There is a new book out by Globe and Mail columnist Doug Saunders called Maximum Canada: Why 35 Million Canadians is Not Enough (Penguin, $27.95). In brief he argues Canada has too much land and too few people.
In some ways he is counter-intuitive, saying that more people are necessary for Canada to become an environmental leader. Typically, more population is seen as environmentally damaging, but Saunders argues that the Canadian population is insufficient in “density, market size and taxpayer base to service its geographic, human, and economic needs.” If the Canadian population was larger and more service oriented – if it had an economy dependent on the creative class Richard Florida celebrated (see Rick McGinnis on page five), we wouldn’t need to extract natural resources.
One would think that in nearly 250 pages on Canada’s under-population, the author would make mention of abortion and contraception. Like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, Saunders acknowledges the problem of a below-replacement fertility rate but not some of its causes: the ease with which pregnancy can be avoided and ended. Instead, Saunders, like the council, sees massive increases immigration as the primary solution to Canada’s relatively low population problem.
The one policy Saunders supports to increase birth rates is increased affordable childcare which he claims is financially self-supporting because it increases female workforce participation.
Despite saying that family policy – again, childcare – is the most important kick-start to growing Canada’s population, most of the book focuses on how to increase immigration, with annual growth of 15,000-40,000 more immigrants each year, a number he claims is manageable.
Many of the assumptions of Maximum Canada are wrong, but we welcome the start to a conversation about a larger Canada. The welcome mat for new Canadians must be laid in maternity wards as much as the country’s ports and airports. Policies that encourage family flourishing and the welcoming of new life should be part of the conversation as much as immigration.