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Canada's population could increase to 57M by 2068, posing challenges for housing, health care

As Canada's population is set to become larger and older in the decades to come amid high immigration and low fertility, experts say these trends have huge implications for our housing and health care needs.

A report from Statistics Canada released on Monday projects Canada's population could reach 47.8 million in 2043 and 56.5 million by 2068 under a medium-growth scenario. Other population projection scenarios say Canada's population could grow to anywhere between 44.9 million and 74.0 million in 2068.

But the StatCan report noted that this could have an impact on the availability of housing. Last June, a report from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation projected the housing stock in the country to increase by 2.3 million units over the next decade, but said Canada needs an additional 3.5 million affordable housing units by 2030.

Mike Moffatt, a professor at Western University's Ivey Business School and a senior director at the Smart Prosperity Institute, says the report illustrates that Canada's housing supply is "not sufficient to keep up with the growing population."

"I certainly think we should be able to plan for this level of growth that we know is coming. It absolutely will be a challenge to house this many people," he told in a phone interview on Wednesday. "We need to make sure that we build homes at all price points in order to accommodate a growing population."

The StatCan projections anticipate growth to be unevenly distributed across the country. Alberta is expected to have the highest growth in the country, as the province's population in 2043 is expected to be 31 to 61 per cent bigger than it is now. In some scenarios, the Wildrose province is projected to have a greater population than B.C.

"Alberta has done a reasonably good job of building enough housing for a growing population. Alberta has been growing quite rapidly over the last few decades and they've been able to keep the housing supply up. There's been issues around land use and environmental issues, but just from a sheer numbers point of view, they've been able to do that," said Moffatt.

Population growth in B.C., Ontario, and Saskatchewan is projected to be around 14 to 40 per cent by 2043, according to the analysis. Manitoba's population is expected to grow 11 to 40 per cent, while the population of Quebec is estimated to grow between 12 to 19 per cent.

Moffatt believes Ontario and B.C. are least prepared to handle the impending growth, given that the housing shortages are most severe in these two provinces.

"I think most provinces shouldn't have too much of a problem accommodating for this (population growth). It's mostly just Ontario and B.C. that I'd be worried about." Moffatt said.

Meanwhile, Atlantic Canada's population's could fall by 1.5 per cent or increase by up to 16 per cent by 2043, the report said. Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province forecasted to have negative population growth in every projection scenario. Population growth in the territories is expected to be around eight to 28 per cent.


Currently, 18.5 per cent of Canadians are aged 65 and older. But under a medium-growth scenario, StatCan projects the proportion of seniors to increase to 23.1 per cent in 2043 and 25.9 per cent in 2068.

The average age in Canada was 41.7 years in 2021, but by 2068, it's expected to increase to 45.1 years.

While Canada's population is growing, StatCan says that the national fertility rate reached a historic low of 1.4 in 2020 and is expected to decline in the years to come. Instead, immigration has been the main driver of population growth, but StatCan notes that immigration "is unable to significantly increase the proportion of youth in the population."

Experts say these numbers underscore the need to make sure the federal and provincial governments have a plan to meet the health care needs of the aging population.

"There's nothing sudden about this. So the notion of planning for an aging population is clearly possible because it's glacial progression," Susan McDaniel, a professor of sociology at the University of Victoria, told in a phone interview on Wednesday.

"What we need are better systems to handle chronic illnesses -- things like arthritis that don't require hospitalization, but can lead to mobility challenges, sometimes minor, sometimes major," she added.

A 2018 report from the Conference Board of Canada said Canada's aging population will add $93 billion to provincial health-care costs. It also costs the public health-care system $12,000 per year to meet the health needs for the average senior, compared to $2,700 for the rest of the population, the report said.

Dr. Samir Sinha, who is director of geriatrics at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, notes that back when Canada's universal health-care system was born in 1966, the average age and life expectancy in Canada was much younger.

"Back in 1966, the average Canadian was about 27 years of age and most Canadians didn't live beyond their 60s," he told over the phone on Wednesday. "We designed our modern day health-care system largely around the needs of a much younger population."

"Other forms of care like medications or PharmaCare, dental care, home care and … long term care -- all of these things were not included in our overall health-care system. And as you know, if you don't actually have those services being adequately covered and available, then it means that people are really reliant on their physicians or care in hospitals," Sinha added. Top Stories



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