As a force for intergenerational fairness, Generation Squeeze is a unique but mighty powerhouse in the world of politics. That we are right in the thick of things is reflected in the fact that key issues of intergenerational justice are front and centre in the throne speech – housing affordability, family affordability (especially child care), and climate change. It is exciting that the Government promises important action in each of these areas, including $10 a day child care which has roots in Gen Squeeze. These areas all fundamentally shape the health and wellbeing of our population – especially for younger and future generations.
Despite these advances, the Throne Speech still reflects a government hiding the hard truth of intergenerational inequality. We continue to shy away from exposing how our systems sustain investments that benefit some age groups more than others. Gen Squeeze’s latest Voter’s Guide made this clear, in that no party promised enough to truly advance generational justice. This is likely to continue, so long as the Government of Canada does not explicitly acknowledge the intergenerational virus that infects our political and economic systems.
The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. That’s why it’s important that our Throne Speech shines a light on problems like systemic racism, the legacy of colonization, and discrimination against LGBTQIA2 communities. Although there’s still a long way to go, we have acknowledged that these are pressing issues we need to tackle together.
By contrast, the Throne Speech doesn’t acknowledge the intergenerational tensions that lie at the heart of issues like climate change and housing unaffordability. The past several decades have seen Canadians over consume the atmosphere’s scarce capacity to absorb carbon, and left climate danger for younger residents and future generations. The past several decades have seen Canadians overconsume the housing system’s ability to generate wealth windfalls for people who bought into the market years ago, and left unaffordability for those who follow.
The same pattern of overconsumption is evident in government finances. The Throne speech makes no mention of balancing the books, or how to fairly address the debts created by the COVID response, without simply passing these bills on to younger and future generations. This carries on the pattern we saw during the recent federal election. No party campaigned to balance the books even when they anticipate we won’t be in recession – but all parties promised to expand pharmacare, long-term care, and especially Old Age Security for the aging population, which is at the centre of driving federal deficits.
Are we developing a political culture in Canada that assumes we want our leaders to promise us more benefits and services, without being honest with us about what is required to pay for them? I hope not. I don’t think Canadians really want more than we are willing to pay for.
We need the next sitting of parliament to fix the tax system to liberate younger generations from bearing an unfair share of the burden for financing an ageing population that has left some of their bills unpaid. That means taxing wealth more than income, so wealthier older generations contribute more toward their own generation’s increasing longevity and rising expectations for public services. Failing to adapt now would means that older generations are willing to tolerate the risks created by squeezing their children and grandchildren for time, money, services and climate safety.
I don’t believe older Canadians are willing to risk the wellbeing of their kids and grandchildren.
So as we build back from the pandemic, we need to ensure that the conditions into which we are born, grow, live, work and age are also vaccinated against the intergenerational virus eroding these conditions for younger Canadians. That is where health begins. It is also how we can be explicit about the need to make Canada work for all generations.
Gen Squeeze will devote all of our energy to doing just this in the months ahead.