Canada’s Cult of Growth

When was the last time that you idled in Vancouver gridlock, stood packed like a sardine in a bus to Victoria, or hunted for a parking spot at the Nanaimo Costco, and thought: “You know, what this country needs is more people”?

Probably never. However, a large portion of Canada’s political elite has turned this inane statement into an article of faith.

The most fervent member of the cult of growth is the Century Initiative, an immigration lobby that wants to raise Canada’s population to 100 million by 2100. The commitment to population growth goes well beyond them, however, finding adherents among political elites from coast to coast.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston is experimenting with a mini version of the Century Initiative. In 2021, he set a goal of doubling the province’s population from 1 million to 2 million by 2060 through interprovincial and international migration. He later admitted that he initially wanted an even higher target of 3 million.

This would be equivalent to doubling the population of British Columbia to roughly 11 million.

As Nova Scotia’s population booms, consequences mount. On January 6th, hospitals throughout the province reached an average occupancy of 99.8%, with acute care units nearing 107%. The province’s rent inflation rate of 14.1% is the highest in Canada, and Halifax’s homelessness rate has doubled in just one year.

Houston is not backing down. In an interview last summer, he remained defiant: “Growth is not without its challenges, but I think as a government — as premier — I accept the challenges of growth”. Spoken like a true believer!

It’s a similar story in Prince Edward Island, which has one of the fastest-growing populations nationwide. Public services are being overwhelmed, and P.E.I now has the tightest rental market in Canada, with an apartment vacancy rate below 1%.

Karla Bernard, P.E.I’s Green Party Leader, has called on Premier Dennis King to hit the pause button on his aggressive international migration targets. Premier King, however, is a stalwart disciple of the cult of growth. In a CBC interview, he seemed unconcerned with the overcrowding of his tiny island: “I guess if there’s problems to have, those are the good problems, or the good challenges to have”.

These are just a couple of examples of the population growth ideology popular among Canada’s elites. The public is firmly opposed to this idea. In a recent Abacus poll, 68% of native-born Canadians and 62% of foreign-born Canadians said immigration is too high.

So why does this majority remain silent? Because a minority of woke activists reflexively gives dissenters one of a laundry list of labels: xenophobic, racist, backward, provincial, intolerant – or even assigns them one of many recently invented “phobias”.

The cult of growth’s sacred tenet, that Canada needs endless population growth, is merely a trendy idea held by a political elite out of touch with reality. It has not been empirically proven.

Let’s ignore the spurious labels, and relegate endless population growth to the graveyard of failed trends.

Editor’s note: My bi-monthly Counter Current column is originally published in the Salt Spring Islands Marketplace paper (islandsmarketplace.com/issue.pdf). This piece was published on January 12th, 2024.

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