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 globalbrief.ca.
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.”