Ontario’s population will surge by 30% in just over 20 years, according to StatsCan. Experts say we’re not ready

No serious questioning of the assumptions behind the study and those quoted whether this growth will be beneficial or not, and that many demographers disagree with the premise that large scale immigration will materially affect an aging population.

And of course, the experience over the past number of years have shown governments woefully inadequate in addressing healthcare, infrastructure and other programs to serve a growing population:

Ontario’s population is expected to experience sustained growth over the next two decades, but the province may not have the infrastructure to support the booming — and aging — population, some experts warn. 

The number of residents in the province could climb to more than 19 million by 2043, an increase of about 30 per cent since 2021, according to new projections from Statistics Canada. 

That figure is based on a forecast of medium growth, outlined in a report released Monday, which laid out various population projections for the coming decades. The province’s population, which sits at 14.8 million as of 2021, could surpass 21.0 million by 2043. 

But Ontario is ill-prepared to handle the growth, as it lacks the housing and general infrastructure to support the growing population, especially in major urban centres like Toronto, some experts say. 

“It’s obvious: we’re not prepared,” said Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage. “We can’t even handle the population growth we’ve had over the past 20 years — as households get small, people live longer and immigration numbers rise — let alone potential growth in the two decades to come.”

The lack of affordable housing and planning for population growth in Toronto could hamper the city’s future economic potential, said Sheila Block, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. She noted livability and sustainability are top-of-mind for both residents and investors. 

“If we don’t increase the supply of affordable housing, people will be living in substandard housing,” she said. “We are going to see more people under-housed.”

The city is already living with the consequences of improper planning and a growing population, said Block, who pointed to the crisis in affordable housing

“We need to talk about a sustainable future, a future where we see less damage from climate change and more equity,” she said. “Those are the kinds of issues that have to be considered, and affordable housing is one piece of that pie.”

Soper believes federal and provincial governments will soon be forced to address the crisis and “move aggressively” to support the population increase.

“The growth will force mandated densification laws, where community groups won’t be allowed to hold up the creation of housing because they don’t like it,” he predicted. 

The growth of Ontario’s population, along with that of Canada, as a whole, will largely be driven by immigration, noted Patrice Dion, a demographer with Statistics Canada. In 2021, when Canada’s border largely reopened, the country accepted more than 400,000 immigrants, representing 87.4 per cent of the country’s population-growth that year. 

While Soper and Block say Ontario isn’t prepared for the growth, they also say sustained immigration is necessary to address another key concern: an aging population. 

The country will need to rely on immigration to boost its cohort of working-age Canadians, because the natural growth rate (the number of births minus deaths) continues to decrease, said Block. 

“If you look at countries like Italy or Japan, which have broken immigration systems — Japan has been a very isolated country and it’s very challenging to become a citizen and Italy isn’t that much different — they’re going to face the kind of challenges Canada will, but to a much greater extent,” said Soper.

While Statistics Canada’s population projections vary widely — the different forecasts are based on a variety of factors, including fertility rates, life expectancy and immigration numbers — one thing is almost certain: Canada is expected to experience explosive growth in its cohort of older seniors, while the proportion of children in the country is expected to decline. 

More than 25 per cent of the population will be 65 or older by 2068, up from 18.5 per cent in 2021. Meanwhile, the number of Canadians above 85 may increase more than threefold over that period, from 871,000 in 2021 to 3.2 million in 2068. 

Canada will need to examine how it cares for its seniors, as more people join the group, said Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald, director of financial security research at the National Institute on aging. 

“Over the next decade, we’re going to start seeing massive numbers of people needing care,” she said. 

“There’s going be a lot more of us being asked to care for seniors. The prospects to meet that challenge are not good,” said MacDonald, who noted the supports for seniors quickly fell apart during the pandemic. 

Source: Ontario’s population will surge by 30% in just over 20 years, according to StatsCan. Experts say we’re not ready

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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