Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney has a message for Canadians, “we need more people— a lot more.”
Mulroney, who is remembered for tripling immigration over his term as prime minister, called for Canada to grow its population to 100 million by 2100. Last week, he spoke at a forum hosted by the Globe and Mail and Century Initiative, a think tank planning for Canada’s future prosperity.
The former prime minister floated ideas that were already in Century Initiative’s agenda, to accelerate Canada’s population growth. As it is, Canada’s birth rate is not enough to replenish the population on its own. Without immigration, this low birth rate coupled with an aging workforce would put financial pressure on the working-age population. The effects would be felt this decade as 9 million baby boomers reach retirement age.
To counteract these demographic challenges, Canada has turned to high levels of immigration. In 2019, immigration was responsible for more than 80 per cent of Canada’s population growth. This year Canada set out to welcome 1.2 million immigrants between 2021 and 2023. However, Century Initiative says more needs to be done.
“This business-as-usual approach to population growth will not create the economically vibrant, socially generous future Canadians want and expect,” the Century Initiative report says.
Why 100 million?
Century Initiative paints a picture of the world in 2100. The global population has grown to 11.2 billion, driven by gains in Africa and Asia. The U.S. is among the top 10 fastest-growing countries with an estimated population of 450 million.
In this projected future, Canada’s population is 49.7 million, the 48th most populous country in the world, down 10 spots from what it is now at number 38. The fertility rate is still nowhere near the replacement level of 2.1 babies per woman, and immigration rates have not changed. This Canada is an old population, and economic growth falls to half of what it has been over the past 50 years.
The alternative, a Canada with a population of 100 million people. It is the 27th largest population in the world, and the economy is growing a full percentage point faster at 2.6 per cent annual GDP growth.
Canada would have a younger population, which would mean a larger labour pool and taxpayer base. When there is a larger taxpayer base, there is more taxpayer money available to go to social programs and infrastructure.
500,000 new immigrants in 2026
Century Initiative suggests the target of 100 million Canadians by 2021 is “neither radical nor unachievable.” Immigration targets are nearly where they need to be, at 1 per cent of the population. By 2026, Century Initiative says Canada should pin the annual immigration target to 1.25 per cent of its population per year. This could add up to 500,000 new immigrants in 2026.
Canada is currently set to welcome 401,000 new immigrants in 2021, and up to 421,000 in 2023. In addition, Century Initiative calls for 450,000 in 2024, and 475,000 in 2025.