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Canada’s population has soared over the past year to over 41 million. Over the next 50 years, the population could more than double, or barely rise: New projections from Statistics Canada set a wide range of possible outcomes for the next half century.

In a new report, the national statistical agency sketches out several different scenarios for Canada’s population to evolve, with the medium growth option putting the population at 62.8 million in 2073. The projection for low population growth is 47.1 million, and for high growth is 87.2 million.

The wide range of possible scenarios comes as the population is driven almost entirely by immigration, which is subject to government policy, while fertility has dropped to record low levels. Life expectancy has also dropped, given the impact of the pandemic and an overdose epidemic, among other factors.

StatsCan’s latest projections are based on recent demographic trends, along with expert consultations, it said.

In the medium growth scenario, the annual population growth rate would gradually decelerate from an average of 1.12% over the past 30 years to 0.79% by 2073. The high growth scenario envisions the rate accelerating to 1.59%, and the low growth scenario imagines the rate downshifting to just 0.07%.

“In all scenarios, migratory increase would be the key driver of population growth in Canada, continuing a trend observed since the beginning of the 1990s,” StatsCan said. The balance of births and deaths “would play only a marginal role, given the anticipated rise in the number of deaths due to population aging, as well as low fertility.”

Alongside the different growth scenarios, StatsCan also projects different aging scenarios.

In the fast-aging future, the share of the population aged 65 and older would represent 32.3% of the total population in 2073, up from 18.9% in 2023. In the slow-aging scenario, the share of those aged over 65 in 2073 rises to only 21.9%.

In any case, StatsCan noted that “the growth in the proportion of persons aged 65 and older would be less pronounced after 2030, when all baby boomers will have reached or passed the age of 65.”

Additionally, the number of people aged 85 and older, “where the need for health care and services are significant,” is projected to grow rapidly, particularly between 2031 and 2050, when “the large baby-boom cohort will reach this age group.”