Darrell Bricker is the Global CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, the social research and corporate reputation specialists. In September, Darrell and John Wright released a new book - From Dollars to Donuts--What Canadians Think and Why.
The recession that crippled our neighbour to the South, and is now paralyzing much of Europe, mostly passed us by. Our real estate market didn't collapse, our dollar is at parity with the greenback, none of our banks failed, and our unemployment rate stayed around 8%. How? No subprime mortgages, much tougher financial regulation, strong, resource-based export economy, and strong stimulus from the national government. And, when you ask Canadians today to describe their economy, 63% say it is 'good'. This compares to only 18% of Americans who say the same.
Even if the story of our economy is boring, that doesn't mean that we aren't experiencing massive, disruptive change in Canada. Here's why:
- Since 1960, the Canadian population has doubled. But, our fertility rate is now below replacement levels, and seniors (65+) will outnumber children by 2015.
- There's been a huge exodus from rural Canada to our major cities. Most Canadians now live within 100 miles of the U.S. border in a major town or city.
- Every year, Canada welcomes more legal immigrants per capita (250,000-300,000) than any other G20 country. Almost all of these new Canadians move to our major cities. In fact, in our largest city, Toronto, people who are foreign born now outnumber residents who were born in Canada. This is just about double the number of foreign born residents of New York City.
- Where our immigrants are coming from has changed dramatically. In 1981, Canada's top three sources of immigration were the UK, Vietnam, and the U.S.. In 2006, they were China, India, and the Philippines. These newer immigrants don't look like our old immigrants, and they don't have the same traditions and beliefs as the majority population.
- Quebec, Canada's French-speaking province, takes far fewer immigrants than expected given their size. For example, Quebec's largest city, Montreal, has a population that's only 20% foreign born. Combined with a low birth rate, Quebec will soon be a province that remains mostly French, but with an unsustainably older population (like Italy, Spain, or Japan).
What does this all mean? It means that two Canadas are emerging, and they have very little in common. One Canada is 'old Canada', it's English and French, and focused on accommodating these two founding cultures. It's also very white, more rural, linked to the land economically, more trusting of authority, more paternalistic, generally more fearful, and especially afraid of the United States.
The other Canada is 'new Canada', which is urban and multicultural, tolerant, demanding, opinionated, difficult, libertarian, less trusting of traditional institutions, and aggressively Canadian (they don't fear the Yankee). As my friends in the UK would say, it's chalk and cheese.
Old Canada and new Canada don't mix. And our current political and cultural institutions are not well-suited to helping them mix. Stay tuned, the 21st Century is setting up for a bumpy ride in the Great White North.
20 December, 2010