Population. – The Canada at the 1986 census counted 25,354,084 residents (excluding the Indians of the reserves and the Eskimos not counted) against 24,343,181 residents in 1981 (26,218,500 residents according to 1989 estimates). The population grew with an annual increase of 1.1% (1980-85), a fast pace compared to other industrialized countries, however less rapid than in previous years when immigration was greater. In the mid-1980s, immigration, regulated by specific quotas, did not reach 100,000 units. The natural growth coefficient in 1986 was 7.5 ‰ with the birth rate of 14.8 ‰ and the death rate of 7.3 ‰.
The demographic variations are different in the individual provinces: the lowest growth values (1981-86) include those of the Atlantic provinces such as Newfoundland (0.2% per year); Quebec has an intermediate growth rate (0.5%); Ontario (1.1%), Alberta (1.3%) and British Columbia (1.1%), with the fastest growing economies, have the highest population increases. The ethnic and cultural diversity of the Canadian population has increased with the arrival of immigrants from the Antilles and especially from Asia (over 40%), while those from Europe are decreasing.
According to Clothesbliss, the Anglophone population is expanding (68.2% in 1981 against 67% in 1971) while the French speakers have slightly decreased (24.6% in 1981 against 25.7% in 1971) both because newcomers choose English both because Quebec, where French is widespread, is a sparsely populated region; in the latter province, French is clearly prevalent also due to the exodus of English speakers to other parts of Canada.
The country’s population is highly urbanized and over the years the tendency to live in cities has strengthened. Over 75% (1985) of Canadians reside in urban areas: the lowest values are reached by the maritime provinces (36.7% in Prince Edward Island), while Quebec (77.5%) and Ontario (81%) have the more urbanized population. More than half of Canadians live in cities with over 500,000 residents, gathering in large urban agglomerations such as the metropolitan area of Vancouver, where 48% of the population of British Columbia is concentrated, those of Montreal (45% of Quebec) and of Toronto (38% of Ontario).
In 1986 the Canadians of British origin were 6,332,725, those of French origin 6,093,160; 896,720 German natives followed; Italians 709,590; 420,210 Ukrainians; 360,320 Chinese; Dutch 351,765; Scandinavians 171,715; Poles 222.60. The Amerindians (Indians) were 373,265 and the Inuit (Eskimos) 27,290.
Economic conditions. – The enormous resources of the subsoil were decisive for the economic development of the Canada, which today places its strength in the industrial and mining sector. In recent decades, Canada has become one of the most industrialized and richest countries: in 1988 the GDP per resident was $ 16,960 (World Bank estimates).
Agriculture, while retaining great importance – Canada is the largest exporter of agricultural products in the world – has reduced its incidence in the distribution of GDP (3-4% in 1986) and in exports (8.2% in 1985) compared to the rapid increase in industry and mining. The agricultural sector employs only 4% of the employed, while industry 26% and services 70% (1986).
The Canadian economy continues to be closely linked to that of the United States, which in 1985 absorbed 78% of exports (70% of these do not pay customs taxes while 72% of US goods bound for Canada enjoyed the same treatment.). In 1985 between Canada and the USA talks were started for the complete liberalization of trade to be carried out in ten years starting from 1988. Foreign investment reached its highest levels in the seventies, when the largest companies were mainly controlled by US capital. Since then, government policy has favored private and public acquisitions of foreign ownership, which will not have to control more than 50% of firms in 1990. It began with the nationalization of Canadian branches of foreign companies in the petrochemical sector; However, some sectors of both consumer and manufacturing goods are still under the control of US capital (automobiles, machine tools, food products).
The close ties with the world economy (in 1986 30% of GDP was linked to foreign trade) involved Canada in the 1975 depression, bringing inflation to 12.5% in 1981 which, after adequate measures, is it fell to 3.8% in 1986, while unemployment from 7.5% of the labor force in 1981 stood at less than 8% in the late 1980s.
Agricultural enterprises in Canada are of the capitalist type with an average size of 231 ha. Their number reached 293,089 units with a total of 687,000 employees. The area dedicated to agriculture is just 4.6% of the entire Canadian territory, which remains largely unproductive. Considering the economic value of the productions, cereal crops hold the record, followed by livestock products, fruit and fur animal breeding. Wheat prevails, grown on an area of 13.6 million ha: in 1989, 243.8 million q of it were produced, but there are considerable annual variations. Saskatchewan, with a cultivated area of 8.8 million ha, remains the largest producer; Alberta and Manitoba follow at a distance. This last province ranks first for oats, barley and hay. In 1989, Canada produced 116 million q of barley and 35 million q of oats. In the easternmost provinces fruit-growing has become very popular (4.2 million q of apples in 1988).
Livestock farming is the second resource of the agricultural sector (12 million cattle in 1988). The highest number of beef animals is concentrated in Alberta and Saskatchewan, while dairy cattle are also raised in Ontario, which prevail in Quebec, where the dairy industry is favored by the proximity of the outlet markets of large Canadian conurbations.
Of the immense forestry heritage, the one considered productive (2,641,000 km 2) is rationally exploited (reforestation, felling with long production cycles): in 1987 184.6 million m 3 of wood were produced, as well as wood pulp and paper newspaper (9.3 million tons, world record), mostly exported. Fishing on both sides of the ocean reached 1.59 million tonnes of landed fish in 1988.
Extractive activity is constantly growing: the immense resources made up of energy sources and almost all minerals have barely been affected and their exploitation finds obstacles only in the great distances and in the difficult climatic conditions of the country. There are substantial oil and natural gas fields in Alberta, off the Atlantic coast and on the islands of the Canadian Arctic. In 1987 the Alaska Highway Gas Pipeline was completed, started in 1980 and connected with the British Columbia and Alberta gas pipelines, which supply the largest oil and natural gas productions: the gas then reaches the USA and urban areas of the Canada. In 1988, 92.9 million tonnes of oil and 87.893 million m 3 were produced of natural gas. Canada occupies the first place for the production of nickel (203,300 t of Ni content, in 1988) mined in Manitoba, the second place for asbestos (665,000 t in 1987) obtained in Quebec and Ontario, the second place for uranium (13,222 t of U 3 O 8 in 1987).
Perhaps the northernmost mine, which produces zinc, lead and silver, is located in Nanisivik (73 0 lat. N), on Baffin Island, 720 km north of the Arctic Circle. Thanks to the large hydroelectric production in Quebec, aluminum is extracted from imported bauxite (C. is the third largest producer in the world with 1.5 million tons in 1988). Despite the wealth of energy sources (electricity production: 496,335 million kWh in 1987, of which 66% hydroelectric), Canada has built some nuclear power plants. A wide range of investment and consumer goods are produced in large Canadian cities. The automotive industry, a derivation of US companies, is based in Windsor near Detroit (USA), in Oshawa east of Toronto and in the Montreal conurbation.
Canada accompanies its development with the construction of considerable infrastructures in the communication routes: there are 120,000 km of railways (2.15 billion passengers / km in 1988) and 1.6 million km of main roads, traveled by 11, 8 million cars and 3.5 million trucks, while the plane remains essential to connect especially the Great North.
One of the major problems of the country is the consequences of human activity on the environment: the arctic regions affected by mines, oil pipelines and roads are characterized by fragile ecosystems; the vegetation takes years to reconstitute itself and the animal life is seriously damaged by the interventions that modify the territory. The pollution of the great lakes of southern Canada coincides with the concentration of population and industrial activity: acid rain, falling a great distance in northern Canada, destroys the forests and sterilizes the lakes. Excessive agricultural exploitation finds limits in the process of wind erosion. These are the major issues with which the country will have to confront in order to proceed towards further phases of economic development.