Generational unfairness is the underlying disease driving some of Canada's biggest problems: unaffordable housing, the high cost of raising a family, a deteriorating climate, age imbalances in government spending and debt, and rising medical care investments that aren’t making our country healthier.
This disease has pitted generations against one another for decades, rigging the game against younger and future Canadians. The symptoms look different depending on when you were born. Younger people struggle with rising costs and deteriorating wellbeing, while older people worry they are leaving an unfair legacy for their kids and grandkids. Many older people are surprised to learn that the taxes they’ve worked hard to pay over their lives aren’t enough to cover the cost of services they now use, passing on unpaid bills to future generations.
The good news is this disease has a cure: generational fairness.
Generational fairness means asking all Canadians to:
Be Good Stewards
Each generation has a responsibility to take care of our collective resources, so that we preserve what’s sacred for those who follow—like a stable climate, a healthy childhood, and a good home. Good stewards act on the wisdom that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound cure. This means anticipating and preventing problems before they take root and become more costly to fix.
Abide by the golden rule
We should all treat other generations as we want to be treated. A generation demonstrates reciprocity when it pays for what it uses, contributing in proportion to the needs, opportunities and wealth it inherits. A generation violates reciprocity when it chooses to leave bills unpaid (when not facing extraordinary circumstances), creating undue debts for those who follow.
Plan for All Ages
Our needs change as we age, so we need to plan wisely how we use public investments to meet them. We all want to ensure the wellbeing of our aging parents and grandparents, and that means investing more later in the life course when health and support needs are higher. That’s why we invest the lion’s share of public resources in services used mostly by retirees, like medical care and old age security.
Yet we also know that the conditions into which we are born, grow, live, work, and age are especially important at early ages. Improving these conditions can prevent more damaging and costly problems down the road. Since we only have one chance to get people off to a good start, we have a responsibility to plan and invest in young people’s wellbeing, just as much as the aging population.
Canadians are already committed to addressing other systemic problems, like racism, sexism, heterosexism, and the legacy of colonialism. We need to add generational unfairness to this list and work in solidarity to fix our broken generational system.