravaganza in their midst, find it hard to feel gratitude in their heart. All they can think of is how much they have lost in the 20 years since the city returned to its motherland.

Things are different in Canada, where I traveled across five provinces in the past two weeks. From Toronto to Prince Edward Island, I can feel the passion of ordinary Canadians as they celebrate the Sesquicentennial of the Confederation.

The preparations for the big birthday bash started seven years ago, and it’s not just at the national level but down to the grassroots.

Everyone can claim a free national park pass as a birthday present for themselves. And on July 1st, a new commemorative 10-dollar note will be issued to mark the event.

Canadians feel proud to be Canadians. Just like the title of the display book at Indigo bookstore – The World Needs More Canada.

In fact, I can say that a friend I’ve known for 20 years generally feels happier in Canada than most people I know who are living in Hong Kong. Never mind if people pay higher taxes in Canada, and are quite cautious about how they spend their money.

But, guess what, they live in bigger houses or apartments, and they can afford to go about at a much slower pace than their counterparts in Hong Kong. There’s also a property boom in Canada. But unlike in Hong Kong, where it means many people, especially the young, can’t afford to buy their own homes, in Canada it means the value of the homes they own keeps going up.

One other plus for Canada is the quality of education. There’s no other place in the world, I think, that has a better mosaic culture than Canada, where people respect each other regardless of gender and color. Canadian kids are well-bred, and quite happy, I think.

Out of the dozen families I visited in the east and west coast of Canada this year, I am pretty impressed with a fellow writer who moved to Toronto along with two kids (and a dozen dogs and half a dozen cats all under one roof).

Thanks to the internet, he writes and submits his articles from home with ease, and not too many of his colleagues have noticed that he has actually moved out of Hong Kong.

And another excellent thing about living in Toronto is that Chinese food in this cosmopolitan city can compare with, and sometimes even tastes better than the best Hong Kong can offer. I’m talking about dim sum, in particular.

And so on my flight back to Hong Kong, I wrestle with the question of where I should belong – the young but cranky metropolis or the old but spacious city?

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EJ Insight writer

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