Maximum Canada

Population issues. Yep. Still boring.

It’s not like Doug Saunders doesn’t make some good points in Maximum Canada: Why 35 Million Canadians are Not Enough. He totally does.

But population is a booooring social issue. Which is probably why it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I learned a lot about population and its impacts on the economy and more random things. For example, Canada doesn’t have the population to form a significant number of think tanks, which think about things like the impact of population on the economy and creativity of a country. Early prime ministers wanted to see Canada hit 100 million—we’re still not there.

Despite the number of Australians you may find in Whistler, Canada’s population has barely grown. “During the 90 years between 851 and 1941, Canada had attracted 6.7 million immigrants but had lost almost 6.3 million people through emigration. As a result, Canada’s net population intake during that near-century averaged only 4,400 people per year.”

Our population was only 12 million. The United states was home to 145 million, from immigration and from births.  

“And they were in many ways a more talented, better equipped group,” Saunders writes.

At the time, Canada was officially only taking British farmers, while the US took a more diverse group of skilled people. No wonder it is taking us so long to catch up on the arts, technology and a bunch of other things. Yeah yeah, there are some exceptional people from here. From here. They tend to move away. As far back as Alexander Graham Bell, Canadians have needed to leave the country to find investors, labs and the creative circles they need to support their endeavours. Saunders boils this down as a population issue, rather than a social or moral one. Which is great, actually, because population is fixable. Economic growth and economic diversity will improve with a larger population. A larger internal market enables more businesses and arts to flourish.

Saunders’s whole argument is that the population holds Canada back from reaching its full potential. He’s not worried about over population in Canada for a couple of reasons. He provides examples of two countries with high population densities still known for their pristine wilderness and insists that a larger population around tightly packed urban centres won’t damage Canada’s prized natural attributes. Additionally, he says that more eyes watching government and holding them accountable to environmental policies will improve our environmental impacts. Denser cities provide the tax base necessary to improve public transit, thereby cutting down on cars. Canadians are too spread out to to seriously invest in mass transit.

The strangest population fact (at least to me) he presents is that higher immigration to Canada will lower the birth rate around the world. Canada has a low birth rate among its citizens and when people immigrate here, they also have fewer children. Even if they move back to their original countries, they have fewer children. Canada: the world’s best birth control. I’ll do my part and definitely not have kids.

Doug Saunders was at Event 35 (Think Big, Canada) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.

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