For decades, we’ve chosen to invest the lion’s share of public resources in services used mostly by retirees, like medical care and old age security. Since health and support needs increase as we age, investing more at later ages is reasonable. Yet we seldom acknowledge that the primary beneficiaries of this spending haven’t paid enough to cover the full cost. So, growing this spending also means leaving unpaid bills for younger and future generations – even though today’s retirees enjoy more wealth (especially housing wealth) than generations before them.
If younger generations were thriving, we might judge that it’s ok to pass on the mounting cost of services for the aging population. But their wellbeing is deteriorating, squeezed between declining wages, rising costs and growing environmental risks. Despite this, governments have been far slower to invest in things like education, housing, child care, or climate action that shape wellbeing for younger people. This means we’re missing what science tells us is our best chance to get people off to a good start, preventing more damaging and costly problems down the road.
We need government budgets that invest and raise revenue fairly for all ages. We've mapped out how to solve this symptom of generational unfairness in our policy solutions framework.
Gen Squeeze is pushing governments to design budgets that promote generational fairness by:
Investing fairly for young and old alike
Figuring out if we’re investing fairly means following the money. And that’s what Gen Squeeze does in our budget and election platform analyses.
Governments still don’t routinely account for spending by age group, so we’ve come up with a way to do this ourselves. We use our spending breakdowns to make sure Canadians know where their money is really going, and to expose whether governments are making generationally fair decisions. Stay tuned to our budget analysis page for our latest recommendations to provincial and federal governments.
Our Voters Guides assess party platforms against all of the criteria in our game plan for fair budgets for all generations, so voters know how far each party will move us towards this goal. We don’t yet have the resources to cover elections in every jurisdiction, but we’re working on it!
Putting a high enough price on pollution to reduce environmental debts
Gen Squeeze led a coalition of organizations to support the constitutionality of pricing pollution at the Supreme Court, a case that paved the way for Canada’s carbon tax. Putting a price on pollution is an essential measure to reduce emissions and catalyze adaptations needed to guard against the worst climate dangers – dangers that fall disproportionately on younger and future generations. The unwillingness of older generations to adapt sooner means that we’re leaving a legacy of massive climate debt. Research confirms the enormous impact these pressures have on the wellbeing of younger people.
We need to preserve Canada’s carbon price win, even as pressure mounts to reduce or remove pollution pricing measures in the name of affordability. We’re working hard to make the case to Canadians and their governments that we can’t solve our wallet problems by neglecting our climate problems. It’s false economy, and it’s intergenerationally unjust.
Not growing debts on younger people (outside of a recession)
For years, debt has been piling up on younger people, as rising costs for services used primarily by older generations outpace available revenue – and governments shy away from honest conversations with Canadians about these unpaid bills. Since the first step in solving a problem is recognizing you have one, Gen Squeeze is putting this issue front and centre.
Today’s retirees may have faithfully paid all they were asked in taxes, and no doubt they didn’t intend to crush their kids and grandkids under a mountain of debt (three times more than when Baby Boomers started out as young adults – even before pandemic spending!). But good intentions aren’t enough, especially in the face of growing demands for even more spending on things like pharmacare and long-term care.
Our budget and election platform analyses highlight what’s driving the debt inherited by younger generations – especially big ticket items too often swept under the rug, like Old Age Security and medical care. We make sure all our advice to governments highlights intergenerational tensions created by growing debt, and propose fair solutions via a tax shift, investing in health promotion, and better age accounting in government spending.
Rebalancing taxes on income vs wealth (especially housing wealth)
Arguing in favour of a broad tax shift is a core Gen Squeeze tactic. We need to tax less things we want, like better incomes for lower and middle earners. We need to tax more things we don’t want, like pollution that contributes to climate change; crazily high home prices that crush affordability; and extreme wealth inequality. That’s why Gen Squeeze supports pricing pollution, and defends the need to put a price on housing inequity.
Younger generations today already pay up to 62% more in taxes than did young adults four decades ago, largely to cover the rising costs of medical care and old age security for one of the wealthiest generation of retirees Canada has witnessed. The tax shift we’re working towards will help reduce the intergenerational burden of climate change. It will help young peoples’ hard work pay off more by reconnecting home prices with local earnings. And it will address growing inequalities between renters and owners, and between young and old.