Intergenerational Budgeting Analysis — Methodology
Here’s how Gen Squeeze will assess and score federal parties’ 2019 platforms on the issue of intergenerational fairness in public finance

Table of Contents

Introduction


This election, Generation Squeeze is undertaking a rigorous analysis of federal party platforms on our four key issues of housing affordability, climate change, family affordability, and generational fairness in public finance.

Our mission: to help voters better understand how far each party's platform is along the journey to actually solving these big problems facing young people today.

We'll be straight with you, this kind of analysis is really tough. The timelines are tight, the issues are complex, our own understanding is inevitably imperfect, the parties don't always make it easy to figure out where they stand or what they mean, they are making announcements every day that risk making our analyses outdated, and it's tricky to distill a wide range of promises into some sense of the overall strength of parties' plans... but not impossible.

To that end, we've done our best to craft a rigorous, meaningful and non-partisan approach. Our evidence-informed policy positions on these issues should come through loud and clear, but we don't make recommendations about who to vote for, because (a) you may or may not agree with our positions or analysis; (b) we don't presume to tell you what you should care most about; and (c) we ultimately know that younger Canadians build additional power to influence politics the more we vote, regardless of who we vote for. We'll say it again: 

Both the spirit and substance of our analysis is neutral/non-partisan in that no part of it is intended to portray any individual party or candidate in inherently favourable or unfavourable ways or to direct people to vote for or against any specific parties or candidates. 

Our work simply depicts how party positions align with criteria selected in light of academic evidence about housing, family policy, climate change and intergenerational justice in public finance. Our findings may reveal that some parties align more, or less, with the evidence. Pointing this out doesn't reveal partisanship. It reveals our commitment to report on alignment with evidence. 

We have a genuine desire for ALL parties to improve the scores they receive according to our evidence-based evaluation system. We welcome parties to refine their promises during the campaign, and we will revise our evaluations accordingly. Success for Gen Squeeze is that all parties have equally strong platforms to solve the big problems facing younger generations so that voters ultimately choose between parties based on other criteria.

We are also open to critique of our platform analyses.  We welcome parties to contact Gen Squeeze directly to draw our attention to parts of their platforms that they believe are not evaluated properly according to the criteria we articulate, and we will adapt our evaluations accordingly as required by the evidence.

Basic Approach


Instead of simply listing party promises, our assessment attempts to make meaning of those promises, individually and in aggregate, by:

  • Publishing comprehensive, evidence-based frameworks that we believe encompass the commitments and categories of actions required to solve the big problems facing young Canadians, beginning with a clearly stated goal for each of our four key issues.

  • Translating each framework into a set of key criteria.

  • Assessing the degree to which each major party’s platform addresses the key criteria. The resulting analysis includes:

    • Detailed written commentary - to help explain what we perceive to be the strengths and weaknesses of each stated policy, capturing as much nuance as time and capacity allows.

    • Summary tables and scores - recognizing that while detailed commentary is the best method to capture nuance, there is a need to distill our conclusions as much as possible if we hope to increase voter literacy among a general audience who may not have hours to read and digest our detailed commentary.

For this election period, we will be focusing our analysis on the four major parties who began the race with at least one MP who was elected as a representative of that party, and who are running a national slate of candidates: which includes the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Liberal Party, and the New Democratic Party. 

 

Intergenerational Budgeting Policy Framework

 

The following framework for intergenerational justice in public finance has been developed in the Generation Squeeze Lab at the University of British Columbia, with support from a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant titled “Budgeting for all generations.”  The framework has been peer-reviewed, and published in the journal Intergenerational Justice Review. Scholarship that contributed to the development of this framework was recognized by the BC Confederation of University Faculty Associations when it selected Dr. Kershaw for its distinguished academic honour of “Academic of the Year” in 2016. Learn more about our framework design here. 

Gen Squeeze Intergenerational Budgeting Framework:


Key Criteria

We've translated our intergenerational budgeting framework into 9 key criteria, and we'll be assigning parties up to one point for their platform's response to each, as outlined in the following table. 

THE CRITERIA WE ARE LOOKING FOR IN PARTIES' HOUSING PLATFORMS

AVAILABLE POINTS

   
CLEAR GOALS AND PRINCIPLES  

Commits to budgeting fairly for young and old alike, i.e. by acknowledging the importance of advancing "intergenerational equity" in public finance (because we're all in this together). At its core this means adapting to the needs of different age groups in public finance much as we do in our own families: when a child or elder in our own family needs our help, we act urgently to address it; when there are choices to make about family finances we try to make those choices in ways that fairly assess each member's ability to contribute, that don't unfairly burden some family members over others, and that set the entire family up for prosperity over the long-term.
1
 

 

INVEST FAIRLY

 

Action to keep age spending ratios fair, specifically the ratio of social spending on Canadians 65+ to those under 45, estimated by adding together all spending on old age security, the guaranteed income supplement for seniors, and medical care for seniors and comparing it to the total spending on childcare, parental leave, postsecondary and family income supports for younger Canadians. We recommend that a fair benchmark is for spending on younger Canadians to increase at least half as fast as spending on aging Canadians (over the last four decades, Canadian governments have increased social spending for retirees 4 times faster than for Canadians under 45, even though younger Canadians earnings have remained stagnant and costs for things like housing have dramatically increased). 

1

 

 

RAISE REVENUE FAIRLY 

 

Action to rebalance taxes on income vs. housing wealth, by which we specifically mean a reduction in income taxes and an increase in housing wealth taxes (of some kind) to acknowledge the massive increase in wealth that has been accumulated by many home owning households.  Much of this wealth has been accumulated due to a "lottery of timing" related to how our age influenced when we entered the housing market. 

1

Action to ensure that if pharmacare proceeds, it is paid for in ways that are fair, meaning the revenue plan should be designed to not unfairly burden young Canadians, who are already shouldering an increasing tax burden from escalating medical care costs associated with the aging population, amid trends toward lower tax rates which erode government revenue left over to address key social priorities for younger Canadians like child care, postsecondary, housing, and fighting climate change, etc.

1

 

 

INVEST MORE IN PREVENTING ILLNESS

 

Action to increase spending on illness prevention faster than spending on medical care, because health doesn't start with medical care.  It starts where we are born, grow, live, work and age -- conditions that are shaped by our earnings relative to major costs like housing and child care, and by a sustainable climate.  Money spent on illness prevention yields far more return than money spent on treating people once they're already ill (a.k.a. using medical care).  This means we should be increasing spending on prevention faster than we do on medical care.

1

 

 

LEAVE FEWER DEBTS

 

Action to stop growing per capita debt on young people (Canadians <45), outside of a recession, because the amount of government debt left for each Canadian under 45 today is three times higher than it was when today's Baby Boomers started out as young adults. 

1

Action to ensure a high enough price on pollution, by which we specifically mean carbon pollution, because the escalating climate crisis - currently being handed down from one generation to the next - represents arguably the largest debt in the entire history of humankind. And the most recent science shows we have just ~11 years left to avoid irreversibly locking in this debt, assuming the associated tipping points haven't already been passed. By "high enough" we mean a carbon price that increases at least $10/tonne per year and surpasses $50/tonne (though some estimates suggest an eventual minimum of $100-$150/tonne). 

1

   
MONITOR AGE PATTERNS IN PUBLIC FINANCE  
Action to report on trends annually, meaning commitments to uphold and improve the current federal government approach to monitoring the age distribution and intergenerational impacts of annual budgets. 
1
Action to assign a government point person to help ensure younger Canadians' needs are addressed as urgently as other groups come budget time, in the form of a Minister or Parliamentary Secretary specifically tasked with advancing intergenerational equity in public finance.  1
   
TOTAL  10


Scoring Methodology 


For each key criteria
, parties receive a score that ranges from +1.0 to -1.0, assessed as follows:

Assessment Points
No discernible commitments 0
Commitments are somewhat capable of achieving the goal 0.5
Commitments are capable of achieving the goal 1.0
Commitments somewhat undermine progress towards the goal -0.5
Commitments undermine progress towards the goal -1.0


This five-point method was chosen because (a) it’s relatively simple, (b) it's capable of distinguishing between narrow/shallow responses and comprehensive responses to each criteria, especially the criteria that relate to broad policy categories, and (c) it allows us to subtract points where the evidence suggests a particular policy or group of policies put forward by a party is likely to exacerbate the problem/take us further away from the goal.

The limitations of this method include:

  • It leans towards awarding comprehensiveness over degree of depth; e.g. (a) the five point scale doesn't allow much splitting of hairs between similar promises expressed with different levels of implementation detail, and (b) a platform that "doubles-down" on action on any given criteria (i.e. goes beyond what would be required to earn a full point) won't be awarded extra points for that extra effort, though this would be acknowledged in the detailed commentary

  • The awarding of points inevitably involves a degree of informed subjectivity 

Additional Notes on Framework Design 

To learn more about the research on which this framework is based see:

 

This Analysis is Non-Partisan 


Our vision of a Canada that works for all generations is a long-term vision. To achieve and maintain that vision, we need to bridge ideological and political divides in our society, and to find common ground amongst a diversity of people and perspectives. That’s why Gen Squeeze’s research and advocacy activities are designed to help all political parties and levels of government in the design of policy capable of achieving our vision.

At any given time, any given political party or government may be more or less responsive, and more or less circumstantially aligned with various aspects of our work. However, any relative responsiveness or circumstantial alignment in no way reflects an intention on our part to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, specific parties or candidates.

The intention of our 2019 federal election analysis is (a) to help all parties understand where there may be gaps in their current plans, (b) to help voters understand the strength and weaknesses of individual policies, and (c) to help voters understand the overall strength of each party’s plan on each of four key issues, in terms of each plan’s assessed ability to solve the associated problem; i.e. to help voters go into the ballot box as informed as possible on our four key issues.

We neutrally assign an aggregate score for each party’s plan on each of the four issue areas NOT because we hope to point voters in one direction or another, but because we believe many voters will benefit from having access to a sense of the overall strength of the various promises that have been made.

The frameworks and goals, key criteria, commentary and scores all reflect and distill many individual evidence-based policy positions of Generation Squeeze, and audiences should come away with a good sense of where we stand on the issues and how our positions compare to the positions of the major parties, but our detailed commentary and scores are not intended to portray individual parties or candidates in inherently favourable or unfavourable ways.

  • In summary, we approach all of our work – including our 2019 federal election activities – in the true spirit of non-partisanship.

This Analysis is Evidence-Based 


Gen Squeeze’s research activities are coordinated by Dr. Paul Kershaw, who is a tenured Professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. 

By virtue of Dr. Kershaw’s professional responsibilities, and Gen Squeeze’s own commitment to organizational credibility and rigour, our public policy positions are rooted in our understanding of the best available evidence. 

This means that from time to time, our positions and policy interpretations will change, either because we’ve published or been made aware of new evidence, or because our understanding of existing evidence has been enhanced by a new perspective(s). 

No one person or organization ever has “the full picture,” which is why we admit our imperfect understanding, embrace nuance, and continually strive to identify and correct our own blind spots through collaboration. 

  • In summary, we approach all of our work — including our 2019 federal election activities — in the true spirit of openness, and evidence-based dialogue and decision-making.

Gen Squeeze is a Registered Third Party 


Because our platform analysis will be inherently taking a number of positions on issues with which candidates and parties may be associated, and spending more than $500 on paid advertising to help distribute this analysis, we are registering as a third party election advertisers during the 2019 federal election.

 

 

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