Lacking power and heat, I would expect Canada to be emptied out in fairly short order — and I wouldn’t blame them one bit. It gets cold up there, I hear.
Chip was shivering away with temperatures "in the 30s", looking forward to the temperatures returning to the 70s (which I assume has already happened). Now, I'm more used to Celsius than Fahrenheit, so I had to look that up. 30-39F is a range from -1C to 4C. That's not cold, Chip! :D 70s? That's warm summer days. When it's 70F outside, we're at the beach in our swimsuits, trying to cool off. For that matter, until it gets down to about 50F, you'll find people at the beaches and waterparks.
Now, Chip and I had an interesting conversation in his comments and he admitted that people thrive best where they're acclimatized, at least if they're living in a place where people thrived pre-oil. Still, interesting thoughts were raised.
Can we survive Canadian winters without oil or natural gas?
The simple answer is "Of course we can." That must be expanded upon, though, because not everyone will be able to. I read in a forum that some people expect a "No more oil" SHTF situation to cause a 10-50% die-off rate, especially in the cities, and I think it's accurate. We can't predict how many people will die off, but many will. First, anyone attempting to live without shelter will not last long. Second, there are people with medical conditions who would find it difficult to survive a winter without modern fuel. Historically, the elderly and the ill often died during the cold months.
Now, I will add one caveat - there are about a million Canadians who head south at the first sign of cold weather. I can't see them lasting long post oil.
One thing stands out from Chip's comment: "Without power and heat". But here's the thing - we don't need gas or oil to have power and heat in Canada. 59% of our electricity, in fact, is hydro-electric. 1.1% is wind-powered. A small but growing percentage is solar-powered.
Over 3 million Canadian homes use wood as their primary or secondary heat source. There are wood stoves for sale in every hardware or home supply store I've ever entered. According to Stats Can, only about 10% of Canadians heat their homes with oil.
In order to prepare my family for winters without central heating, I look to the actions of my ancestors who lived and thrived in far colder and harsher environments than we have today.
1) Shelter is vital. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it needs to provide protection from the wind and snow. My grandparents raised six children in a non-professionally-built house that was insulated with a layer of newspaper and heated by one wood stove. Perhaps part of the secret is that homes were so much smaller back then. Living without central heating, I'd prefer a 1000 square foot cabin over a 2000 square foot modern house. This is one of the reasons I feel worried about our current location in the city.
2) Dress appropriately with layers that can be added and removed as needed. Warm slippers in the house - you get into the habit of removing your boots and immediately putting on slippers. Wool socks over cotton socks in boots that are big enough for air to be trapped. Denim or wool - slacks over long underwear, or heavy skirts over leggings. Flannel nightgowns and pajamas - wear socks to bed, too! Revive the old custom of wearing nightcaps. Fingerless gloves are wonderful . If you're sitting still and reading, wrap up in an old blanket. Heavy bathrobes are great as a top layer - and they're vital when you have a shower or bath! Oh, and layer your bed, too! Heavy, old-fashioned quilts and lots of them, or a really warm feather duvet. Flannel sheets. Get into bed, make your little warm nest and don't move! (Here's a tip - if you have to go pee, slip out of bed quicklyand leave your blankets in place - your spot will stay warmer longer.)
3) Eat well! I wonder if vegans will be a big part of the post oil die-off, or will they bite the bullet and ... well, bite the bacon? Cold climate people eat diets that are high in animal fats and high in calories. The calories and fat content in Newfoundland dishes, or Northern dishes, is astonishing.
4) Stay busy. Okay, in post oil world, we're not going to be sitting around watching tv and using the internet, are we? Growing up in a wood-heated house, I'll tell you that you're coldest when you're sitting still. That is why our great-grandparents only did that close to the wood stove. Get up and move around. Of course, this means you'll burn more calories, so make sure you're eating well.
5) Don't sleep alone. Sleeping alone is chilly. Historically, people took for granted that sleeping with another living creature was wiser than sleeping alone. And yes, living creature - invite your dogs and cats into bed with you. A big dog sleeping across the bottom of your bed is a great way to keep your feet warm.
While there are many Canadians who can't, or won't, do these things, and they won't survive, but it was not too long ago that we all did. And by "not long", I mean that I'm a Gen Xer and I grew up like that. You know you live in a chilly house when you're thirteen and get excited over a warm blanket as a Christmas present.
Nation-wide, about a third of Canadians live in rural settings (increasing to 50% in the far north, Saskatchewan and the Maritimes), and about the same number own hunting rifles (and I hear the government is planning to end the mostly-ignored long gun registry!). It's interesting to note that the rural population is steadily increasing in all provinces except Newfoundland and Saskatchewan.
Oh - "Chop wood, carry water" - There's a Zen saying "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water." Will it be that simple? No. Life is going to change drastically when the cheap oil is gone. But once those who cannot and will not adjust have died (or what, started walking south?), life will continue ... much like it has in Canada until very recently.