Changing demographics create opportunities and challenges for Canadian agriculture

Canada is a very unique country, characterized as a vastly unpopulated nation that has its stereotypes played out by the likes of Bob and Doug McKenzie, Corner Gas, or Jim Carrey’s depiction of life in Canada.

But really, what defines a Canadian? Unlike countries such as China, Sweden, or even the U.S., with distinct foods and cultural identities, Canada struggles somewhat with its definition. Does defining exactly who a Canadian is matter? I’d argue, yes, as finding that answer is imperative for agriculture as it attempts to meet the demands of the Canadian consumer. What’s more, it turns out those stereotypes of what is Canadian aren’t really all that accurate.

“Canada is very very different than it has been in the past. Canada is very diverse in religion, culture, more urban and much smaller household size than the past. The definition of a Canadian is rapidly changing from the past,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of IPSOS Public Affairs, earlier this week RealAg Radio.

To put it some of the change in perspective, Bricker provides the following facts:

  • The median age of Canadians today is 41, while back in the 1970s it was 24.
  • Today’s average family size is 1.6, which is much lower than the 1960s, when the average family size was four.
  • In 2011, for the first time in our history, more people lived west of the Manitoba/Ontario border than the Ontario/Quebec border east.

These shifting demographics in Canada undoubtedly impact politics, Canadian culture, and food trends domestically.  “People in the agriculture industry needs start thinking more about producing food for seniors, and not just kids,” says Bricker.

Additionally, Bricker believes that growth in the Asian food industry in Canada is just one emerging food trend farmers should be paying attention to. This could be an opportunity for wheat growers but possibly a negative for the dairy industry. Bricker also points out that designing food products for older people could be a great opportunity.

Canada is not the only country struggling with a shrinking family unit size. That’s why Bricker questions the mantra of feeding 9 billion people by 2050. “The truth is when you look at some of these individual countries we know that more women are choosing to have smaller families and increasingly people are moving to urban areas, which has a direct impact on their decision to have children or not.”

It’s not just demographics that are shifting — the rest of the world is changing in political beliefs, and Canadians should be paying attention. The growth of populism and nationalistic trade agendas in other parts of the world are concerning for an export-oriented nation like Canada.

I encourage you to listen to the interview below to hear Bricker’s thoughts on how Canada is changing, and whether Canada is immune to the growth of populism or if Canada is unique in some way.

Send your thoughts or feedback to [email protected]  

Listen to the full discussion with Darrell Bricker, CEO of IPSOS Public Affairs, here:

Related: Who do we think we are? Canada’s shifting demographics shape food demand

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