OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadians can put away those extra welcome mats -- it seems Americans unhappy about the result of last November's presidential election have decided to stay at home after all.
In the days after President Bush won a second term, the number of U.S. citizens visiting Canada's main immigration Web site shot up sixfold, prompting speculation that unhappy Democrats would flock north.
But official statistics show the number of Americans actually applying to live permanently in Canada fell in the six months after the election.
On the face of it this is not good news -- Canada is one of the few major nations seeking to attract immigrants -- but Immigration Minister Joe Volpe was philosophical.
"We'll take talent from wherever it is resident in the world. I was absolutely elated to see the number of hits and then my staff said 'You know what? A hit on the Internet is after all just a hit'," he told Reuters on Thursday.
"I guess I'm happy Republicans and Democrats have found a way to live together in peace and in harmony," he said.
Canada generally tilts more to the social and political left than the United States.
Data from the main Canadian processing center in Buffalo, NY shows that in the six months up to the U.S. election there were 16,266 applications from people seeking to live in Canada, a figure that fell to 14,666 for the half year after the vote.
A spokeswoman for Canada's federal immigration ministry declined to speculate on the reasons for the drop.
Toby Condliffe, who heads the Canadian chapter of Democrats Abroad, did have an explanation of sorts.
"I can only assume the Americans who checked out the Web site subsequently checked out our winter temperatures and further took note that the National Hockey League was being locked out and had second thoughts," he told Reuters.
Last year, Canada, which has a population of about 32 million, accepted 235,808 immigrants from all over the world.