Canada needs 100-million people to solve our most pressing issues says Doug Saunders
Saunders argues in new book for a higher Canadian population
By Anna Junker, News Editor
In his book, author and international-affairs columnist for The Globe and Mail, Doug Saunders, discusses his vision for Canada having a large, strong and healthy population of 100-million.
He believes by tripling the population, it would be the best way for Canada to reconcile with Indigenous people and regional divides along with building equality while ensuring economic and ecological sustainability.
Here is a highlight of when Saunders spoke with student journalists at Mount Royal University on Sept. 21 to discuss his new book.
Saunders explained his interest in Canada’s population took place when he actually wasn’t living in the country.
“One of the things that quickly becomes an interesting question is, why don’t we have so many people here? Why do we have a fairly sparse population spread across a large landmass?” said Saunders.
“You realize that Canada’s cities all suffer from low population density and the consequences of that have big ecological and human development problems.”
Saunders explains he’s written a lot of essays on the topic before, exploring what the ideal population of Canada would be and exploring our country’s history in why there are so few people living here.
“I think that’s a big part of what I’m trying to do in Maximum Canada is retell Canada’s history through the lens of population, which surprisingly rarely gets done,” said Saunders.
“You tend to think we’re a country of immigration whereas in fact, during decades of our history more people have left the country than come in as immigrants. We were very good at driving people away.”
Saunders said the idea of Canada as a nation of immigrants only came about fairly recently – in 1967.
“The idea that Canadians were anything other than British subjects was extremely controversial. Even the idea that there were two types of people – English people and French people – was really taboo.”
Part of Saunders argument is that Canada had a very restrictive set of policies for those coming in, with the emphasis being on rural and resource orientated people rather than entrepreneurial and urban. He says Canada’s policies explicitly did not want people who wanted to start businesses.
“The idea that Canada restricted immigration just to white people or just to British people until the post-war decades is a bit limited because we did not even allow most British people,” said Saunders.
“If you were British and you had an education or trade skill or you were urban and entrepreneurial, you were rejected.”
This is in part how Canada is where it is today, with a smaller population and those who were business-orientated being sent to the United States, says Saunders.
However, Saunders says that immigration is not the key to growing our population. Our current population needs to be producing more children.
“The average Canadian family has 1.6 children and you need 2.1 for your population to stay stable and any more than 2.1 to have your population grow,” said Saunders.
“The only reason that Canada’s population grows, and it grows pretty slowly, is immigration, which we have at fairly modest levels.”
He adds that even with the most aggressive population growth scenarios which would have Canada’s population be at 100-million by the end of the century, they would not rely on large-scale immigration.
“If we had immigration that we had on the level in the beginning of the 20th century, we’d have two-million immigrants every year coming in to Canada.”
Saunders says we need to have a mindset in Canada as if we were going to triple the population by 2100, even if we don’t actually do so.
“The things we would need to set up Canada and invest in Canada for tripling the population are the same things we need to be doing for the status quo scenario anyway.”
Saunders argues aiming for this mindset is especially important as the current population, especially the baby boomers, age and by having a population growth, it would help ease the eventual burden on government.