SCIENCE COUNCIL OF CANADA : CANADA SHOULD RESTRICT IMMIGRATION, CONSERVE ITS RESOURCES AND STABILIZE ITS POPULATION – LONG SUMMARY

“Population, Technology and Resources” was published in July, 1976. It was also called The Science Council of Canada’s Report #25.

1. Canada has to slow down its population growth. Canadians must discard some hitherto popular mythology about Canada: namely, that its agricultural potential is more or less infinite, and that its resources and land area will always support a virtually open-door immigration policy. (P.9) Prime agricultural land, with good climate, which is very scarce in Canada, is as yet unprotected. We have not yet taken seriously the problem of ensuring our own future food supply, much less protecting our own position as an important exporter of food.

2. A growth moratorium in relation to exploding living standards is just as urgent as one in regard to exploding populations. It follows from this that one of Canada’s principal international contributions would be to live frugally and avoid waste. In no way of course could Canada ever solve the world problem of overpopulation. It may sound incongruous that the second largest country in the world should seek to limit its numbers. Yet extent of territory is not a dominant factor when so much of it is desert and rock, swept by winter’s wind. Failing to slow population growth and following a virtually open-door immigration policy will reduce Canada’s future policy options and constrict Canada’s ability to act.

3. Throughout history, most societies have been demographically young. Medical technology has allowed a substantial proportion of the world’s present population to survive into their 60’s and 70’s. Canada has been young for most of its history. By UN standards, a country is ‘old’ when 8% of its population is 65+ .Canada joined this category in 1971 and it is anticipated that the 8% will double by 2001. Immigration levels should be in line with Canada’s overall demographic objectives, and not be set solely to tide the country over short-term economic developments. Society must prepare for the meaningful and active participation of a considerably larger proportion of elderly people. This will require not only better access to goods and services but also opportunities for useful part-time employment. Adequate numbers of trained people must be provided to give good health care to the increasing number of elderly people. Policies must be adopted which will foster alternatives to institutional care, such as in-home and community services. Other countries have gone through their own aging process and survived. Canada has special problems, but it too can survive.

4. One can tell a great deal about a country by examining how its inhabitants spend their time : how much they work, at what occupations, and how they occupy their free time. Canada is second only to the US in the proportion of its work force engaged in providing services, yet the Canadian economy has a larger resource extraction base and a smaller manufacturing sector than most developed countries.

5. The population of Canada in 1975 was 23 million. Three-quarters of Canada’s population was “urban”; 55% were metropolitan dwellers, living in continuous built-up areas with populations of 100,000 and more. Almost all of Canada’s population increase in the next 40 years (to 2015) will occur there. The economy of scale argument might be breaking down with the metropolitan sizes projected for Canada. At some point, the environmental and social costs begin to outweigh the purely economic benefits. Growth of low density urban communities onto good agricultural land should be stopped.

6. Serious conflicts arise between the use of land for agricultural purposes and its use for development. At present, 13% of our land area is capable of some kind of agricultural production, but considerably less than half of this is capable of sustained production of common field crops. (P.44) Between 1966 and 1971, a million acres or almost one-tenth of the improved farmland in Southern Ontario was lost to agriculture.(P.45) Most of this land is being held in reserve for future urban expansion over the next two decades. In the meantime, it falls under the urban “shadow”, and is no longer used for agricultural production. This phenomenon is seen mostly in Southern Ontario, but is also visible outside of Montreal and Vancouver. The elaboration of local, regional and provincial policies and mechanisms for land use planning and control and the synthesis of these into a national policy is an urgent necessity. Our best agricultural land, in terms of soil and climate, must be designated for agricultural purposes only. This is the responsibility of the provincial governments, and it should be done immediately in Ontario and probably also in Quebec. The B.C. Agricultural Land Reserve precedent should be studied and the issue of adequate compensation must be resolved. In order to have land farmed and not just saved for farming, and in order to improve rural land generally, agricultural land planning should have as high a priority as urban land planning.

7. The most important issue in Canadian agriculture is whether it will meet the great needs of the future. Canada has a favourable trade balance in agricultural produce (almost $1 Billion in 1974). Our principal agricultural export is grain, 15 million tonnes annually. There is a growing world dependence on North America to make up for food production shortfalls in the rest of the world. The number of net food exporting countries has diminished drastically and no important new ones have emerged in the last quarter century. The U.S. (with grain exports of 70 million tonnes), Canada (with grain exports of 18 million tonnes) and Australia (with a similar 7 million tonnes) are the three major suppliers. Canada should continue to be a major exporter. Food exports should prove of major benefit to our balance of payments. We can succeed in maintaining our level of exports and in assuring the needs of our own population by slowing population growth, increasing our own production and cutting down on waste ­in consumption and production. (Editor’s Note : The Science Council gives 2 figures for Canada’s grain exports : 15 million tonnes and 18 million tonnes. The latter may be a potential export figure.)

8. Adequate energy supplies and a satisfactory living environment for Canada’s future population should be continuing national goals of overriding importance. Canada has been among the most energy-intensive countries in the world. The reasons are our hostile climate, transportation needs, industrial demands (one-third of total energy use) and energy-dependent lifestyle. Canada needs energy as much as fish need water. A severe energy shortage would endanger our survival in our climate. Two factors influence future energy demand: rates of change in per capita consumption and rates of population growth. The rate of increase in per capita energy consumption from 1960 to 1973 was 3.5%, equivalent to a doubling every 20 years. It is easier to control population increases than it is to control energy consumption. The former highly optimistic views of Canada’s “limitless” resources now sound hollow. Recent investigations have revealed that even short-term supply data are alarming. The whole picture appears to be darkening. We need to conserve our own available supply. It should be treated as a critical and strategic national resource to be used only when needed.

9. The Science Council has therefore concluded that Canada is likely to need a great deal of capital in the decade ahead, and that this capital will be hard to raise. This however we must strive to do. We will need to increase our savings and reduce the current level of our consumption of goods and services ­in government and the private sector. Canadians should recognize that we live in a capital-intensive society and that we should no longer rely on immigration to regulate the economy. RECOMMENDATIONS : (1) Canada’s rate of domestic savings must be maintained at a very high level. (2) We should attempt to fund our investment needs as independently of foreign sources of savings as possible.(3) In accepting foreign investment into Canada, relatively little should be admitted in the form of equity.

10. All serious opinion now points to the finiteness of Canada’s resources, particularly in the energy sector. Canada’s arable land and food resources are also finite and under pressure. Canada needs to control population growth at a conservative level and to organize more effectively our utilization of energy, land and manpower. The biggest international contribution Canada can make is to moderate its population growth in order to strengthen its position as an exporter of food, services and technologies. Even with the most generous immigration policies, Canada could accommodate only a tiny fraction of the over-population of other countries as to be insignificant. We should be encouraging our food producers to increase output to keep pace with rising demand. This would help us to meet our international obligations and contribute substantially to our balance of payments.

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The Science Council of Canada’s Report #25 was titled “Population, Technology and Resources” and was published in July, 1976.

The Science Council of Canada existed between 1966 and 1993. It is described as “an organization created by federal statute…to advise the government on science and technology policy. The original membership was 25 appointed scientists and senior federal civil servants, later altered to 30 appointed eminent experts from the natural and social sciences, business and finance, and no civil servants.

“It most often saw itself as a national adviser, transcending purely federal considerations. It also assumed an early warning function to alert governments and society to emerging opportunities and problems. The council often argued against the mainstream of advice from other agencies, public and private, and sometimes against the apparent inclinations of federal ministers. It was often a catalyst for action.” (Source : The Canadian Encyclopedia)