The population size and growth rate of a country are determined by a number of factors. The natural increase comes from the fertility rate (number of children per woman of child bearing age) and life expectancy. The higher the number of births and the longer people live, the larger the population will grow. Net migration (number of people entering the country minus the number leaving) is the external factor which has to be added to the domestic drivers.

In 2010 in Canada, with the fertility rate close to replacement level, and life expectancy close to stabilizing, the question of population size and growth rate is largely a question of immigration levels.

Our immigration policy of the past 40 years has pushed our population level 7 million higher than it would have been with balanced levels (zero net). Consequently, Canada has had the fastest growing population in the developed world. Currently, at an annual immigration rate of 250,000, our population is on track to top 45 million by 2050.

Several political parties wish to see our population grow forever and have adopted a 1% immigration policy. This means that if our population in 2010 is 34 million, we would be admitting 340,000 immigrants annually. In 2050, with a population of 45 million, immigration would be 450,000 and climbing forever.

Population size and growth rates have a huge impact on all aspects of Canadian life. Socially, economically and environmentally, the effects of population dynamics are usually the most influential fundamental factors which national policy development has to deal with. Of course, in Canada, there is currently no consideration of immigration impacts in any of our national policies.

Although Canada refers to itself as a young country, virtually none of its resources are being used at below sustainable levels. We may be young but we have burned through our natural resources – once thought of as ‘an unlimited treasure trove’ – faster than any nation in history. We need to have forward looking national policies in place which take the effects of population size and growth rates into account.