It’s no joke that size matters in a nation’s quality of life

August 10, 2010 • Daily Email Recap

Congratulations to Clifford Garrard of Population Institute Canada for his letter to the Ottawa Citizen. It responds to a call by Ian MacLeod of the Canwest News Service for Canada to increase its population to 100 million to give it more clout in world affairs. See a second letter from Ambassador Martin Collacott below. The MacLeod piece is reprinted below the letters.

It’s no joke that size matters in a nation’s quality of life

The Ottawa Citizen June 19, 2010
Re: Canada should aim for 100M population , June 14.

While a saucy double entendre query of whether “size matters” might produce snickers, the proposition that Canada’s population should be encouraged through immigration to grow to 100 million is no laughing matter. “Size” does matter. And the consequences are profoundly far-reaching and important.

With a global population of 6.8 billion today and more than nine billion expected by 2050, what the planet and Canada do not need is more people — quite the reverse. Relentlessly expanding human numbers place ever more demands on the Earth, leading to deforestation, biodiversity loss, soil exhaustion, vanishing fisheries, and increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Typically, conflicts that dominate media headlines are caused and/or exacerbated by these and other associated resource scarcities.

Today we face unprecedented global challenges including food and water shortages, a looming energy crisis and climate change, all driven by ever-expanding population increases.

In Canada environmental degradation is a sad, growing fact of life. Prime farm land is being gobbled up, traffic congestion is worsening as our cities expand, and with urban sprawl air quality is deteriorating.
We need fewer people since fewer translates into fewer problems, greater social justice, a better standard of living for everyone.

Sweden , with a population much smaller than our own, is envied by many for its quality of life and outstanding role on the world stage, whether as peacekeepers, aid givers (leagues ahead of Canada) and a voice in international fora that is listened to and respected as Canada’s once was.

Sweden’s environmental record puts ours to shame. It’s not population “size” that gives Sweden its clout, any more than it is Bangladesh’s 130 million that accounts for its more modest standing on the world stage.
What enables Sweden to “punch above its weight” internationally is explained by factors of quality, not quantity. It is those very qualities we should be addressing and not the simplistic, fallacious notion that a larger Canada would somehow automatically become a better, more influential Canada.

Clifford Garrard, Ottawa
Vice president, Population Institute of Canada

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Read more:

Thanks to Joe Bish for this letter from Ambassador Martin Collacott in the Vancouver Sun.

Larger population would pose serious problems
Vancouver Sun June 21, 2010

Irvin Studin’s vision of Canada with a population of 100 million stirs the imagination in terms of increasing our capacity for playing a role of importance on the world stage. Unfortunately, however, what might have been possible in Wilfrid Laurier’s time a century ago is no longer realistic today.

For one thing, the ecological footprint of individual Canadians is much larger now, and the environmental impact of such a massive increase in population would be overwhelming.

In terms of current immigration policies, it could also be extremely costly for Canadian taxpayers — particularly because of our generous system of social programs that did not exist 100 years ago. It is estimated that the benefits newcomers now receive already amount to tens of billions of dollars a year more than what they pay in taxes.

A third and particularly challenging problem would be the integration into Canadian society of huge numbers of people from very different cultural backgrounds. With the connections they can maintain with their former homelands through satellite TV, the Internet, inexpensive overseas travel, etc., assimilation of large concentrations of newcomers is increasingly problematic even today.

Nor would there be significant advantages in terms of economies of scale as a result of domestic population increases, since we are very much part of a global trading community.

Cities such as Toronto and Vancouver are already struggling to cope with rapidly increasing populations due to international migration and will hardly welcome the prospect of dealing with even faster growth.
Martin Collacott Vancouver Martin Collacott served as Canadian ambassador to countries in Asia and the Middle East.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

The above letters were in response to the following article, which is posted at

Push Canadian population to 100 million, scholar argues
By Ian MacLeod, Canwest News Service June 12, 2010

OTTAWA – Canada should increase immigration rates to become a country of 100 million people and a proper world power instead of a nation content with “smallness” and little ambition to appreciably shape global affairs, says a rising star on public policy.

In a provocative essay to be published Tuesday in the international affairs magazine Global Brief, the University of Toronto’s Irvin Studin explores the strategic power that could be wielded by 100 million Canadians occupying a vast territory rich in natural resources, technology and strong national institutions.
It’s an imaginative and novel vision for the land, about to turn 143.

“Grow the population variable significantly, and watch the overall strategic power of the country multiply,” writes Studin, who is with the School of Public Policy and Governance. The former Privy Council Office staffer co-authored Canada’s National Security Policy and is founding editor-in-chief and publisher of the nascent Global Brief magazine and

Studin calculates an aggressive immigration push to roughly triple Canada’s current population of 34 million – 100 million, he says, is symbolic, it could well be 85 million or 130 million – would over a few generations produce a pincer-like effect.

“First, a far larger demographic base to build strong national institutions and structures across the vast territory of Canada – institutions that, while today are often absent or weak, would eventually serve as a bulwark for international strategic influence.”

Second, a far larger talent pool to populate the strategic arms of the state – the military, diplomatic, civil service and political branches of government, as well as business, cultural, educational and scientific sectors.
There’d be more generals, Nobel Laureates, international virtuosos and a more muscular national vitality to counter the cultural influences of the United States, with its 309 million citizens.

“In the process, the Canada of 100 million, through the force of new domestic structures, coupled with growing international impact (and prestige), undergoes an evolution of the national geist – one arguably appropriate for this new, more complicated, more international century.

“In short, Canada becomes a serious force to be reckoned with.”

Studin acknowledges there will be opposition to his ideas.

“Regarded as radically absurd on the economic logic (for where are the jobs?), it may be regarded as wholly irresponsible and reckless by others, for how is a country to absorb or integrate immigration waves that, over time, outstrip even the total current incumbent population?

“There is little state or collective ambition to use strategic levers to be a player of any consequence in international affairs, and even less national cognizance that, with the requisite political acumen and chutzpah, the levers of strategic power available to Canada to be a driving force in the grand anarchy of international affairs are very considerable.”

A Canada of 100 million would go a long way toward addressing the difficulty, dating from Confederation, of building across the country’s vast geography, he writes.

“The Canada of 100 million has a far larger national market and the attendant economies of scale and scope – for ideas, for debate, for books, for newspapers, for magazines, for all species of goods and services.
“It has many large, dynamic, global cities … (to) serve as incubators and competitive arenas for innovation, productivity and creative ambition – all derivatives, as it were, of humans rubbing up against humans.

“There are sufficient numbers across the country to populate substantial, applied research institutions; to aid the generation of policy ideas; to create bona fide national institutions of higher culture in the musical, visual and theatrical arts; to justify national sports leagues where today, in Canada, there is, to many outside observers’ surprise, perhaps one at most.”

At 100 million, he continues, “Canada has cutting-edge, world-beating companies that are far larger and more numerous across the sectors, (not just one or two national champions, but dozens.

“And, perhaps most signally, the increased national wealth (and tax base) would allow Canada to mobilize very significant quanta of money in order to properly lead in international interventions – non-military and military alike; through carrot and stick, in development, intelligence, reconstruction, war and peacemaking – wherever and whenever, of course, there was a national political will to do so.”

Studin notes without a concerted campaign to populate the land, United Nations population projections point to a Canada of 44 to 50 million people by the year 2050. (Statistics Canada’s highest projected growth rates put the population at 47,686,000 by 2036 and 63,755,900 by 2061.)

Baby bonuses aside, Studin calculates a Canada of 100 million would presumably mean increasing the annual intake of immigrants, currently around 260,000 a year, by 20 to 30 per cent. Canada’s population has roughly tripled every 65 or so years and Studin says the country could arguably make a policy push to reach the 100 million mark within a few generations, approximately 2080, largely through increased, “although not radically increased” immigration.

For those not sold on the concept, he raises the spectre of conflict and war to “focus the mind.

“The world of the 21st century will, in all probability, not be as kind, in strategic terms, to Canada as it was in the last century. Where there was negligible warfare in North America in the 20th century, the tremendous pace of new-century technological innovation in matters military suggests that both the U.S. and Canada, if ensnared in a war with a serious country, will be hard-pressed to escape some description of attack on the home front.”

Studin acknowledges there is little doubt that population increases of the size suggested would create certain “non-negligible integration and cohesion challenges” for Canadian society, both nationally and regionally, and particularly in regions with less history of immigrant intake. There is little doubt there would be some political angst in Quebec.

“These and the other major domestic hurdles to reaching a Canadian population of 100 million will tax the national creativity. But then again, Canada has, over the course of its history, been among the most constitutionally innovative polities on Earth.

“Without being naive about the scale of the task, we might easily recognize that the precedential roots to success are to be found in the very Canadian ‘culture’ that is, in the process of achieving this success, being transformed and modernized.

“At 100 million, this is among the most powerful and important countries in the world. And the world will take good note.”

Ottawa Citizen
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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