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Canada Awaits American Influx

President Bush takes the oath of office for a second time on Thursday, leaving unhappy liberals licking wounds, but not necessarily running for the northern border.

Before the November election that propelled America's 43rd president back into office, a small but vocal number of Americans so upset with the Bush administration vowed to leave the country if the president were re-elected.

"I just don't know if I can live here for four more years [of Bush]," said 31-year-old Corrie Safris, who works in film production in Los Angeles.

"People will probably be like, 'Those crazy Hollywood liberals,' but [when Bush won] we were genuinely upset. We were crying. There was this sad mood throughout L.A., it almost felt as if someone had died," said Safris, who flirted with the idea of emigrating after the November election.

It is uncertain, however, whether the reality has matched the threats.

Canadian officials say they did note an uptick in interest among Americans seeking to relocate, as evidenced by tracking numbers on Canada's immigration Web site.

On Nov. 2, the site received 86,937 page visits, a hefty surge from the previous daily average of 20,000. The next day, Nov. 3, the number of inquiries from the United States alone skyrocketed to 115,628.

The site had "a spike," said Maria Iadinardi, a spokeswoman for Canada's Citizen and Immigration Department (search). "For the month of November, we hit a record high for the year."

But due to the lengthy application process, Canadian embassy officials said they won't know until April if a substantial number of Americans put their passports where their mouths were.

One Bush supporter said Bush-haters' threats are comparable to a childish temper tantrum.

"It is almost childish, an overreaction," said Mary Ann Jackson, 57, a small-business owner from Florida, who noted that after the 2000 election, when hanging chads took center stage in the fight for the White House, the mood in Florida was one of open hostility.

"It was crazy. I was glued to the screen, up all night waiting to see what would happen. It was a bitter mood in Florida," she said.

"Hopefully, after the inauguration things will settle down and people will remember what they have here and remember why they live in America in the first place," Jackson added.

Others say disgruntled Democrats should stop talking and start walking.

"Don't let the door hit you on the way out," said syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin. Malkin said nobody is forced to live in America. Rather than complain and talk about leaving, "go for it," she said. "It goes back to the old saying, 'Love it or leave it.' Clearly, they don't love it."

The satirical Web site www.marryanamerican.ca, created by the editors of "This Magazine," suggested several reasons why Bush-haters might be attracted to Canada.

"When compared to the United States, Canada is a liberal utopia and we have universal health care (in two languages), gay marriage, free marijuana for everyone, and we don't like guns," according to the site.

Some Canadians are happy to hear that "Bush-dodgers" might be trying to move in and say the more the merrier. The country that dwarfs the United States in land mass but has only one-tenth the population could use the company, said one.

"I think they should let in any American that wants to move here right away," said comedian Glen Foster, otherwise known as That Canadian Guy.

Foster said an influx of immigrants from the south could help Canada gain influence over its southern neighbor. With more Canadian citizens having American family ties, they will be able to have an impact on international decisions.

"Now we get carried in the current," Foster said, suggesting that whatever America does, Canada gets roped into.

But, for the "disenfranchised liberals who are mostly the artsy liberal type," Foster had bad news. "There is no work," he said.

Safris and her fiancé, Hollywood screenwriter Ken Nolan, 37, are not packing their bags and preparing to pledge allegiance to another country just yet. Nolan decided that they will wait it out; he said his choice will be influenced by what happens in the Supreme Court.

"If [more conservatives get appointed to the Supreme Court] we'll definitely move, because I wouldn't want to raise my kids" with the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned and other rightward swings of the legal pendulum, Nolan said.

Although Jackson voted for Bush in both of the past two elections, she doesn't want people who don't agree with her politically to leave the country. She said she hopes the bad feelings will soon dissipate and people will get on with their lives.

"I would tell them to stay. ... Get over it," Jackson said.

The Border Between Refugee and Deserter

Foster made clear that his extended welcome to Americans seeking citizenship does not apply to military deserters seeking asylum in Canada, or the estimated 50,000 Americans who fled in the 1960s to avoid the Vietnam War draft.

"That is very different. That [influx of Americans during Vietnam era] is called draft-dodging," Foster said. "What [Hinzman] is doing, is called AWOL."

American military man Jeremy Hinzman (search ) is currently living in Toronto with his wife and son after moving to Canada a year ago and filing "conscientious objector" status. His is the first case relating to the Iraq war to be adjudicated in Canada.

According to U.S. officials, the 26-year-old from South Dakota deserted the 82nd Airborne Division. A hearing was held in December and filings from his lawyer and the U.S. solicitor general's office are expected next week. The judge has said he will make a decision soon after that. If the board denies his status, he could be sent back to the United States to face a military tribunal.

Iadinardi declined to comment on Hinzman's pending case specifically, but she said he and all others seeking refuge inside Canada's borders deserve to have their arguments heard.

Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board "is the deciding factor. They look at the definition according to U.N. conventions, and they decide who is and who is not a convention refugee, [the deciding factor being] persecution, not prosecution," Iadinardi said.

Foster said Hinzman's situation is very different from liberals trying to find political solace.

"[Hinzman] signed on to be in the Army, it wasn't like it was someone else's decision," he said.