"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

Henry D. Thoreau



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Population Overload


by Pat Smith


Recently there was an item on CBC radio that set my little grey cells working, and this was that the population of Newfoundland was going down. In a world with 7+ billion people a declining population is just what we need. It has been said that 5 billion might be a sustainable number whereas others have suggested 2 billion. Simple logic tells us that the world population cannot go on increasing and increasing until we are standing shoulder to shoulder all over the planet, so clearly at some point in time people have to stop having so many children. Personally I think it is totally unacceptable these days for people to have 4, 6, 10 or frankly even 3 children when one considers the limited resources in the world and things like global warming. We already have millions of people dying of starvation because the world cannot even support the present population. I recently visited someone who had 15 children. It was like entering a baby factory. I was reminded of the Monty Python sketch ‘Every Sperm is Sacred’ that at the time was a satirical comment about the Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception.


Coming back to Newfoundland, the politicians are saying that with a declining and ageing population and with the resultant reduction in tax revenue, it is getting more and more difficult to provide the social services that people have come to expect. This is quite understandable but various writers of this column have been talking about this subject for years suggesting politicians need to plan an economy based on a declining, or at least a static, population. Nevertheless the situation in Newfoundland seems to have come as a complete surprise. The politicians are paid the big bucks to plan for this sort of thing but they only seem to be able to plan with a constantly expanding population with a constantly increasing tax revenue. This enables them to make spending promises and do things to ensure their own re-election. Here in this area I honestly cannot say that things are better than they were thirty years ago in spite of the huge increase in property tax income.


So, what to do? Firstly we need to lobby our politicians at all levels – your local council, MLA Kelvin Goertzen and MP Ted Falk – to plan for a steady-state economy based on a static population. Currently a huge percentage of our economy is based on building ever more houses for an ever increasing population. Think about carpenters, plumbers, electricians, backhoe operators, lumber yards, nail manufacturers, concrete, plastic, drywall, carpets, furniture etc etc etc. Secondly we need to discourage people from having so many children. There is a Child Benefit calculator on a government website. Taking as an example a family with 15 children and assuming they are all under 18 years of age, that family would receive more than $83,000 per year, tax free: yes, tax free! I know the child benefit is for the benefit of the children but I think it has gone too far. Suppose the father of all those children was making $30,000/year at a job, if he had another child he would get another $5000/year child benefit which is the equivalent of a 17% tax-free pay raise. I believe it encourages people to have more children or maybe it encourages people with large families to immigrate to Canada to take advantage of the free handouts. Personally I think the system should be modified such that families receive the full amount for the first child, half the amount for the second child and nothing thereafter. I don’t like the idea of my tax dollars encouraging people to have huge families. As I have said above, we need to stop population growth, and our leaders/politicians need to plan for a steady-state economy without continual population growth.