What has growth done for us lately? If you are among the vast majority of people in developed countries your quality of life and employment have gone down in the past 5 decades while debt and inequality levels have increased dramatically.

Below are the misconceptions that have driven the failure of public policy and the disintegration of the national conversation.

The Free Money Con

  • Generational transfer link – the money may seem like a free windfall to you but your children pick up the tab plus hefty interest rate and income tax overhead charges. Only the parasitic overhead of speculators and banks benefit.
  • Housing is a consumer good not a real wealth creating investment. Housing inflation involves no value added.

The Growth-Forever Con

  • Both the world and Canada have overshot their environmental base and consumption must be dramatically reduced to avoid disastrous climate change and ecological collapse. Growth is something to be eschewed rather than pursued if human societies are to remain healthy and able to continuously progress.

Growth – What it done for us lately?

  • Once we look past the sizzle of inflated housing prices and higher GDP numbers, what kind of steak has our growth-obsessed government actually served up on our plate?
  • The graph below shows the Life Satisfaction index of residents of cities and towns by rate of growth over 10 years. It demonstrates that the higher the rate of growth, the lower the life satisfaction of residents. No surprise there as Canadians flee large urban centres, so why do politicians feel compelled to chase growth? Follow the money.

Job Quality – has declined with more people taking multiple part-time jobs and split shifts with low pay. Former finance minister Bill Morneau in 2016 told young people to get used to a “job churn.” Why is no one challenging the government for creating this job churn through its policy of mass immigration?

Housing Affordability – has gotten far worse as even couples with two good jobs are unable to afford their home in many areas of the country. In contrast, five decades ago, a single income could support a family in its own house. It is now rare for children to be able to afford to live near their parents.

Debt – personal debt levels have quintupled over the past four decades.

Equality – unaffordable housing and declining job quality are the perfect engine of inequality for developed countries, and in Canada the equality level has fallen from second best in the world in the early 1960s to the mid-30s in 2020. This is an astonishing drop which our growth-centric media corporations completely ignore. After all, the economy is growing, who cares how the people are doing! Media corporations scream blue murder if wages go up but they trumpet rising housing costs as an economic miracle – “the Wealth Effect” or Asset Enhancement”.

Congestion – more people packed into the same areas means higher congestion and the increasing commute times tell the tale. This is another reason for the flight of Canadians out of our major cities.

Access to Nature – The bigger cites get and the harder they are to get out of, the more difficult it is for people to connect with nature.

Quality of Life – all of these factors combine to produce a lifestyle which is more stressed, less healthy and less satisfying than it was before growth became the sole mandate of the major political parties.

What needs to be done?

In the next decade we need to rapidly reverse the pressure we’ve put on earth’s natural systems and we need to re-focus public policy on human well-being. Below are some of the considerations which need to be built into proactive initiatives. We also need to prioritize human and environmental welfare far ahead of the size or growth rate of the commercial economy. GDP is a measurement tool of commercial activity, and it should never have been allowed to become a goal in itself.

First, we need to stop doing damage. Stop paving over farmland and displacing forest and species. Second, we need to figure out what it will take for us to become sustainable.

Renewable energy infrastructure

Planning for the future must include the investment necessary to become sustainable in energy and food. If not completely self-sufficient, at least highly resilient.

Below is a table of the number of hectares of solar farms, wind turbines, foodland and small modular nuclear reactors (SMR) require to completely feed and energize 10,000 people. See the Orillia Report in the reference section for greater detail.

Solar Farm (hectares)
Wind Turbines (2 Mega Watt)
Food Land (hectares)
Small Modular Reactors (300 Mega Watt)

Infrastructure Needed per 10,000 people





The above figures for energy assume that 100% of energy will be supplied by solar or wind or nuclear. Certainly there will be a mix so the infrastructure for any of the above will be less.

Farm acreage is based on current Ontario productivity levels. Energy requirements are based on a completely electrified economy with a daily energy budget of 150kWh per person. Electrification in addition to intensive conservation and lifestyle measures should allow us to maintain a 150kWh/day budget. The current level of Canadian per capita energy consumption is over 300 kWh per day but this includes the production and export of large amounts of fossil fuels and it recognizes the fact that 80% of our current energy consumption is fossil fuel based. The switch to electricity will mean efficiency levels will almost triple. Also, included in the 150kWh budget figure is the assumption that manufacturing is repatriated so our entire economy is largely self-sufficient and highly resilient.

Tripling Canada’s population as 1% immigration will do within 100 years may make speculators rich but it will make achieving sustainability impossible. The transition to renewable energy will be an extreme challenge for our current population and will be impossible for a growing population.

Our difficulties will be exacerbated the longer we take to make determined efforts. Failure to be proactive and get ahead of the problem will force us to make much greater sacrifices later with much poorer outcomes. We must reduce consumption and transform our energy systems all the while maintaining social cohesion.

Fiscal Balance

The rapid population growth business model has generated an increasingly high percentage of low wage jobs. The tax breakeven point for jobs is probably in the $45,000 range and any job created paying less is tax negative. Increasing the portion of low paying jobs creates a structural deficit where there is less revenue coming in and more expenditure going out, as low paying jobs are less stable and require higher levels of social support. In effect, low wage employers are being subsidized by taxpayers.

If we invest in our people with training and productivity-increasing tools and equipment, we can progress. If we continue to treat our citizens like consumers and suppliers of cheap labour, deficits will be on-going and worsening. The real economy thrives on productivity while the fake money economy thrives on inflated asset valuations and market growth.

Public Opinion

Government, and in particular media corporations, can start to recover their relevance by actually listening to the people whom they are supposed to be serving. One municipal government actually did do this and when the city of Orillia asked its residents for their opinions on what government priorities should be, this is the response they received. It was public opinion, unfiltered by commercial media.

How would Orillians spend their own money on improving life in Orillia? What are their priorities?


Quality of Life


Healthy Environment


Sustainable Growth


Professional, Progressive City


Vibrant Waterfront


Heritage Core


Total of Quality of life and healthy living related categories = 82.5 (26.5 + 24.3 + 16.2 + 15.5 = 82.5)

Total involving any kind of simple growth = 19.4 but even sustainable growth implies quality, not quantity. Vibrant Waterfront (15.5) does imply more infrastructure. Note that “Sustainable Growth” – the growth industry’s weasel word for endless growth – explicitly in the public mind means no to unsustainable growth.

The item of “Professional, Progressive City” speaks to quality, not size. Nowhere do citizens express any desire for a bigger city, more congestion, higher housing costs or higher taxes which are the givens of population growth.

Democracy Denied and Environmental Impact Assessment process evaded

In Ontario and BC, local governments are being forced to accept growth, growth that has had no environmental review for obvious reasons. The practice of forcing growth upon communities takes decision-making out of the publics hands. It also removes growth from any examination of its social and environmental impacts.

“Growth is Good” is a claim that has rung hollow for over 6 decades now and we need to switch our priorities to rebuilding progress

Follow the Money

Population growth and housing inflation are the blood of life for large developers, speculators and lending institutions. Developers are the prime source of election campaign donations for a very high percentage of our elected officials and nothing could be a more clear conflict of interest. The “Campaign Finance and Campaign Success in Municipal Elections in the Toronto Region” study by Robert MacDermid of York University in 2007 documented this flow of funds in great detail.

Media corporations get a very significant portion of their ad revenue from developers (new home ads) and debt institutions. Media corporation revenue is dependent on the size of their local market and its rate of growth. Strangely enough, these same media corporations never challenge growth nor do they follow up on studies like the MacDermid Report. If it isn’t profitable, it isn’t news.