The effects of global population shifts and how it may be a good news story for Canada

Discover how population fluctuations will reshape the social, political and economic landscape of the world and in what ways it is a good news story for Canada, from author and journalist John Ibbitson, keynote speaker at the 2018 Public Sector Conference.

Studies show that the global population will begin to decline, reshaping the social, political, and economic landscape of the world. Discover how this shift will promote innovation and in what ways it is a good news story for Canada from author and journalist, John Ibbitson, keynote speaker at the 2018 Public Sector Conference.

Q. Global demographic studies by the United Nations project higher populations, with no decline in growth, however other studies project growth followed by a population decline. Would this decline in population affect Canada and what disruptions do you believe  would impact our public sector?

Canada’s population will not decline; it will continue to increase, thanks to robust immigration policies. Immigration now accounts for the main source of population growth in Canada. The population will, however age, due to low birth rates and longer lifespans. This will increasingly stress geriatric-care services. For example, one third of people over the age of 85 will develop Alzheimer’s, unless new preventative treatments are developed.

Q. Disruptions aside, how do you believe the global population decline would be a good news story for Canada?

Because Canada’s population will continue to increase as the populations of other countries decrease, our global influence will increase as well. By mid-century, for example, we could be more populous than Italy or Spain. More importantly, Canada’s model of robust immigration married to a deep tradition of multiculturalism offers a template for other societies seeking to reverse population decline.

Q. What recommendations do you have for those in the public service to prepare their organizations for the worker shortages to come?

Automation and out-sourcing will be critical to filling job shortages in both the public and private sectors. The federal government needs to become more robust in recruiting new Canadians to the public service. Policy and public funds will also have to take into account an aging society, though much of this is the responsibility of provincial governments. Foreign policy must emphasize that multiculturalism, rather than nationalism, is the best route to creating peaceful, tolerant societies.

Q. As immigration is projected to be Canada’s only source of population growth, how can Canada prepare for this reality?

We need to increase the intake of immigrants as much as the population will permit. This involves concerted efforts to educate the public on the benefits of immigration. Immigrants create jobs, fill job vacancies, consume goods and pay taxes, generating wealth and broadening the tax base. In the short term, an annual intake of one per cent of population should be the goal.

Q. As a political journalist, one of your areas of focus is Canada-U.S. relations. With the changing political and economic relationship between Canada and the U.S., where do you think the relationship is heading and what would be the biggest challenge for Canada?

Regardless of who succeeds President Trump, in 2020 or 2024, the consensus on globalization has been shattered. Both Democrats and Republicans now appear suspicious of the benefits of unfettered tariff-free trade. Both appear convinced that China is a strategic threat due to tariff manipulation and intellectual property threat. Canada must accept that American leadership in advancing the free movement of goods, services and people is at an end. For Canada, that means forging new links. I have argued that Canada should use its Atlantic (CETA) and Pacific (TPP) trading linkages to advance an Atlantic-Pacific Partnership, which we hope the United States would eventually join.

Q. Your keynote at the Public Sector Conference is about global demographic population trends. What can attendees look forward to in your session?

I’ll be explaining why Darrell Bricker and I side with demographers who believe that the United Nations population projections are wrong. I’ll explain the causes of declining fertility and why it is declining so rapidly in developing countries such as Brazil. And I’ll look at the environmental, economic and geo-political consequences of a world in which, by mid-century, there are fewer people every year.

To learn more about innovation in the public sector and the impact of CPA leadership in government, register for this year’s Public Sector Conference, which takes place in Ottawa from October 22-23, 2018.