Ignoring the fundamental issue
Mother, may I go out to swim?
Yes, my darling daughter.
Hang your clothes on a hickory limb
And don’t go near the water.
This anonymous little poem comes to my mind when I read about the advocacy efforts of various anti-sprawl and environmental groups. The obvious absurdity of the poem is that it’s impossible to go out for a swim without going into the water. Therefore, the daughter’s permission to go swimming is rendered meaningless by the imposed condition of keeping away from it.
In the case of environmental groups, their advocacy for the conservation of nature is undermined by their refusal to talk about population growth, when stopping that growth is the only effective way to stop sprawl and preserve nature in the long term.
It is the profiteers of growth who reap the benefits of this self-censorship.
Canada’s falling birthrate and growing population
Canada’s population of nearly 40 million is more than twice what it was in 1975, when its total fertility rate dipped below 2 children per woman and continued on a downward trend to its current 1.4. Despite 50 years of low fertility, Canada’s annual growth rate, hovering around 1%, is the highest among G7 nations. Canada’s rapid growth has been driven by immigration. With balanced migration, where immigration levels approximately match emigration levels, Canada’s population would have stabilized at about 27 million.
The first boost to the hypermigration levels of the last 33 years occurred in 1990 under Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government, when his immigration minister Barbara McDougall raised the annual target to 250,000 annually. This very high level was maintained by every subsequent government. In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s then immigration minister Ahmed Hussen announced that the intake for the ensuing three years would rise annually to 340,000 in 2020. This plan was derailed by Covid, but not for long. In 2022, immigration minister Sean Fraser announced annually increasing targets for the next three years, with 500,000 slated to arrive in 2025.
The primary driver of environmental destruction is off-limits for questioning
The addition in recent decades of approximately ten million people to Canada’s population through immigration have has a significant environmental impact. Most immigrants settle in Canada’s largest cities. For a long time, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) received approximately half of all of newcomers, and the majority still settle in southwestern Ontario.
This growth has had an enormous impact on the farmland and wildlife habitat of the area. In his 2004-05 Annual Report Planning Our Landscape, released in November, 2005, then Ontario environment commissioner Gord Miller dared to question the necessity of growth and warned of the pressure that future population growth would create on the environment, especially in southern Ontario and the Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt lands where most newcomers settle.
“Even with higher development densities, this is a vast number of people settling in an already stressed landscape. Will the resulting demands for water, sewer systems, roads, utility corridors, aggregates and urban expansion leave our protected countryside and natural heritage systems intact? Will there be enough natural lands to support biodiversity?” (p. 5 of Report)
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