An Analysis of Population Growth and Spatial Distribution in Canada:
Politicians, economists, and environmentalists are often seen arguing against one another in terms of many rules and regulations regarding issues affecting the population of any given country that they are to represent in their respective fields. However, these professionals are also supposed to work together when determining and deciding the best policies to enforce. The analysis of a country’s population growth and spatial distribution is a process that can help identify many trends in a country’s social and economic development. It is also possible to derive many lessons and general principles by understanding the causes and consequences of the pattern of population growth of a particular country. In this paper, we will analyze the statistical data relating to the population and spatial distribution of the urban and rural communities in Canada in order to illustrate these points. We will determine through which factors Canada’s change in population is affected most, and how this correlates to current living conditions.
The aim of this paper is to understand how population growth is affected by the spatial distribution of resources and population. The data used in this paper to describe population growth will heavily rely on statistics provided by the Canadian government.
Analyzing this data will require concepts gathered secondary research conducted in the past, which have revealed trends and effects of population on the socio-economic makeup of a country or region. The data gathered relating to population will include population aging, population estimates, population changes, and mobility and migration. Familiarity with concepts such as population density and spatial structure along with basic knowledge of concepts associated with the development of a nation’s infrastructure are crucial in such a study. Credible theories, empirical researches, and opinions will also be reviewed in order to support concrete findings. As an introduction, we will review the concept of spatial distribution with an emphasis on its application to population research.
A Review of Spatial Distribution
The term spatial distribution simply refers to a statistical analysis of a phenomena and how it is spread over the Earth’s surface. Spatial distribution, as a form of empirical study, has been used to analyze the population of people, the distribution of real estate prices and the distribution of wages over a certain space. These studies indicate that the development of an urban environment must always account for spatial aspects and aim to produce an efficient spatial structure. Whether one analyzes through the lenses of an economist or environmentalist, it is understood that a deficient spatial structure can fragment labor and consumer markets, contribute to higher transaction costs due to increased distance between people and places, decrease quality of life by increasing travel time and increasing air pollution (Bertraud & Malpezzi, 2003). For a country with a landmass as large as Canada, the application of spatial distribution concepts in urban and rural development is especially important.
Canada: A High Resolution Snapshot
The total area of land in Canada is over 9 million square kilometers, making it the second largest country by land mass in the entire world, after Russia, which is almost double the size (Natural Resources Canada, 2009). As of October 1st, 2010, the country’s population indicated a 0.4% growth from July, estimated at 34 million, accounting only for 0.5% of the world population. The growth in population can be attributed to the high level of immigration, the largest since 1971.(Statistics Canada, 2010). This indicates a large discrepancy between the amount of people and the amount of land allocated to each person, compared to other countries. However, the concentration of people in Canada is located in ‘Central Canada’, in just four of the thirteen provinces. The provinces that make up Western and Central Canada; Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia, account for over 29 million of the total 34 million people in Canada. Furthermore, while Alberta has just recently started major expansive procedures, the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia were also the ones to experience the largest numbers in population growth. However, a decline in non-permanent residencies has ensured that growth levels are not at higher levels. Data also indicated that the rate of natural increase has decreased from 2009 to 2010, which means Canada heavily relies on migration for its population growth(Statistics Canada, 2010).
An interesting correlation shows that there is also a visible divide in the economic performance of the north and east regions of Canada and the south and west regions, with the latter regions showing substantially higher economic performance than the former (Alasia, 2004). For example, as of 1997, Ontario was the home for almost 40% of Canada’s population and accounted for 52.6% of Canadian shipments. It also accounted for over 84% of the Canadian Transportation Equipment Industry (Fleming & Rowell, 2000).
According to 2001 census data, a thematic map indicating that the areas with greatest population density are the areas home to those with the greatest average employment income, notable cities include Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Unsurprisingly, a similar thematic map indicates that the level of education in these areas is also the highest, representing the highest proportion of people with a university degree (Census of Canada, 2003). This analysis of economic activity and population density reinforces the theory that a county’s development is evidently affected by, and interdependent with population and resource distribution as well (Ehrlich & Holdren, 1971).
A 2001 report published by Canadian Geographer and authored by Bourn and Damaris, analyzed the implications of the uneven distribution of the population in Canada. The report identified localized growth and the concentration of people in metropolitan areas as a source of four major transformations in the country in the past, and predicted that population processes will be as important as political and social changes in the future. The major transformations include changes to labor markets and the welfare state, increasing ethno cultural diversity, demographic modifications of family forms and living arrangements, as well as the relationship among households. For the purposes of this paper, let us point out the issue of population and spatial demography as an example. In this case, as well as the in the area of family forms and living arrangements, triggered by constant changes in demographic changes directly caused the economic discrepancy we mentioned earlier. This started in the post-war period, when the parents of baby boomers initiated a mass movement to urban and suburb areas, enabling their children, who grew up in the 60s and 70s to create the demand for commodities such as high-rise apartments or running shoes. This also modified the spatial expression of social structure by increasing demand for educational and health care facilities. The move from bigger households, where extended families live under one roof to more independent households also contributed to demand for housing and services at a more geographically concentrated level(Bourn & Damaris, 2001).
The collection of statistical information in combination with some general principals of demography has provided a general understanding of Canada’s population trends. The analysis indicates that Canada as a country has been experiencing a steady population growth, although it is relying heavily on immigration as its source of population growth.
Considering the different lifestyle aspects of a newborn versus an immigrant, who could be of any age, this makes the spatial structure and distribution of this country especially interesting. It is often the choice of the immigrant where he or she would prefer to live. Whereas large natural increases would even out population distribution, in Canada it is safe to assume that if the trends remain similar in the future the uneven nature will be even more accented. The trends show that although many of the provinces experience some type of growth, it is the economic centers such as Ontario and Quebec that are experience a majority of the growth. This can be confidently ascribed to the greater availability (due to demand) of health care services, housing, transportation, and all types of commodities. Before this analysis, the uneducated hypothesis would be that Canada’s large landmass and relatively small population assures that it is a country free from overpopulation risk. After this analysis, it is clear that this is not the case.
Since Canada is so large, it has become one of the most expansive countries in the world. These expansions have required the greater use of vehicles to commute to different places. As a result, in provinces such as Ontario, congestion obstructs movement of freight, which is especially damaging to the province that produces the most shipments, and increases air pollution. Coupled with current increase in immigrant population, and perhaps overpopulation in these provinces, over-consumption becomes an issue (Houiellebecq, 2010). Although the spatial distribution of factors driving local economy may be satisfactory, Canada’s concentration of people and resources into a few provinces may soon become a problem. Nevertheless, the enforcement of days such as World Health Day and Blackout Day (Houiellebecq, 2010), along with the continued development of cities such as Calgary and provinces such as Alberta boasts as a good indicator that Canadian officials are aware of these phenomena and are taking measures.
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