A “Big Canada” Won't Mean More Wealth For Its Residents
This bulletin features an OP ED from Australia. The author is Australian environmentalist Jenny Goldie who is a member of Sustainable Population Australia. (http://www.population.org.au/ )
Ms. Goldie uses the term “Big Australia” to refer to an Australia with a much larger population. We use the term “Big Canada” in the same way.
The points the author makes are extremely relevant to statements made in Canada.
For example, Canadians have recently heard a University of Toronto academic advocate that Canada increase its population to 100 million. Less audible was a statement made by a Tamil who was protesting the detention of the 490 Tamils that arrived here by ship in August. In an attempt to trivialize the effect of those Tamils on Canada, and to promote the acceptance of even more boat people as well as of more immigration to Canada, he declared that Canada's large amount of land should be able to take 500 million people.
Similarly, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had advocated that Australia increase its population to 35 million by 2050 from its current population of 22 million. It is generally believed that Rudd's “Big Australia” policy (as well as others) caused him to lose the leadership of Australia's Labor Party to the current Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
All of these statements are particularly important today for the following reasons :
1. The advocates of larger populations completely ignore the environmental consequences of adding large numbers of people to either country. As the Australian writer says, “Space is one resource but it is by no means the only resource necessary for supporting a larger human…population.” In particular, higher population advocates pay no attention to the possibility that both Canada and Australia may be severely affected by climate change. Although both countries are food exporters now, it is posible that they may not in the future be able to feed their own people. In the event that climate change does not have as negative effect as that, they pay no attention to the fact that huge amounts of Canada's Class 1 farmland in Southern Ontario have been lost just since 1990 to housing subdivisions that were built to accommodate the 2.5 million immigrants who have settled there (as a result of senseless high immigration). As Canada's non-partisan Privy Council stated in 1991, a number of areas on this planet are already “environmental disasters”. The question that should be asked is this : Do Canada and Australia have an obligation to accept unlimited numbers of people from those areas and turn themselves into “environmental disasters” also? It is clear that if high immigration continues, this will happen. What good will this do for Canada and the rest of the world, other than to inflate the egos of the great “humanitarians” who see no limits to their “generosity” just as they see no environmental limits to Canada? As we have said before, they and all Canadians should remember that in 1976, Canada's most eminent scientists (The Science Council of Canada) advised Canada's federal government that if Canada really wanted to be to be “humanitarian”, it should restrict immigration, protect its agricultural land, stabilize its population and concentrate on a future in which it did all it could to supply whatever excess food it had to other parts of the world. These food exports could go a long way to help Canada with its balance of payments.
2. The advocates of large populations also ignore the economic consequences of increasing a country's population. As long ago as the late 1980's, Canada's own Department of Health and Welfare stated that Canada's resources were limited. If Canada continued to increase its population, the share that each Canadian would have of the country's economic pie would decline proportionately. A significant number of Canadians, including the academic in question, continue to believe that Canada is “a rich country”, that “Canada's resources are unlimited”, and that the current high immigration intake of 250,000 per year has had and will have no negative economic effects on Canada. This attitude persists despite the clear evidence that most Canadians are not “rich”. In fact, hundreds of thousands of Canadians have lost their livelihoods in the recent recession (and more in the previous 2 since 1990). All have been negatively affected by the failure of all 3 levels of government to demand that immigration be lowered to protect them from competition from unnecessary immigration.
Incredible as it may sound, Canadians continue to hear from all levels of government that the aspirations of recent immigrants for recognition of their credentials and Canada's supposed “need” for diversity should be given priority over the interests of the people already here. In effect, all 3 levels of government have abandoned any sympathy for economically-distressed mainstream Canadians and transferred that sympathy to about 5 million immigrants, most of whom Canada never needed. Even harder to believe is that many people at all 3 levels of government seriously believe they should be given awards for having done this.
3. The advocates of higher populations in both countries also ignore that a “Big Canada” and a “Big Australia”, but particularly a “Big Canada” , will be achieved largely by immigration. The cultural effects of unnecessary high immigration are already evident in Canada's larger centres. Many Canadians feel like Tibetans !! When, they ask, did Canada's elected officials ever ask Canadians if they wanted to be culturally overwhelmed? To turn this situation around for the benefit of those who cannot understand this message, how would China, India or the Philippines, who now send Canada most of its immigrants, have reacted if large numbers of mainstream Canadians arrived on their doorsteps and proclaimed, “We've come to make you diverse !!” Undoubtedly, all these countries would have been enraged and thrown these people out !! Yet, here in Canada, most elected officials at all 3 levels of government have grovelled and fawned and told their mainstream Canadian electorate to “Celebrate Diversity”, “Recognize credentials” (of people Canada did not need), and “Repent” for so-called past wrongs by delivering the most sycophantic of apologies (See the one delivered in New Westminster, B.C. recently) and by continuing to take people who are culturally overwhelming Canada. And, hard as it is to believe, many of Canada's elected officials at all 3 levels have managed to get away with this nonsense for 20 years.
Many Canadians would say that these people are long overdue to receive their “just award”.
Immigration Watch Canada
A 'Big Australia' won't mean more wealth for its residents
A larger population will come at high environmental cost and affect our living standards
Sustainable Population Australia Inc
Canberra Times (Opinion)
July 21, 2010
One of the first actions of our new Prime Minister Julia Gillard was to reject the notion of a 'big Australia'. She added the word 'Sustainable' to the title of the Population Minister. For many of us – environmentalists concerned about habitat loss or greenhouse gas emissions, or ordinary people unable to afford a home – it was sweet relief.
But the backlash is already on, with the likes of Ziggy Switkowski and Bernard Salt dominating the Opinion pages, claiming the economic benefits of a big Australia. Even that well-known environmentalist and friend of the northern hairy-nosed wombat, Treasury Secretary Ken Henry, has extolled the virtues of population growth for the sake of the economy. To his credit, however, Henry does not pull out the spurious argument about densities: that a big continent must be able to support a bigger population. His excursions to inland Queensland to save the endangered wombat would have shown him how little water there is. Space is one resource but it is by no means the only resource necessary for supporting a larger human, or even wombat, population.
While it is generally true that a bigger population translates into a bigger economy or GDP, it is not always true that it translates into bigger GDP per capita, or (greater) individual wealth. The Productivity Commission's report in April 2006 showed Australians' growth in per capita income would be negligible, a mere 0.06 per cent higher, if we had 50 per cent higher skilled immigration over the next 20 years. Income, of course, is only one factor that contributes to living standards. The Commission said there would be environmental costs of higher immigration including air, river and ocean pollution, land degradation, increased use of natural resources and water, biodiversity loss, and increased congestion of roads and public transport.
While housing unaffordability has been mentioned in the current population debate, solutions have focused on increasing supply. The growing gap between supply and demand, however, is alarming and distressing, manifesting itself not only in increased homelessness, but keeping even many middle-class people out of the housing market. According to the federal government's National Housing Supply Council, the supply-demand gap increased to 178,400 homes in the 12 months to June 2009, up from 99,500 for the previous 12 months. It says the number of homes in Australia will need to increase by a third in just 20 years to keep pace with demand. Were demand to ease, however, through lower immigration and dropping the baby bonus (it has contributed to our fertility rate lifting from 1.7 to 2.0) then closing the gap would be easier.
But while housing unaffordability is a major issue for many, there are more profound issues affecting the debate. Advocates of a big Australia assume it will all be business-as-usual in coming decades with a stable climate and adequate supplies of fossil fuels that underpin our whole industrialised economy. If only it were true.
Let's start with climate change. Earlier this month, a global analysis of national pledges, the Climate Interactive Scoreboard, found that the world is heading for an average temperature rise of nearly four degrees. It will mean none of Australia, except the far north and Tasmania, will be able to support significant crop production because of heat waves and declining rainfall. Will we be able to feed our current population, let alone twice as many? Strong storms will increase with intense cyclones hitting further south, putting Sydney at risk. Four degrees will set off irreversible melting of Greenland and Antarctic ice-caps leading to flooding of all capital cities in Australia except Canberra. But what if the international community finally galvanises into action to prevent such a scenario and puts a price on carbon that effectively stops the building of all new coal power stations? What will that do to our coal exports? What will that do to our economy?
And then there's peak oil. In April, the United States military warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear by 2012 and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political effect. The Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command said that, by 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels a day. Advocates of economic growth should heed its warning about such a shortfall: “… it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would … perhaps have serious economic impacts on both China and India.” Will China be able to afford our mineral resources in the future? If not, what will that do to our economy?
By all means, continue the population debate, but let's set it in its proper context.
Jenny Goldie is a delegate of Sustainable Population Australia Inc to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and is vice-president of ACT Peak Oil.