The next great power

Lawrence Solomon
National Post
January 17, 2004

First in a series

Most Canadians see Canada in the middle ranks of nations, without a military or the large economy of a France, Germany or United Kingdom, let alone a United States or Japan. Our children will see Canada differently: as an economic and perhaps military powerhouse that joins the first rank of Western nations.

Power and population go hand in hand. The Western world’s most powerful country, the United States, is also its most populous, at 290 million people. The Great Powers of the early 20th century – Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, France, Italy and the United Kingdom – were also the most populous countries in Europe.

The birth rate of continental Europe is now in steep decline and, because it does not welcome immigrants, its population growth is turning negative. The case of Italy is the most dramatic. By 2050, the UN projects, Italy’s current population of 56 million could drop by 28% to 40 million. But Germany’s population will also be dropping, as will France’s. Fortress Europe – the Europeans’ term for their defenses against immigrants – may produce a European Union of 300 million people at mid-century, down from today’s 380 million, and its population will be rapidly dropping. Japan’s population will diminish for similar reasons, to perhaps 90 million by 2050 and as little as 50 million by 2100.

Among the Western nations, only the English-speaking peoples, with their traditions of democracy and respect for individual rights, are receptive to immigrants, and only they are strong and ascendant. Australia, with its growing population and robust economy, has assumed a broad military role in the South Pacific. The U.K., whose population growth has just propelled its GDP past France’s, giving it the world’s fourth-largest economy, is also willing to exercise its military might.

No one will pass the U.S. economy, which already commands almost one-third of the world’s GDP. Just the opposite, thanks to a population that would be increasing even without immigration, and is exploding with it. The U.S. population will reach at least 400 million by mid-century, the U.S. Census Bureau projects, and possibly 550 million, a near doubling of its current size. By 2100, the U.S. population could top one billion.

Canada’s population will not grow at the heady U.S. rates this century. But because our population will keep climbing while that of most Western nations decline, we may well emerge as the developed world’s second-largest economy, and one of its most populous. By mid-century, with a population that will exceed that of most European nations and be gaining on the rest, our ascendancy will be clear to all, raising our prestige and influence in the world and changing our own world view. We will increasingly see ourselves as a nation with global interests, and with a corresponding need to develop the military capacity needed to defend those interests and ourselves.

No projections decades out are reliable, of course, including current ones by the United Nations and national governments, which simply project the status quo into the future. The history of immigration, in contrast, shows great swings. In Canada during the last century, we had periods of great openness, during economic expansions, and periods of retrenchment, such as in the Great Depression. But one factor has remained constant in the history of immigration: Booming economies import people, stagnant economies export them. When Europeans came to North America in the tens of millions, North America was offering the highest real wages in the world while Europe was bereft of opportunity.

With Europe’s much-vaunted social safety net in tatters, we may well see this scenario repeated. The UN estimates, for example, that Germany would need to accept an 18-fold increase in immigrants if it is to have the workers needed to support its ageing population. France would need to accept 256 times its number of immigrants and Italy 378 times. These Fortress Europe countries show no sign of letting large numbers of immigrants in. Instead, Europe’s ageing electorate propagandizes its youth, to convince it to do its duty to its elders – the school system even teaches the young to lower their expectations. If the electorate continues on this path, the young inside the walls of Fortress Europe will flee, as earlier generations fled other forms of coercion. As with those earlier generations, many will come to Canada, simultaneously depleting their country of birth and enriching us.

One hundred years ago, Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier predicted that Canada would be 60 million strong by mid-century. He anticipated a 10-fold increase in population. In fact, Canada would only increase three-fold, not because we became timid but because the First World War and then the Great Depression and Second World War stopped immigration dead in its tracks. In the next half century, our population doubled again as we all attained unprecedented prosperity.

Another doubling in the next half century, and another doubling to close out this century, would again bring us unprecedented prosperity, and for the time, unprecedented might – along with the United States, we would be a preeminent power, able to turn our accomplishment to the good of mankind. In so doing, we would be true to ourselves as well as to others, and also fulfill Laurier’s ambition: “For the next 75 years, nay the next 100 years,” he said, “Canada shall be the star towards which all men who love progress and freedom shall come.”

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Toronto-based Urban Renaissance Institute. www.urban.probeinternational.org LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com; Next Saturday: More benefits

Readers respond

Lawrence Solomon’s column on Canada as the next great power assumes that expansion to a population of 120 million by the year 2100 can be accomplished merely by opening the floodgates and letting the immigrants pour in. However, I question whether Canada, as a nation, is strong enough to accept such an expansion without coming apart at the seams.

Adding massive numbers of immigrants is likely to lead under current conditions to the balkanization of Canada into a series of mutually exclusive ethnic and cultural groups. When pressures become too great – as they surely will if the population quadruples – there will be little to stop them flying apart.The only nation in recent times to have grown massively by immigration in a relatively short period is the United States. But there is a crucial difference between it and Canada. The United States, as a nation, has a strong sense of identity and quickly absorbs new immigrants into this identity. Canada, in contrast, has a much weaker sense of identity: Our only common point of agreement nowadays appears to be that we are not Americans. Indeed, our multicultural policies almost seem to be crafted to suppress any common sense of identity.Multiculturalism is not a nation-building policy. The idea that we can piece a nation together by encouraging immigrants to place more emphasis on their origins rather than their future is the kind of absurdity that could only have come from professional bureaucrats divorced from the realities of life. By all means, let us have immigrants. But let us first adopt policies that will give them an identity as Canadians when they get here.
Roger Graves, Norther Gower, Ont.


There are so many conditions that have to be all together, in place, all at the same time, to create a great power – population being only one of them. If a large population creates wealth, why aren’t Brazil, Mexico and India great powers? The creation of a great power requires, among other things, the creation of great wealth. That means having all the requisites such as competitive taxation and regulation, an educated workforce, etc.

Mr. Solomon doesn’t appear to be connected to the immigration industry, but he beats the same drum as they do, this time with the misguided connection between it and wealth creation.
Patrick Doyle, Edmonton


The historical pattern of immigrant settlement during the last 50 years has been almost exclusively to the five largest Canadian cities, with Toronto taking the largest proportion. If 90 million more people were added to our numbers, Toronto would grow tenfold to more than 20 million people. Our largest city is already burdened by traffic congestion, poor air quality and problems with garbage disposal. The environmental degradation and decrease in the standard of living in our large cities with the expansion that Mr. Solomon envisions, even if the energy to support that expansion were available, is unimaginable.
Peter Salonius, Scientists for Population Reduction, Durham Bridge, N.B.

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