Travel adventures.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Attempts to get a Driver's License, Social Insurance Number, and a Health Card

Today I went to apply for an Ontario Driver's License and a Health Card. My friend Andrew knew of a Service Ontario Centre where I could apply for both in the same place. Fortunately for me, Andrew needed to renew his tags on his car, so we walked up to the Service Centre together.

The walk across downtown Toronto was an adventure in itself, because I finally got to see the PATH. The PATH is an underground walkway system that covers much of the downtown area, and connects many buildings in the downtown area. I had heard of the PATH, but never actually been there. You should visit the PATH If you ever visit Toronto, especially in the winter season. Basically, there is an entire network of walkways, and it's like an underground mall. Every walkway is lined with shops, restaurants, and service boutiques. If you live and work in the right places, you could walk to work, and find everything you need without ever going outdoors. Calgary has a similar system of walkways called the +15, but they connect buildings downtown with walkways that are 15 metres above ground. I have found that city life can actually be quite comfortable in cold climates when cities provide a system like the PATH or the +15. It's rather strange walking across town without a coat when it's -10 degrees outside, but everything is heated.

Anyway, after my journey through the PATH, I tried to apply for a Driver's license. Ontario has a reciprocal agreement with all US states, and several other countries. So, all I should have to do is show my Texas Drivers license and pay an application fee. Unfortunately, I had no such luck. When they went to look at my driving history in Texas, they only saw my driving history since my Texas driver's license was last renewed. So, as far as they can tell, I have only been driving for a few months. Two years of driving experience are required to get an Ontario license with full driving privileges. So, they told me to have texas fax my driving record to them. So, I called Texas Department of Public Safety, and they informed me that they only provide driving records by mail and will not fax. So, I completed an on-line form to request one be mailed to me. When I went to enter the mailing address, they only offer mailing to US states. So, I had to have the driving record mailed to a friend's house in the US. Fortunately, I can legally use my Texas license to drive in Ontario for 60 days. Texas has an on-line driver record request form available here:

After I tried to apply for a Driver's License, I headed over to the other side of the Service Ontario Centre and requested a Health Card. As a resident of Ontario, I have the privilege of having most of my medical and health service needs paid for my the province. All I have to do is wait three months from the day I established residency here. In order to get a health cart, I have to provide are my work permit, and Social Insurance Number (SIN) and proof of my residence in Ontario. They said they would accept an original copy of my lease agreement as proof of my residence. Another acceptable proof of residence would be my Ontario Driver's License. So, I will probably be returning later with a copy of my lease contract. It still amazes me how well Canada takes care of their residents and even their guest workers.

I wanted to take this opportunity to get out my soap box and explain that Health Services and Health Insurance was one of my big motivating factors for moving from the US to Canada. A few months ago I watched a film by Michael Moore called Sicko. In his documentary, Michael Moore visited Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Cuba to film people's experiences with the health systems of those countries. He also documented the experiences of several Americans with health insurance and health services in the US. More than anything else, I most shocked and alarmed about the statistics on health coverage in the US. Medical bills are the cause of about half of bankruptcies in the US. And 75 percent of those bankruptcies are people with medical insurance. Medical insurance in the US is not regulated in such a way that insurance companies actually have to pay your health costs. They seem to be able to deny payment of many health costs. Michael Moore might exaggerate a bit in his films, and he probably only reveals the statistics and "facts" that support his agenda. However, there is no denying that the Health Care and Health Insurance systems in the US are broken.

There you have it, my first major complaint about life in the US. There will probably be many more in my future blog posts. :)