Generational fairness is having a moment… what’s changed?

Something exciting is happening. 

A decade after creating Gen Squeeze to champion generational fairness and promote wellbeing for all ages, we seem to be breaking through. 

The Editorial Board of the Globe & Mail national newspaper recently kicked off its 2023 federal budget coverage with a story straight from the Gen Squeeze wheelhouse: The growing generation gap between what Ottawa spends on older and younger Canadians

The Board wholeheartedly gets behind an analysis Gen Squeeze has offered for decades – that growing spending on income support for seniors significantly outpaces investments for younger people. Indeed, Gen Squeeze Founder Paul Kershaw has featured this analysis and its implications in several recent Globe columns (check them out here).

The Editorial Board then doubled down on the generational lens in a subsequent article, affirming the importance of investing adequately in child care in the 2023 budget to preserve affordability with promised $10 a day fees. That’s another top priority for generational fairness, and a central pillar of Gen Squeeze’s comprehensive family affordability solutions map.

Of course, what the Globe & Mail Editorial Board publishes isn’t necessarily a proxy for what many Canadians are thinking – though as one of our two national daily papers, it does play an important role shaping the issues that reach the public, and the tenor of the resulting dialogue.  But even setting these contributions aside, there seems to be something afoot.

On their own terms, more Canadians also seem open to talking about whether we’re investing and raising revenue fairly for young and old alike, and how this affects affordability, health, and our democracy.

Of course, talking isn’t the same as agreeing – we’re under no illusions there.  But growing dialogue is notable in and of itself, since in the early days we were far more likely to be (unfairly) dismissed as ‘boomer haters’ than to find openings for thoughtful engagement.  Now look at some of the things people are saying:

“The Baby Boom generation and I am one is the most selfish in history. Debt debt and more debt and all the health care costs yet to fund. Even the CHIP mortgage craze helps ensure nothing is left for the next generation.”

“The provision of benefits to seniors is linked to income not assets; so an individual with 10 million dollars in property can still collect OAS if they keep their income is below a certain threshold---have a look at the 'financial planning' scenarios in the weekend Globe.. They can then pass that property on to their heirs while somebody else's kid funds the OAS pot via the taxes they pay. Hardly seems right.”

“I am a senior and I totally agree that the amounts spent on this demographic are far too high. The OAS clawback should start at the median private sector full time salary - and be totally gone by $70,000. The age for OAS should be raised to at least 67. For poorer seniors, the supplement should be increased to a reasonable level - say $35,000 in total income. The tax burden we are imposing on the next generation is unconscionable. But we have to make sure that the government doesn't just waste the savings from these changes - start paying down the debt.”

Source: comments submitted by readers to the Globe & Mail

These are anecdotes, to be sure. But they suggest far more fertile ground from which to continue building, than the unyielding hardpan on which we started over 10 years ago. 

The Canadians contributing to this generational fairness moment deserve credit.  Maybe they’re worried about their kids and grandkids, nieces and nephews. Maybe they’re regretting mounting government and climate debts burdening younger and future generations.  Maybe they’re wondering why their home is worth so much more than when they bought it – yet their kids can’t afford to move out.

Whatever the reason, a citizenry willing to take a hard look at whether the values and assumptions that may have guided us well in the past are still up to the task today is a vital ingredient for healthy democracy – and for generational fairness. 


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