Canada's population needs to be 100 million by 2100

We need many more young people in the workforce contributing to the GDP and tax base which are essential to support Canada’s aging population, says Shari Austin, CEO of the Century Initiative.

'It's a big, audacious goal.'

We need many more young people in the workforce, contributing to the GDP and tax base which are essential to support Canada’s aging population, says Shari Austin, CEO of the Century Initiative. (CBC)
Listen9:37

If Canada sticks with current practices, our population will grow to between 51 to 53 million by the end of the century.

 A non-profit group called The Century Initiative advocates doubling that, to 100 million. That's about triple our current population.

"We recognize that it may be counterintuitive," Shari Austin, CEO of the Century Initiative, told The Sunday Edition's guest host Peter Armstrong.

It's the only way, she argued, that Canada can face the economic challenges ahead and strengthen its international influence.

Currently, Canada accepts 310,000 immigrants per year. The Century Initiative suggests that number should be closer to 450,000.

"It's a big, audacious goal," she conceded. But it has been done before. Since 1945 to the present day, Canada's population has tripled.
Six new Canadians were suspended by cables over the city to take their oath of citizenship at the CN Tower EdgeWalk in Toronto on October 9, 2018. (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada)

"There is some evidence that when countries hit 100 million they really start gunning in terms of the economy," she said, citing the United States in the 1920s as an example.

The Canada of the future

The Century Initiative primarily wants to target economic immigrants — not just doctors and engineers but also caregivers, those with a skilled trade and entrepreneurs.

"A mix of people wanting to contribute to the economy and wanting to have children," Austin explained.

That doesn't mean that refugees aren't welcome.

"We also have ethical obligations to make sure we do our fair share to help bring people to a better life," she clarified.

Long term view and short term pain

According to Austin, if this goal isn't met, Canada will struggle financially and governments won't have enough to pay for the services we have come to expect in this country.

"We need to be prepared to put more money into certain things that will make sure our growth is successful," she warned.  

She also sees this as a way to create "a more diverse, more interesting, dynamic population."

"It's an exciting opportunity to be proactive about what we want to look like in fifty years, in a hundred years. It's also an opportunity to leave a better world for our kids and our grandkids."