Canada’s Ideology of Endless Growth

I recently published the lengthiest report in English Canada on the Century Initiative (available on my website, This lobby group, which has been influential in the Trudeau government, seeks to increase Canada’s population to 100 million by 2100 through mass immigration.

The Century Initiative’s goal could only find fertile ground in a country whose elites are obsessed with growth. Political and cultural elites on both the Right and the Left share an unquestioned commitment to perpetual growth. This is measured by such metrics as ‘housing starts’, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), new factories, mines, shopping malls, and big box stores.

Canadians feel the consequences of growth daily. Crowded public transportation, gridlock, astronomical home and rental prices, backlogged hospitals, continual noisy construction, and polluted air worsen the quality of daily life. Rural Canada is now seeing a steady outflow fleeing the cities, which is raising home prices, paving over the countryside with developments, and resulting in inevitable culture clashes between locals and urbanites.

Premier Doug Ford, who has presided over an astonishing immigration rate of over 200,000 annually to Ontario, has even proposed seizing greenbelt land to accommodate the expanding population. In Vancouver, treasured old apartments are being steadily demolished, and long-term tenants evicted. To accommodate immigration-driven population growth, these character low rises, with names like La Venta Place and Millington Manor, are replaced with faceless, glass skyscrapers.

The ideology of growth imagines Canada as a corporate entity, in competition with other countries. This does not resonate with the individual human experience. When thinking about their hometowns, people desire steady jobs, orderly streets, clean parks, good schools, and well-maintained public buildings. While they welcome the creation of a new business, they do not desire growth for growth’s sake. People do not yearn for housing developments, big box stores, or similarly GDP-raising enterprises.

To combat the ideology of growth, Canadians will need to reimagine Canada as their homeland, rather than a national business in a race with the United States for GDP and population. Thankfully, we have a rich history of political thought which fits just this purpose.

Red Toryism was an older Canadian conservatism, forgotten in the past few decades, which called for the state to actively preserve communities and the nation, through intervening in the economy and society. Intellectuals such as George Grant, Donald Creighton and Stephen Leacock advanced a philosophy which called on the state to protect public welfare, and limit the excesses of free trade and free markets. In other words: a conservatism which actually conserved things.

Ultimately, the Century Initiative’s plans are the logical consequence of our governing ideology. If growth is the highest good, why not go all the way? The sooner we turn our back on the ideology of endless growth, the sooner we can create new values: cheap homes for families, beautiful cities, abundant nature, plentiful farmland, healthy communities. Canada did get by without 100 million people for the first 150 years. Why not see how the next 150 go, and re-evaluate then?

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Islands Marketplace magazine ( in my bi-monthly column, Counter Current.

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