Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Recently Terry Corcoran, Dominic Barton and Andrew Coyne have advocated that Canada raise the number of immigrants to 450,000 a year and a population of 100 million in 2100 on the grounds, in Coyne’s words, “it would add to our clout in the world...our ability to project our interests and values on the world stage.”
     The advocates of the higher immigration levels called the Century Initiative believe that Canada is the shining model of a tolerant, caring, egalitarian, democratic, open and economically successful society, the projection of which to the world will be leveraged by the country’s increased size. Canadians will be proud to be citizens of a country able by its example to create a better world. The public intellectuals behind the idea already bask in the praise of their ideological peers everywhere.
     The ability to gain enough clout to engage in such a projection requires a reality check. According to the latest UN Projections, in 2100 the world’s most populous nations will be (in millions): India (1,660), China (1,004), Nigeria (752), USA (450), Republic of Congo (389), Pakistan (364) and Indonesia (314). If the proposed immigration policy will be enacted, Canada’s population in 2100 will be to .97 percent of the world’s total population, double the present .48 and what it would be without the larger annual number of immigrants. 
     Will such a projection take place and be successful? If history is a guide to the future, the outlook is not promising.  In 2100 all countries will continue to have serious problems of their own. The need to combat income inequalities, religious, racial, regional and international tensions will continue to exist. These political realities plaguing countries like India, China and Nigeria are too well known to need elaboration.  They also afflict all the middle sized countries of Europe, Asia and South America as well as the small countries in all parts of the world. For politicians in these countries studies of Canada’s shining success are likely to be very low on their list of priorities.
     It is also possible that by 2100 Canada itself will cease to be the model for the world. The 100 million citizens will have required housing and economic and social infrastructure, the provision of which will be costly and divisive and will be in conflict with policies to combat global warming, preserve the environment and finance the governments of the First Nations. It remains to be seen whether dealing with these problems will be possible without changes in Canada’s ability to be the tolerant, caring, democratic, open and economically successful society it now is.
     These problems will be aggravated if Canada changes from a first-past-the post to a proportional system for the election of its politicians.  Under this system groups Canadians united by common national origins and cultures will form political parties dedicated to fight for their interests. Elected politicians in Ottawa will no longer spend most of their time on the design of the best policies for increasing national output but will instead engage in fights over the distribution of national output among the groups of Canadians represented by their parochial political parties.
     Even in the absence of the proportional system for elections, the very size of Canada’s population resulting from the proposed 450,000 immigrants is likely to create ethnic enclaves where alien languages and cultural institutions dominate life and where, like in Richmond, BC, it is virtually possible to be born, educated, entertained, work, retire and die without knowing a word of English. These enclaves will gain increasing influence on government policies that advance their interests at the expense of the broader public interest. Perhaps public policies can prevent the development of enclaves and their exercise of political power, but it is by no means certain that they can.

    All of the above observations are made before even considering that most of the economic gains expected from the 100 million in 2100 are unlikely to be realized. The discussion of these issues will have to wait for another article.

This article was published in the Vancouver Sun on Saturday, November 12, 2016, page E5 under the title "Canada a beacon at 100 million? That's doubtful. History doesn't paint a rosy picture"

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