Monday, May 15, 2023

100 million Canadians by 2100? Well, why not?

There's good commonsense article by Andew Coyne in this weekend's Globe and Mail about Canada's (and Quebec's) immigration policy.

The Liberal government's immigration targets are ambitious: 465,000 this year, 485,000 in 2024, and a cool half million in 2025. All these people have to be absorbed, fed, housed and employed. Immigration-averse Quebec, however, wants to keep its annual immigration numbers at just 50,000, which would mean many more Anglos moving into the rest of Canada, and Quebec losing some of its population share (and its influence). 

You could argue that Quebec's influence within Canada has always been outsized compared to its population anyway, but Le Journal de Montréal published a series of articles last week on the subject, arguing that this is all a dastardly plot by Anglophone Canada to deliberately sideline Quebec and to kill off the French language in Canada. This is clearly not the case, but that is how many Quebeckers are apparently seeing it.

One thing Le Journal de Montréal accuses the federal government of is that they have signed on to the policies of the Century Initiative (an admittedly Liberal-adjacent activist group), which is calling for a Canadian population of 100 million by the end of the century. The federal Liberals have never espoused that particular target, and they have no links to the Century Initiative.

Except... in reality, 100 million by 2100 is not actually a particularly radical or ambitious goal. Through the magic of compounding, to get from our current almost 40 million to 100 million in 77 years implies a growth rate of just 1.2% a year. This, as it turns out, is exactly the same as Canada's historic population growth rate since 1970. So, the Century Initiative is actually just a continuation of the status quo. And we have 77 years to adapt and figure out how to feed and clothe all the newcomers.

Quebec's immigration plan, on the other hand, will lead to a progressively smaller Quebec, from 22% of the country's population to just 15% by the end of the century, with a concomitant decrease in the number of French speakers. Quebec used to have an even larger share of the national population, but 50 years of language wars, secession threats and economic uncertainty put paid to that, immigration policy notwithstanding. The language may not be exactly thriving, but don't blame federal immigration policy for it. 

And anyway, even with Quebec's self-imposed low immigration targets and its low internal fertility rates, the province's population would still almost double by century end. So, lots of new Francophones to keep the language going. 

Certainly, we should not allow Quebec to dictate the country's immigration policy, nor give in to demands that Quebec be guaranteed its current share of the seats in the House of Common in perpetuity (as has been suggested). Quebec thinks it is special, and it has been treated as special ever since Confederation for one reason or another. It's about time they came down to a level playing field with the other provinces.

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