Monday, October 31, 2016

We Know How To Do Immigration

There is a lot of anti-immigration talk these days -- notably from The Orange One south of the border. So some people in Canada raised their eyebrows when, last week, the Century Initiative proposed that the population of Canada should be 100 million people by the end of this century. At first glance that might seem like a radical number. But Andrew Coyne puts it in perspective:

Canada’s population has grown at an average of 1.1 per cent per year. Were we merely to stay on our current growth trajectory, by 2100 the population would have risen to more than 90 million. So we are mostly talking about maintaining the status quo, higher immigration compensating for declining fertility.

Arguments raised to date against the proposal amount to objecting that 100 million is more than we have now. The reader is invited to believe that the present population of Canada is, by a remarkable coincidence, precisely the ideal number, such that any additions could only make things worse. And yet the same objections could have been used to argue against current population levels in 1945, when our population was a third of what it is today. “Are you ready for a Toronto of 20 million and a Vancouver of 10 million?” asks one particularly overheated correspondent. Gosh, I don’t know: you mean like New York and Paris?

The last time Canada opened its doors so widely was under Wilfred Laurier -- and there was a backlash from "old stock" Canadians. What would happen when those Ukrainians filled up the empty prairies? The answer was and is obvious. They became good Canadians. And the Laurier precedent suggests that there are three good reasons to welcome new immigrants to Canada:

One reason goes back to Laurier and Leacock, and the optimism and self-confidence of their era. I don’t think it’s coincidence that this was also a time of high immigration. Ambitious countries want to grow, but growth also makes countries ambitious. The constant injections of energy from new arrivals has always made this a different place than non-immigrant societies. We could use a little more of that.

Second, it would add to our clout in the world. We would be growing at a time when our peers are shrinking. At 100 million, current United Nations projections suggest we would be second only to the United States (it is forecast to grow to 450 million) among the G-7, vaulting past Japan, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

A final point. Countries with larger populations enable people to live larger lives. They open possibilities to talented, ambitious people that are not possible elsewhere — and talented, ambitious people will always seek them out. To be a Canadian historically has been to watch many of our best and brightest leave in pursuit of their dreams. Nearly three million Canadians now live outside our borders, a third of them in the United States.

It is fashionable these days to be myopic about immigration. But the world is awash in refugees. And most of us were refugees from some place. We know how to do immigration.

Image: The Telegraph


Toby said...

Coyne has gone off the end of the pier with this one. Oh right, Coyne subscribes to the theory that all growth is good. I don't. At the least, excessive growth is called obesity; at its worst it is called cancer. That applies to cities, countries and planets.

Humans are like any other species in that we consume and multiply until we have consumed all available food and then we die off and the survivors start over. We do almost nothing to avoid population bombs. So, how does Coyne propose feeding triple our present population? The question is especially pertinent in that our suburbs have paved over some of the world's best farmland and BC's Site C dam is set to flood more.

Just the other day the world was awash with news that wildlife is dying off at extinction rates. One of the main reasons is that expanding human populations are overrunning wildlife habitat. So, how does Coyne suggest we grow our population without causing extinctions?

Canada is long past the time when we could simply push the indigenous populations onto reserves and parcel out their land. We have to honour First Nations claims to their land. Add on forest reserves, farms and resource extraction areas and their isn't a lot of land available for exploitation.

How does Coyne suggest that we can triple the population without driving our greenhouse gases so high that we become extinct?

Sorry, I'm inclined to agree with Lovelock's prediction that the world population will be down to one billion by the end of the century.

Owen Gray said...

So what do you propose, Toby? Do you agree with Dr. Malthus that the laws of natural selection should be allowed to decrease the surplus population?

Toby said...

Owen, nature does not care. One way or another humans are going to hit a wall and population will take a calamitous hit. One can't predict whether we destroy ourselves or nature does it for us. The world's human population has tripled in my lifetime but the means to feed, house and clothe all of us has not materialized. That's the same scenario as in France leading up to the Revolution of 1789 and you know what happened there. The French had the Guillotine; we have nukes.

You are well aware of the many threats that face us and there is no need to enumerate them here. They are real and we are doing little to change our course.

Have you noticed that where woman have equal rights with men that the birth rate goes down?

Owen Gray said...

I agree that where the sexes are considered equal, the birth rate goes down, Toby. It also goes down as a country's economic development goes up. But we are still left with the problem of a world awash in refugees. Do we turn them away?

Toby said...

I agonize over your question, Owen. My instinct is to help everyone but it isn't working. The more we go about saving people, including old guys like me, the worse the population problem becomes. How many do we let into the lifeboat? I stopped giving to Save the [fill in the blank] charities years ago because they never solved anything; they were always back asking for more because the problems are always worse. Societies have to address the population problem but we would all rather not. Consequently, I think Nature is going to do it for us.

Owen Gray said...

I don't fear being judged on what I've done, Toby. But I truly fear being judged on what I should have done -- and didn't.