10 February 2012

Ontario shows greatest population growth

Per cents are not people. Per cents don't hold jobs, buy products or pay taxes. People do. Yet it seems that most of the conversation about the 2011 census report revolves around per cent growth, not people growth. The per cent growth is interesting, and much more simple to illustrate and discuss, but it's deceptive. It overlooks the real growth, the growth in residents: working, consuming, tax-paying human beings, i.e. the proper basis for policy-making.

Because of the emphasis on percentage growth, the focus of the discussion has been in the West where Alberta racked up the greatest percentage growth among the provinces. Indeed, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia all grew at a faster percentage rate than the national average. However, when it comes to population growth, over the census period (2006-11) Ontario grew more than all the western provinces combined. Even Quebec grew by more people than Alberta.

Alberta may be growing rapidly but only in smaller amounts from a smaller base than Ontario. Only when it is increasing its population at the same rate as its eastern sister, can we talk meaningfully about a demographic revolution. That won't be for a long time, if ever.

Yet another concern about the discussion surrounding the census report is the persistent assumption that population growth is a good thing—another fallacy that needs correcting. But that's fodder for another post.

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