Population of Canada
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"Canada is a great country, with illimitable possibilities, and we believe we are called upon to surpass the United States in the course of time. Let us be engaged in whatever we may, whatever our difference of opinion, but let us try to work with the end of building up this beloved Canada of ours."
The question of the possibilities of our population is one which has engaged the attention of many, and has elicited a variety of opinions. Some have possibly estimated it too high ; others, and these are the more numerous, we think, have estimated the possibilities too low. Any estimate made can, of course, only be approximately correct, though there is a legitimate basis upon which to base our calculations. The ability of a country to sustain a population depends upon its extent and its productive power, though these facts are modified by the largeness or smallness of the demands of the people who may occupy it, which, of course, varies greatly in different ages and with different people. England, for instance, alone sustains a population of over thirty millions of people, whose demands are very high, in an area of some fifty thousand-square miles. This is a tremendous population, representing about five hundred and seventeen to the square mile, but it is nevertheless sustained with ease and in comfort, indeed, one might say luxury, for nowhere in the world is there to be found an equal proportion of wealth. Moreover, this population is still rapidly on the increase.
Now, if we apply this standard to the two million square miles of Canada's habitable domain, it would give us the tremendous population of one billion souls at the same density. Of course, no reasonable person would likely make such a claim for our country ; population in this land will not likely ever become so uniformly dense, or anything like it. The question is, by what figure should we divide such an estimate, to come at a just and reasonable result. If we could sustain one-quarter the population of England per square mile it would still give us two hundred and fifty millions of people. Is this unreasonable ? To answer this we must pursue the question a little farther. We may turn to some other country, where the conditions of life are more similar to our own. Let us look at European Russia, for instance. Here is a country of large and varied area and resources, largely sharing our climatic conditions, and may fairly represent the possibilities of our own country as to population. In European Russia, south of the 60th degree of north latitude, we have at present a density of population of about sixty-eight to the square mile. This, on a similar basis, would give us a population of about one hundred and forty millions, but Russia is still a rather sparsely settled country, and is rapidly increasing in population, and these figures do - not represent her full possibility. Let us take at random a group of her older western provinces north of the 50th degree of north latitude. These provinces have a density of one hundred and seventy-nine to the square mile, which, if applied to Canada, would mean an ultimate population, at the same rate, of 350,000,000.
There is still another country in Europe whose latitude, race and conditions of lire are not dissimilar to our own, namely, Germany. Here we have a density of two hundred and thirty-nine to the square mile and a growing population. Our population, estimated on the basis of Germany's density, would give us six hundred and eighty millions. Which one of these estimates comes the nearest to our possibilities ? May we not here apply the law of averages with the three continental sections discussed, for a general and just estimate ? An average struck between these countries would give about one hundred and sixty-six to the square mile, and if applied to Canada's area, would mean a population of about three hundred and thirty millions. When we consider the large extent of country concerned in our comparisons, its high northerly location, and that their population is still rapidly in-creasing, the estimate cannot be regarded as an extravagant one. It seems quite reasonable, there-fore, to claim that our maximum capacity for population is from three hundred to three hundred and fifty millions.
In a certain sense we are dealing with the present century, and how far these possibilities may be realized within the century it is impossible to say, certainly not to the fullest extent. We have already made some comparisons with the growth of our neighbors to the south, and that without disparagement to ourselves. It may not, therefore, be too much to expect a growth, even in population, within this century equal to theirs in the last, though this will depend largely on the energy put forth on the part of our immigration authorities and the wisdom of their policy.
Sixty-five or seventy millions at the close of the present century should not be beyond the ideal aimed at by every patriotic Canadian, or be regarded as unreasonable from a basis of sound calculation. It would, of course, be expected that the tide of foreign immigration would gradually increase as the .country becomes better known and more fully appreciated abroad, and in proportion also to its development. It is difficult to make comparisons in this regard from the immigration re-turns of the United States, inasmuch as the facilities have been so very different in the latter half of the century. The average yearly increase by immigration alone to the United States for the last twenty-five years has been about four hundred thou-sand annually, though in one particular year it reached the enormous figure of eight hundred thousand. Taking all the circumstances into consideration, it does not appear that three hundred and ninety or four hundred thousand per year for the century would be too great to expect for this country, though, of course, for some time to come the figures must be very much below this mark.
If this may be regarded as a fair average for the century, we are well within the bounds of our calculations, as this, with our natural increase and present population, would give us an expected population of seventy-six millions in the year 2001. It is quite possible, of course, that it may fall below these figures, but it is also easily possible that they may be surpassed ; at least, it is a reasonable calculation.