A couple of days ago I said, “I want the Conservative Party to tell us how they plan to take Canada forward, to make Canada bigger and better.“
We’re already a big country, geographically, the 2nd largest landmass in the world and we have the world’s longest coastline with seaports on three oceans and deep inside Canada, too. But there aren’t many of us Canadians and most of us live in a thin strip of land that hugs the our Southern border and half of us live in a tiny patch of land in the South-East of the country:
In population terms we rank somewhere around 4oth in the world, in a small cluster with Afghanistan, Morocco and Poland, all having just a bit fewer than 40 million people. This map, which shows country size as a function of population, makes it clear:
Canada is that little pink strip, on the far left, hugging the US’ Northern border. We are a (relatively) very few people living in an absolutely HUGE place. Now, let’s be clear something like 90% of our landmass is inhospitable to human life ~ when the US astronauts wanted to train for the moon landings they came to Canada. (It was to study the rocks, really, not because some of Canada seems as barren and lifeless as the moon … even if parts of our home and native land are just that.) But, as someone who has driven most of that little pink strip ~ I recall one looooong drive, many decades ago, from Camp Gagetown, New Brunswick to Greater Vancouver ~ I can tell you that most of the narrow, green, fertile, even fairly warm strip is barely inhabited, at all.
There is a group called the Century Initiative which has a stated aim and a plan that I hope the Conservative Party will adopt: They want:
- “100 million people by 2100” so that Canada can have …
- “A vibrant, expanding, inclusive and resilient economy” which will make it possible to sustain …
- The “ability to afford compassionate social programs and essential infrastructure” and allow Canada to have
- “Global relevance and influence.”
This is going to be very unpopular with many Conservatives who are, to be charitable, somewhat xenophobic if not downright intolerant.
Immigration is a bit of a hot button issue. It shouldn’t be. We are a nation of immigrants ~ even the First Nations are relative newcomers, they migrated here, in established, organized groups, about 15,000 years ago (maybe even 10,000 years earlier), from North-East Asia. But many Canadians want to restrict immigration, especially from places that are not Euro-American.
But there’s one HUGE (I believe insurmountable) problem facing the anti-immigration faction: simple arithmetic. There’s a pesky little fact ~ and it’s an undeniable fact and anyone who tries to dispute it is, to be charitable again, too bloody stupid to be allowed outside of mom’s basement by themselves ~ called the replacement rate. The replacement rate is the number (out of the total fertility rate) which allows a population to remain stable: not growing, but not declining, either. The replacement rate is 2.1. In any country, anywhere, if the total fertility rate is higher than 2.1 the population will grow; if it is about stable at 2.1 the population will stay the same, decade after decade, if it is below 2.1 then the population will, without fail, decline.
There is an almost iron-clad “law” which says that as people become more and more prosperous they have fewer and fewer children. Canada’s birthrate used to be high (4.0 in the 1920s) and then it began to fall, it grew again, in the 1940s and ’50s, the post-war “baby-boom” but, as we grew richer the birthrate declined and it has never grown and will never recover. Canada’s current fertility rate is 1.5 and as been fairly stable for the past several years.
The data for the whole world is very similar. There have been many attempts, in prosperous countries, to provide incentives for women to have more children ~ “baby-bonus” cheques, etc ~ but they all fail, always. Many observers have analyzed the data and predict that the global population will decline, markedly. By the year 2100, there may be only a very few countries left in the world with growing populations …
… there are about 200 official and recognized states in the world so even the anti-immigrant faction can do the math, I think.
- China: 1.7 and falling;
- India: 2.2 and falling; and
- Philippines: 2.6 and falling.
The rates for some other major “source” countries for new Canadians are:
- USA: 1.7 and stable;
- Nigeria: 5.4 and falling;
- Pakistan: 3.5 and falling;
- Syria: 2.8 and falling;
- France: 1.9 and stable;
- Iran: 2.1 and falling;
- Brazil: 1.7 and falling.
The World Bank says that the countries with the highest birthrates are: Niger, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Chad, Angola, Burundi, Nigeria, The Gambia, Burkina Faso and Uganda. Notice something? They are all African countries; most are poor, many are war-torn and we do not help these countries when we take their best and brightest ~ accountants, engineers, physicians ~ and allow them to be taxi drivers in Toronto.
But, back to the Century Initiative; here are some documented facts from their website:
- Historically, Canada has successfully supported very high levels of immigration. In 1913, 400,000 immigrants arrived in Canada, representing over 5.2% of the population at the time. Source: Statistics Canada. “An Aging Population.” Canada Yearbook, 2010;
- Immigrants to Canada are more likely to start and own businesses than those born in Canada. Source: Statistics Canada, 2016
- Immigrants arrive in Canada in better health than their Canadian-born counterparts. This is evidenced by 10 years of better health outcomes: lower rates of diabetes, hypertension, and perinatal complications, such as prematurity and low birth weights. Source: Statistics Canada, 2011.
In other words, immigration works for Canada … when we select and screen immigrants, carefully.
Refugees are another matter. While I, personally, believe, based on experience, that it is better to take actions to make refugees safe near their homes and then take further actions ~ usually including military actions ~ to allow them to return to their homes, the fact is that we are a wealthy and fortunate country and we
should must, out of simple humanity, accept refugees when they need help. It is not that refugees do not become good, productive Canadians ~ most do. But we do not “select” refugees for what they can contribute, we only ever screen a very few out for serious health or security issues. We must not be surprised when a) it takes refugees longer than regular immigrants to become self-sufficient and productive; and, b) some have difficulty leaving the politics of “the old country” behind.
There is a third category of new-comer: illegal migrants. I know they make themselves “legal” as soon as they ask for asylum, but they are nothing but queue-jumpers who would not, in the normal course of events, be admitted to Canada as either immigrants or refugees. They are here now. They should all be rounded up and detained ~ maybe in an unneeded military facility like Saint–Jean-sur-Richelieu, in Québec ~ until most can be returned to their country of origin and a very few can be accepted as legitimate refugees.
Canada needs to keep growing. How much and how fast is debatable but I will continue to advocate for 100 million Canadians by 2100, accepting that, by then, we may, mostly, look a little different ~ darker hair and eyes, mainly. We need to grow because if we stagnate or shrink we will collapse. First, our cherished social safety net ~ that “sacred trust” thing ~ will unravel; then our political will to survive as a nation will follow, not because of our social programmes but because we will be unable to see any way to ever make ourselves better. Why bother staying together, our children and grandchildren will ask themselves, if we cannot get any better?
Two final and slightly disjointed but important points:
- First, as always, immigration policy must take account of Québec and Canada’s language situation; and
- Second, right now, in 2021, in my opinion, the Conservative Party should say that Canada must be open to accepting tens, even hundreds of thousands of people each year from Hong Kong by affirming that any Hong Kong ‘national’ (a person with a valid Hong Kong identity document) is, ipso facto, a refugee and by creating a “fast track” to permanent resident status for these almost universally well educated, entrepreneurial people who are victims of Communist Chinese repression.