The future belongs to Canada, says author and global strategy advisor Parag Khanna, thanks to the country’s “heroic” approach to welcoming newcomers and its geographic advantage in a time of climatic emergencies.
In fact, he argues the Canadian dream is now more attainable (and more sustainable) than the American dream – and that will make the True North a superpower when it comes to attracting immigrants.
“It plays a role as a north star to other countries that are making their own immigration policy,” Khanna said in an interview with CTVNews.ca on Nov. 24 from his home in Singapore.
“And they can learn from Canada, how to do it right and how to do it proactively, how to do it for their own economic benefit rather than doing it reactively and stubbornly and thinking that it’s not good for them when it’s the best thing they could do.”
CANADA: 100 MILLION BY 2100
An all-out war for young talent is coming, says Khanna, as are massive shifts in where people live as climate change renders some regions inhabitable. On both scores, Canada is a winner.
The country has set a target of adding 401,000 immigrants this year and up to 421,000 in 2023. A movement underway called the Century Initiative promotes the idea of strategically targeting achieving a population of 100 million by 2100, and urges the federal government to ramp up annual immigration targets even further – from 1 per cent of the population to 1.25 per cent.
Low birth rate and an aging workforce means Canada must turn to immigration in order to grow. Newcomers accounted for more than 80 per cent of the country’s population growth in 2019
Khanna, founder and managing partner of global strategy firm FutureMap and author of a number of books, says all signs point to Canada leading the future global immigration race and overtaking the U.S. as a destination for the tired, poor and huddled masses. The world needs Canada to be a high-immigration society, he says.
Due to its large, open landmass, its position in the Northern Hemisphere and its developed economy and democracy, Canada has a “special responsibility” in an era of climate change, he says. Even at 100 million people, relative to its size, Canada won’t be pulling its weight, he says.
He predicts the population of the country will be much more highly spread out northward – thickening the existing band of density along the U.S. border.
“So, for me, to redistribute the human population, Canada is going to have a hell of a lot more of people than it has now,” said Khanna, who was born in India, grew up in the United Arab Emirates, New York and Germany, and now makes Singapore his home.
“I hold up Canada as kind of a heroic case in a world where we do tend to think that xenophobia and protectionism and populism are the driving political narratives of the world.
Canada proves that’s not true. Germany proves that’s not true and, quite frankly, America under Biden proves that that’s not true.”
Even under former president Donald Trump, the U.S. became more diverse, according to recent census data. All the racism and xenophobia and vilifying of immigrants and building a border wall with Mexico under the Trump administration did not change the tides of human migration, says Khanna.
“We will demographically look back 15 years from now, 20 years now and we’ll say, ‘Trump who?’ I literally mean that, because demographics is the most powerful force next to climate change, and demographics is a lot bigger than Donald Trump being president for four short years,” he said.
“America became more diverse, more Latino and more mixed race right under his nose.”
HEAD NORTH FOR THE NEW AMERICAN DREAM
Many have arrived in the U.S. in pursuit of the American dream: the idea that political, social and economic freedom mean that everyone can earn financial success through hard work.
But Khanna, whose latest book is called Move: The Forces Uprooting Us, says that for many young Americans, the dream is more about an ecologically balanced world, digital connectivity, and the ability to be truly mobile – to pack up an RV or even a tiny home – and to head to places where jobs and quality of life can be found.
“The American dream, part of that is that young people are saying … why buy a house and why get a degree? Why not skills and why not mobility? Why not a mobile home, so I can go to where the work is and enjoy freedom and avoid climate disasters?”
Why buy concrete when you can buy wheels? Why not learn remotely and hit the road?
Khanna says young people – millennials, Generation Z and Generation Alpha, who number roughly 5 billion globally – are choosing mobility because we are “entering a world of tremendous complexity and unpredictability and our only safeguard, our only insurance, against that unpredictability is mobility – the capacity to physically get up and move to survive.”
That mobility instinct is built into the DNA of humans, says Khanna, but over the last couple of centuries that instinct has been stifled in favour of pouring concrete into the ground and, later, driving gas-guzzling vehicles.
“That’s part of why we have this situation of accelerating climate change to begin with and that’s the reason why now people have to be mobile again to avoid the disasters that are the result of that sedentary lifestyle.”
THE BRAIN DRAIN IN REVERSE
Where once Canada wrung its hand over a southern “brain drain,” the reverse is now underway, says Khanna.
According to the most recent Boston Consulting Group survey of 200,000 professionals across 190 countries, Canada overtook the United States as the No. 1 most desirable destination.
“And that’s just one of many surveys that bear this out. Canada is doing so well that it’s poaching people from the United States directly. And also poaching people who would have gone to United States but they’re now going to Canada instead. So, you’re winning on many different dimensions of the war for talent.”
Canada lacks the political polarization and racial and cultural wars of the U.S. and its diversified economy, living standards and universal health care are well-regarded internationally. It has also simplified and accelerated its immigration process in a way the U.S. has refused to do.
“Young people are saying, ‘Oh my God, what a waste of time and all that bureaucracy and it costs so much money to deal with that country. To hell with it, I’ll just go to Canada where everything is easy and faster and digital,” Khanna said.
Under Trump, there was a lot of posturing from U.S. celebrities about moving to Canada and that garnered a lot of attention. But many ordinary people are quietly making the move, says Khanna, growing the ranks of the more than 1 million Americans who live north of the border.
And if fears increase that Trump could stage a comeback for 2024, that migration could grow.
“The key thing is that Canada is decoupling itself from the United States in the sense that it’s becoming an attractive destination in its own right. It’s not about saying, ‘Well, I’ll move to America and Canada is nearby and maybe I’ll go there on holiday.’ It’s now: ‘I want to go to Canada.’”
This content was originally published here.