Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Canada’s population and influence in the world

Irwin Studin, a University of Toronto professor and former senior federal policy advisor, released an ambitious proposition earlier this year that should be stirring debate among Canadian nation-builders. But it isn’t. Without buying into his idea—that getting Canada’s population to 100 million as fast as possible should be a national priority—his driving rationale deserves wide attention.
Refreshingly, the paper doesn’t hide its reach: “Canada—Population 100 million; at 100 million people, three times its current population, Canada is among the most consequential countries on Earth.” Click on:
The idea is neither unmanageably radical nor so farfetched to be dismissed out of hand. Assuming we don’t blow ourselves up or poison our atmosphere intolerably, there probably will be something close to 100 million Canadians around to celebrate the dawn of the next century—whether or not we make a strategic commitment to get there.  
What’s out of reach, however, is the notion that, by forcing the pace of population growth, Canada can become “one of the most consequential countries on Earth.” Assuming he uses the word “consequential” to mean a lot more than just keeping our seat on the G-20, the exercise is bound to fail.
Studin doesn’t attempt to map out, in detail, the world of the future in which Canada, as an independent nation, will be able to make a significant difference. However, here are a couple of thoughts that ought to temper his expectations. If the US declines and the world actually functions in a multi-polar fashion, Canada, with a population of a hundred million or so, will still represent barely one percent of humanity.  If the world is divided between a cluster of authoritarian nations lead by China and with the US as the predominant western power, Canada will still be marginal on the continent and globally. Indeed, projecting present fertility rates and immigration policies in the US, it is likely that well before the next century the US population will surpass 500 million.
Certainly, with 100 million people Canada’s domestic market could sustain a larger, more sophisticated manufacturing sector.  However, if Canada is to keep an innovative and a high value added economy, these firms will be as challenged as they are today to compete with others, at home and elsewhere. Further, Canada’s resource sector will remain vulnerable to international commodity markets whatever Canada’s future population.
No. Despite his exertions, Studin isn’t going to make us a significant force in the world by aggressively populating the status quo.
Still, his underlying objective—being heard in the world—stands boldly against the unacknowledged alternative strategy that our best hope is to prosper quietly and not be left off the diplomatic guest lists. He might find something that addresses his ambition in my article, “A More Perfect Union.” Click on:
With a little more time out of Ottawa, Irwin Studin might see that being a North American federalist is the only sure way to win influence well beyond the reach of the Canadian nation-state.

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