Let’s get bigger


I was incredibly happy (and scared) to see the following article in the Globe and Mail:

The article – “It’s time for Canada to focus on expanding our population” – advocated for 100 million Canadians by 2100. It was by far the most-read article in months, and brought the predictable torrent of naysayers: those who were concerned that Canada was too full, that our social services were too stretched, that this vision was environmentally destructive, that this was simply too many people, that…


I disagree with the lot of them. Fully, and completely.

The truth is, Canada is just too small. Our population limits us from offering the range of cultural or economic opportunities that the US does – and people vote with their feet as a result: every year we lose over 100,000 Canadians to the US. Our population also makes it harder to build or scale a business: if you were an entrepreneur, why not move to the US and have a market of 350 million people vs. Canada’s 38 million? Our massive land mass and small tax base makes it impossible to adequately defend our borders: the US has defacto control of our Arctic, and we’re already seeing great-power conflicts between China and the US over the Northwest Passage and the resources we nominally control in the region. Finally, as the least populous country in North America we’re constantly pushed around by the US: from foreign and military policy, to regulations, to economic policies like “Buy American” – in many cases the American government has more impact on Canada than Canadian governments do (think Trump’s tariffs or Biden’s “Buy American” policies). For all our talk of our “close relationship” with Washington, the US interacts with us more like this:

And why not? The US has states that are more populous than our country – multiple of them!

At the end of the day, our small population limits us: we are nothing more than a resource colony to the US, both in raw materials, and more worryingly, people.

Pushing for a Canada of 100 million is a risky vision. It’s scary to be talking about this – especially during a pandemic, especially when we’ve lost thousands of jobs, and especially when we’ve an out-of-control housing market (a post for another day). But it’s absolutely critical. We need to push for a larger population by drastically reducing the cost of housing, making parental leave more equitable for women, dramatically reducing the cost of child care, and yes, through immigration. We’ll have to fix our zoning laws and densify rapidly; we’ll have to change how we move ourselves; and we’ll have to accept more risk in our culture and in our economy. But it will be worth it – because at that size we’ll control our destiny.

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