Yes We Canada

Immigration is in the news again, courtesy of US President Donald Trump’s executive order to ban citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations from travelling to the United States. Despite some previous confusion, the wording is definitely ‘ban‘. For some reason, Trump seems to have the policy switch flicked firmly to Bannon ban on.

World leaders have almost unanimously condemned Trump’s executive order, essentially irrespective of their position on the political spectrum.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is slightly to the north of Donald Trump both geographically and in the World Leader Telephone Directory, tweeted:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, on the other hand, has refused to be drawn into criticism of the ban. Cynics might suggest that the emergence of this taci-Turnbull is a nod to the anti-immigration ferment within a precarious Coalition government, but I’d like to put political motivations to one side in this post.

tiddalik

Tiddalik prepares to Drain the Billabong

Comparing Canada’s and Australia’s divergent stances on immigration is particularly fascinating, due to the innate similarities between the countries:

In short, Australia should compare itself to Canada more often.

trudeau

…maybe not physically.

Given Australia’s likeness to our antipodean cousins, I wanted to test the hypothesis that graces the bumpers of so many Australian-bought-but-foreign-made cars. Are We Full? Or can we Fuck On?

2015 Estimates[1][2][3][4] Canada Australia
Population
(people)
35,848,610 23,777,800
Area
(km2)
9,984,670 7,692,094
Density
(people/km2)
3.59 3.09

Looking at the vital signs, Canada is 50% larger than Australia by population and 30% larger by size. Let’s ignore Trudeau’s pledge to increase Canada’s immigration intake and instead let’s freeze Canada’s population (and population density) at 2015 levels. What would it mean for Australia to look like the Canada of 2015? I want to investigate two scenarios:

  1. Australia’s population density becomes equal to Canada’s (3.59 people/km2), and
  2. Australia’s population becomes equal to Canada’s (35.8 million).

1.1 Population Density

2015 Estimates and Scenario[1][2][3][4] Canada Australia
Population
(people)
35,848,610 27,617,425
(+16%)
Area
(km2)
9,984,670 7,692,094
Density
(people/km2)
3.59 3.59

If Australia was willing to share 232rd-place density honours with Canada and accommodate 3.59 people per square kilometre, its population would increase by almost one-sixth, to 27.6 million.

‘But sir,’ I hear you protest, ‘Australia’s population isn’t spread evenly across the country! The Koolamugerys’ place is hardly 6 hours return!’

Tobias.gif

A young Bernard Salt rides for demography

Reader, you’re absolutely right. With 89% of its population living in urban areas (cities with more than 100 000 residents) Australia is the 8th most urbanised OECD country in the world. Almost 82% of the Canadian populations can be found in cities, the US is about the same, and the OECD average is 80%.

1.2 Population Density considering Urban Size

If we still wish to compare Australia to Canada, we’ll have to make an adjustment for urbanisation. Australia’s three most populous cities–Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane–hold about 49.5% of the nation’s population. Let’s combine their populations and sprawling metropolitan areas to make a city called Sybourbane. Australian residents can live in Sybourbane, or they can live elsewhere.

Canada’s seven most populous cities–Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa-Gatineau, Calgary, Edmonton and Quebec–hold about 49% of the country’s population. Let’s similarly combine these seven cities and their inhabitants to create the mega-city Tormoncouttagartonbec. Canadians can either live here, or somewhere more pronounceable.

llanfair

It could be worse.

What do these two synthetic cities look like?

2015 Estimates and Scenario[1][2][3][4] Canada
7 largest cities
‘Tormoncouttagartonbec’
Australia
3 largest cities
‘Sybourbane’
Population
(people)
17,595,706 11,759,186
Area
(km2)
37,217 38,184
Density
(people/km2)
473 308
Population share
(% of country)
49.08% 49.45%
Area share
(% of country)
0.37% 0.50%

Our two supercities are around the same area in absolute terms and account for around the same proportion of the country’s population. The Canadian supercity holds 1.5 times as many people as the Australian city (17.5m vs 11.8m), and therefore around 1.5 times more people per square kilometre.

Keep in mind that Sybourbane and Tormoncouttagartonbec aren’t as fictitious as their whimsical names suggest. Sybourbane is what would happen if we wedged Greater Brisbane and Greater Melbourne around the fringe of Greater Sydney, holding the cultural cringe constant–it’s a bigger sprawl and a bigger population, but the density of the supercity is simply the average of its component cities.

What Sybourbane and Tormoncouttagartonbec do show us is just how much more dense Australia’s and Canada’s cities are than their respective remainders. Sybourbane has 308 people per square kilometre, which is 100 times more people than the national average!

Running.gif

There they are

Now it gets really interesting. Rather than dialling up Australia’s overall population density to match Canada’s, and absorb 3.8 million more people across the wide brown land, what would happen if Australia were match the densities of both Canada’s supercity and its rural remainder?

 2015 Estimates and Scenario[1][2] Australia
3 largest cities
‘Sybourbane’
Rest of Australia
 Total Population
(people)
32,097,393
(+35%)
Population
(people)
18,052,985 14,044,407
Area
(km2)
38,184 7,653,910
Density
(people/km2)
473 1.83

So even if we account for the incredible difference in density that separates Australia’s three largest cities and the rest of the country, when we fill both of these areas until they become as dense as Canada’s supercity and non-supercity components, Australia’s population increases by 8.3 million people, or 35%.

2.1 Population

As a final testament to punching above our weight, let’s go all out and match populations with Canada. Let’s also move every one of the additional 12.1 million people into Australia’s three largest capital cities (or our supercity Sybourbane), and keep the remainder of Australia as dense as it currently is–in short, the Hansonite nightmare.

hanson

I Will Come To You became a hit in the migrant community

 2015 Estimates and Scenario[1][2] Australia
3 largest cities
‘Sybourbane’
Rest of Australia
 Total Population
(people)
35,848,610
(+51%)
Population
(people)
23,829,996 12,018,614
Area
(km2)
38,184 7,653,910
Density
(people/km2)
624 1.57

Under this scenario, population density in Sybourbane more than doubles. Residents of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, already bedridden from complaining about decades of infrastructure underinvestment now have twice as many neighbours offering unsolicited and unAustralian soups. Sybourbane’s population density in this scenario (624 people per square kilometre) comfortably surpasses that of its Canadian sister city Tormoncouttagartonbec (473 people per square kilometre). We can’t let this happen, we won’t let this happen…

It’s going to happen. Within 5 years, if Australia’s population continues its growth rate of the past 5 years, it will be home to 32 million people (Scenario 1.2). Within 6½ years, Australia will be home to 35 million people (Scenario 2.1), the same as Canada’s 2015 population.

While these numbers demand attention for the infrastructure challenges they pose, we should not fear density for density’s sake. To call 624 people per square kilometre ‘dense’ is mildly overcooking Sydney’s current claim as the 914th densest city in the world. We’re gaining on you Liege, Belgium!

Pauline.jpg

Any way you look at it, density is destiny.

Indeed, the worst-case scenario for our inundated tri-city called Sybourbane is benign–even by the Canadian standards of 2011. If we return the cities of Tormoncouttagartonbec to their original locations, we find that for every one of their Canadian square kilometres in 2011:

  • Toronto accommodated 945 people,
  • Montreal accommodated 898 people, and
  • Vancouver accommodated 803 people.

Whereas if all of the population growth Australia will see by 2023 were concentrated in the supercity, then for every one of its square kilometres:

  • Sybourbane would accommodate 624 people.

That is, the three most densely populated cities in Canada in 2011 were still denser than Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane would be, even if we invited 12.1 million Canadians to move to those cities.

Which doesn’t sound like a bad idea–depending on which Justin they send.

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