On population growth

Some of you will undoubtedly find this overkill but I’ll post it anyway. The attached chart shows the estimated population of all U.S. states and Canadian provinces for 2005 and their estimated growth since 2004. New Brunswick’s population performance from 2004-2005 was 55th out of 60 with Newfoundland and Saskatchewan performing worse (NB had a slight population decline) and those small rural states with no clustering and ‘critical mass’ (you know – the rationale why Ontario, Alberta and BC continue to dominate Canada’s population growth) – New York and Massachusetts.

In fact, the point I want to make is that there is no correlation in the US between the population size of a state and its population growth over time. In fact, there is fairly large correlation between small states and population growth. Arizona, with 2% of the US population has been growing at a population rate of between 3% and 4% per year for over 15 years. New Brunswick, with 2.5% of Canada’s population is in decline.

The reason I say all this is that the standard, party line among economists and ‘experts’ in Canada is that Canada’s large urban provinces grow because they have scale, critical mass, etc. That may be true but New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Delaware and Oregon have all been growing faster than Ontario – with populations much smaller than New Brunswick (as a percentage of the total US population).

No, the reality is that in economic development terms, in a well functioning economy labour and capital will move around a country to exploit unique niches (lower cost envirionments, particular local advantages) and this will put pressure on the areas that underperform to make positive changes (like cutting 99 different taxes in New York state). But in Canada, we have a dysfunctional economy from a development perspective – since 1975 growth has been concentrated into a few small urban centres.

It would be interesting to see the reaction in Ontario and British Columbia if Canada’s Utahs and Idahos and Oregons (NB, NS and PEI) actually beat the pants off those two provinces for a sustained period of time.

Talk about upsetting the apple cart.