|Only 50 miles from Canada, Whitefish has a massive Canadian presence from which Montanans can learn many lessons about sky-high taxes and nationalized health care.|
Montana Moments: The Canadian Connection
By: George Noga – July 15, 2018
Whitefish is 50 miles south of Canada and a mere 4 hour drive from Calgary and its 1.3 million people; altogether, 2 million Canadians live within an easy drive. Given the profuse attractions of Whitefish and Glacier National Park, the massive Canadian presence during summers is no surprise. Alberta’s energy economy and the favorable exchange rate (until recently) bring in Canadian hordes flush with petrodollars.
Canadians also are attracted by the nightlife and incredibly cheap prices vis-a-vis Canada. They come for weekends, vacations and endless holidays; they even come for their weddings which, due to rock-bottom prices, can cost up to 50% less than home. Mainly however, they come to party because of the absurdly cheap booze. They party so frenetically that in the argot of Whitefish, drunkencanadian is one word.
Cocktails in Whitefish are one-third the price and twice the size of those north of the border due to Canada’s sky-high alcohol taxes. A scotch costs $2.75 and beer $1.00. During happy hour, our tab once was $32.00 for 27 drinks! Moreover, some watering holes accept Canadian loonies at par which makes cocktails ridiculously cheap. Before leaving Montana, they pack as much food and potables as allowed into their SUVs to beat the oppressively high Canadian prices and value added taxes.
Not all Canadians come for cheap booze; many come for medical care. There are long waits for procedures in Canada while Montana offers same day service. They are so desperate, they pay out-of-pocket at great sacrifice. I have heard many heart wrenching stories about Canada’s system and most of my Canadian interlocutors passionately forewarn me against Canadian style socialized medicine for the USA.
The median wait time between referral and treatment in Canada is over 21 weeks, 42 weeks in some provinces and a staggering 4 years in extreme cases. The wait for a CAT scan is 11 weeks and increasing – while Montana has no waiting whatsoever. Over 1 million Canadians (3% of the population) are in line. The long waits are not just inconvenient; they often transform potentially reversible conditions into chronic or permanent disabilities. Free medical care is not much good if you can’t get it.
While in Montana, I make it a point to ask our northern visitors how satisfied they are with Canadian healthcare. Out of the scores I have thus queried, only two said they were satisfied. The first said he liked the care in Canada but came to Montana whenever the wait times were problematic. The second defended the Canadian system by asserting is was very good at triage, i.e. if you were mired on a long wait list and your conditioned deteriorated, they would move you up on the list.
So, what can we learn from the Canadian connection? First, Canada has a high cost of living due to confiscatory taxation. The federal income tax rate is 29%; provincial income tax rates are 15%-20%; health care is 6% and a 13% VAT is embedded in all purchases. If you are keeping score, the total is 64% to 68%!
Second, Canada is a nanny state that doesn’t want its children, err citizens drinking and imposes alcohol taxes that make cocktails 600% more costly than in Montana. That shouldn’t be unexpected from a country whose founding documents tout “peace, order and good government” instead of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Finally, we learn much about the disaster that is Canada’s national healthcare. When anything is in great demand, it must be rationed via either time or cost; that’s an immutable economic law. Since healthcare is free, it can’t be rationed via cost; that leaves time. Bingo! How comforting it must be for Canadians to know that if their condition seriously deteriorates, they may be moved above the other 1 million poor, desperate souls waiting in line for treatment that is instantly available in Montana.
The next post is TBD
|If you can’t be happy here, you can’t be happy anywhere.|
By: George Noga – July 1, 2018
This is the first 2018 post in our remarkably popular summer series about life in the Flathead Valley of NW Montana. Unfortunately, our initial posting this year is a jeremiad. I regret to report that Whitefish and its environs have been discovered by the masses, much to the lament of both locals as well as us summer residents.
My wife and I have a proclivity for finding idiosyncratic destinations long before they are unearthed by the multitudes. In the 1980s we were habitues of Santa Fe, NM while that city different still retained all its cachet. When the hordes descended and Santa Fe became overly commercialized, losing much of its erstwhile charm, we decamped to still-virginal Telluride, CO. Alas, when it too fell victim to the throngs, we stumbled onto Whitefish, MT and instantly were smitten. Now, after 12 summers in Whitefish, gaggles of visitors are again swarming in. It too is now discovered.
Whitefish, and NW Montana, remains a priceless gem but its setting, especially in summer, is becoming tarnished. Its crown jewel, Glacier National Park (“GNP”), has seen a record crush of visitors flocking to the park. Last year visitors to GNP were up a staggering 30% over 2016 necessitating a first-ever (brief) closure of the park over the July 4th weekend. Even the usually slow shoulder months of June and September now attract herds. And all this happened despite dreadful forest fires and smoke hazards much of last summer that closed off parts of GNP for weeks at a time.
Inside GNP, parking at popular Logan Pass now is closed to cars during peak months. Parking at trailheads often is a futile search. Traffic on iconic Going-to-the-Sun road creates monstrous traffic jams. All lodges inside the park are booked a year in advance. I now caution visitors about coming from July 1 through Labor Day.
Whitefish has not escaped unscathed. With a population of only 6,500, it simply can’t handle even a few thousand more visitors at a time. In recent years, new hotels and RV parks have opened and can accommodate thousands more people. The added traffic has made parking in Whitefish a challenge – despite the recent addition of a new downtown parking garage. Indeed, nearby Kalispell and the Flathead Valley are the fastest growing parts of Montana. Traffic at Glacier Park International Airport is up double digits and surpassed 500,000 last year – a lot for a four-gate airport.
One of my Montana readers emailed me last year: “George, if you keep this up (meaning all the favorable posts describing Whitefish) too many people will come.” It looks like he was right, although it is not due to my lame blogging efforts. After this post, I may get back into the good graces of my Montana readers, none of whom particularly likes the swarm of visitors. Nevertheless, I must end on a sanguine note.
As packed as Glacier National Park has become, it still remains infinitely better than Yellowstone, Yosemite and all the rest. And although it is true that summer crowds in Whitefish and Glacier create inconvenience, NW Montana remains truly the last best place in America. Local residents have a saying that I have heard expressed on numerous occasions: “If you can’t be happy here, you can’t be happy anywhere.” After twelve summers in Whitefish, it is a sentiment with which I cannot disagree.
P.S. After this post was written, the Whitefish City Council formed a committee to consider whether tourism has reached a tipping point whereby further increases in visitors should be discouraged because it erodes the quality of life and what makes Whitefish so special to locals.
Next on July 8th, we feast on a collection of micro and ultra-short topics.
By: George Noga – July 25, 2016
During summer I lighten up my blog with anecdotes about my summer home in Whitefish, Montana. Whitefish is sited in the Flathead Valley of NW Montana only 50 miles south of Canada and 100 miles east of the upper panhandle of Idaho. I belong to the Whitefish Lake Golf Club that has a half-century tradition called Derby, which is open to anyone; I have been playing Derby for the past seven or eight summers.
Each Thursday at high noon, anywhere from 15 to 27 golfers are divided into three man scramble teams made as equal as possible by the commissioner, the member in charge of Derby. The commissioner is chosen to maintain the Derby tradition and serves for life. The teams compete with only modest stakes of one dollar per person per hole. This could happen at almost any golf club in the USA, you may be thinking.
Your thinking would be wrong; Derby is unique. For starters, all 15 to 27 golfers play as one group and manage to play 18 holes in about 4.5 hours – an average time for the course. Usually three people hit simultaneously; it is a miracle no one has been injured. Imagine the scene with 27 golfers and 15 golf carts barrelling down a fairway toward an unsuspecting foursome of visiting Canadians. Note: I spent several summers playing in Derby before I learned that drunken Canadian was two words.
What makes Derby special is the eclectic combination of participants. Players range in age from 18 to over 80. Some earn minimum wage; others are multi millionaires. Some are scratch golfers; others are high handicappers. Some lack higher education; others are professionals with doctorate degrees. There are Americans, Canadians and Native Americans. Many are Montanans; others like me hail from throughout the USA.
Some players openly smoke dope while other participants are deputy sheriffs who pretend not to notice. Other players imbibe liberally from adult beverages in ubiquitous coolers in many golf carts. Some do both. There is a cohort of Mormon participants that conveniently ignores strictures against drinking and gambling. Some players have Derby nicknames too ribald to include herein. The repartee is incessant and priceless.
Everyone clearly revels in the camaraderie despite what, on the surface, appear to be wide chasms among the various cohorts: young and old, rich and poor, accomplished golfers and duffers, dishwashers and attorneys, dropouts and PhDs, potheads and law enforcement officers and Mormons coexisting with gambling, drugs and alcohol.
Two factors combine to make Derby an enduring tradition: (1) shared love of golf; and (2) Montana. Derby probably wouldn’t work outside Montana as there clearly is something very special in the air up here. If you golf and visit NW Montana, consider playing in Derby; you will understand why there is nothing quite like it anywhere.
But if you should visit the Treasure State, please don’t stay too long; Montanans are fond of their bumper stickers reading: Welcome to Montana – Now Go Home. Recently, the population of Montana surpassed one million for the first time and the news was greeted universally throughout the state with great sorrow, gloom and melancholy.
The next MLLG post from Montana will be distributed in about a week.
By: George Noga – July14, 2016
A nanny state is being imposed by progressives who believe they know better what is good for us; they began by infantilizing children but are bent on infantilizing all Americans. Age 16 has become the new age 10. Following is a small sample of nanny state regulations promulgated by the federal government and by certain blue states.
These strictures do not constitute mere advice or suggestions on the part of government nor are they attempts to reason or to persuade. They bear the full force of law. Miscreants and scofflaws are subject to the government’s monopoly on the legalized use of force. SWAT teams can and do take children from parents and subject them to the full panoply of horrors common to state agencies.
Amidst all this infantilizing, it is comforting to know parts of the real America still exist. One such place is our summer home of Montana. During summers there is a weekly rodeo near the small town where we stay and a regular event is youth bull riding. Kids as young as 8 ride bulls; to be sure, the bulls are young with their horns cut back and the kids wear helmets. Still, the 500 pound bulls are undomesticated.
At the same rodeo it is common to see teenagers with serious hunting knives (think: Crocodile Dundee) strapped openly to their waists. Imagine the same sight at a blue state junior high school football game. Within an instant panic would set in; heavily armed SWAT teams would fast rope in; and the stadium would be evacuated.
In Montana a youth can get a hunting license at age 11 – and the first one is free. Youth deer hunting season is the Thursday and Friday preceding the opening of regular hunting season in October. So many youths go hunting that all schools in Montana have been forced to close during the two days of youth hunting season.
Infantilization of children is child abuse. Emotional development of victims is hobbled; they are at increased risk of self harm; and they have academic problems and poor social skills. They are averse to responsibility and often fail as adults. Children are but the first victims; it is the aim of progressives to infantilize all Americans and to turn America into a nanny state with government as the nanny and all of us as children. As with all liberal doctrines promising benefits, the end result always is grave harm.
I’m not sure I would want my eight year old to ride a bull or my eleven year old to go deer hunting. I am absolutely certain however that I prefer to live in a place like Montana that leaves such decisions up to parents rather than to the state.
The next post in about 10 days describes a zany Montana golf tradition – Derby!
“In Montana eight (8) year old boys ride 500 pound bulls.”
“Toy guns are not necessary in Montana; kids get real guns.”
“There is no crying in Montana.”
“Welcome to Montana – Now go home.”