Hard Truths Podcast

Why are basic life aspirations — like owning a home, raising a family, and living on a habitable planet  slipping out of reach for younger Canadians? Generation Squeeze's Hard Truths brings you the untold story about how the deck is stacked against younger people and explores how we can make Canada work more fairly for all generations.
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Latest episode

Asking homeowners to own their wealth and put it to work

Mar 01, 2024

We spoke with journalist Michelle Cyca about one of the hardest truths we grapple with (and which gets us a lot of hate mail). Skyrocketing home prices have made many older Canadian homeowners rich, while making housing unaffordable for younger generations. But many homeowners resist thinking of themselves as wealthy, especially whenever the subject of taxation comes up. So how do we get more homeowners to recognize their wealth and put it to work fixing our housing crisis? 

We also discuss the high, personal stakes of housing unaffordability; how it’s changing Canadian neighborhoods and society; why "just move somewhere affordable" isn't a solution; and street parking.

“People need to recognize the power and the position that they have through their housing. Housing is the main form of wealth in Canada that most people draw from. And if you have a lot of housing wealth, then you are wealthy. It's uncomfortable. It's not the same as, you know, being Galen Weston, or like a private jet-flying billionaire. But it is real wealth, and it gives you real power. And we can see that power reflected in what our neighborhoods look like.”

— Michelle Cyca

Photo credit: Kayla MacInnis for The Narwhal

Michelle Cyca⁠ is the editor of Indigenous-led conservation coverage for The Narwhal and a regular contributor to The WalrusMaclean’s, and many other publications.

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"The Millennial Pollster" David Coletto on housing, cost of living and climate

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Millennial Mayor Natasha Salonen of Wilmot, Ontario, made national news last summer: she can't afford to live in the small, rural town she leads. Besides showcasing how younger Canadians are being priced out of living in their hometowns, Mayor Salonen also reminded us of the power of speaking out. By sharing her story, she's reassured many younger people that they're not alone, and she's helped many older homeowners understand how the housing crisis is harming younger generations and their communities.

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Reducing time at work with Joe O'Connor

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To kick off our “We’re not alone” Hard Truths miniseries, economist Tom Walker of Think Forward talked to us about how younger generations are "doing it tough" down under, squeezed by many of the same problems harming younger Canadians. 

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Max Fawcett⁠ from Canada's National Observer joins Gen Squeeze founder ⁠Paul Kershaw⁠ for a wide-ranging look at intergenerational injustice in Canada's housing system and politics.

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⁠In this episode of Hard Truths, we spoke with Derek Walker⁠, Wales' Future Generations Commissioner⁠. He talks about his role and goals; his country’s new healthcare strategy; and the difficult task of balancing the needs of people struggling to pay their bills now with the needs of people not yet born. He also reflects on the achievements of his predecessor, Sophie Howe, who compelled the country to scrap plans for a new highway in favour of greater investment in public and active transportation.

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The House of Commons recently passed landmark legislation recognizing the right of every individual in Canada to a healthy environment. Not only that, Bill S-5 tasked the federal government with upholding the principle of intergenerational equity in the bill’s implementation. In this episode we talk to one of the bill's champions, Dr. Elaine MacDonald, about the overhaul of Canada's most important environmental law and why it’s a big win for generational fairness.

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In this episode of Generation Squeeze's Hard Truths, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh chats with us about tackling the massive inequalities faced by younger Canadians.

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Why is it so dang hard to talk about climate change? Amber Bennett⁠, a Calgary-based communications strategist, reflects on her experience discussing climate change with Albertans. She offers some surprising insights and guidance for all Canadians wanting to have more meaningful, productive conversations about complex, controversial problems like climate change (and ⁠generational unfairness⁠). These conversations can sometimes be painfully hard to have, but simply talking about climate is a ⁠critical way to tackle the climate crisis⁠.

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Economist ⁠Kevin Milligan⁠ joins us to dig into the Hard Truth about medical budgets. Older Canadians didn’t pay enough in taxes during their working lives to cover the medical care they now use. That means a smaller pool of younger taxpayers are footing the bill for boomers’ ballooning medical needs. Our aging population's medical and long-term-care needs are expected to grow another 50% over the next seven years. All Canadians benefit from a robust medical system, so how can we pay for it in a way that's more fair to all generations?

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This episode features a discussion about our government relations work ⁠— specifically about the week we spent in Ottawa directed towards winning a 2023 federal budget that works for all generations. 

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Freelance labour journalist Emma Arkell tells us about her recent feature for Chatelaine on the child care staffing crisis. Low wages, poor working conditions, lack of opportunities for career advancement, feeling disrespected — these are among the issues that are leading child care workers to leave the sector in high numbers. This, in turn, is putting the promise of $10-a-day child care in jeopardy.

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Our national self-image is closely associated with the idea that treatment of illness is a social responsibility. In this podcast episode, we make the case that prevention of illness should also be regarded as a social responsibility. Unless we can prioritize illness prevention, it's very likely that our medical care system will continue to be plagued by large patient loads, long wait times, and demoralized doctors and nurses.

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This episode features a discussion about hope — about why we think it's worth it to struggle to change things for the better (even though it can sometimes seem otherwise). About our guest: Kareem Kudus is a member of Generation Squeeze's board of directors and a contributor to our research.

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In this episode, we chat about the social media influencer Andrew Tate and make the case that his popularity is partly a symptom of our broken intergenerational system. People like Tate are able to highlight the very real challenges that young men face and channel their frustrations in a toxic, anti-social direction. 

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A listener recently sent us a message: "Time to take the gloves off. Stop the kumbaya and love B.S. Time for boomers to pay." So in this episode, Angie Chan and Paul Kershaw explore what we should be asking older Canadians to do in our fight for generational fairness, and how we can have hard conversations about generational injustice with older family members and friends, without just making them feel guilty or defensive. They also tackle a deeper question that many changemakers wrestle with: will love or anger throw the knock-out punch?

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Doug Ford's Ontario government recently announced that parts of the province's Greenbelt would be opened up for development of homes. In this episode, we chat about why that's not a good idea — and why, more generally, we shouldn't be trying to solve our wallet problems by neglecting our climate problems.

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We chat about the work Gen Squeeze does in advising various levels and institutions in government. We discuss recent examples of this work, the reasons we think it's important, as well as the ways in which those who follow us can support us in doing it better.

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We continue the 10th anniversary discussion we began in the previous episode — chatting about we've been up to, some of the lessons we've learned along the way, and what we're looking forward to in the next 10 years as we work to preserve the sacred (a healthy home, a healthy childhood, and a healthy planet).

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We registered gensqueeze.ca as our website in November 2012, which we're considering our birthday. So this episode features a look back at the origins of Gen Squeeze, how we've changed and developed over the years, and where we find ourselves today. 

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Paul Kershaw chats with Kareem Kudus and Molly Harris about a housing report they co-authored for Gen Squeeze. While home prices have stalled and even declined somewhat, they are still at harmful levels. So what more, aside from interest rate hikes, can be done to address the issue? 

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We chat about the results of a poll that Gen Squeeze commissioned earlier this year. Among other things, the poll found that the majority of Canadians support a modest surtax for those who live in homes worth more than $1 million. We chat about the implications of the poll's findings, why we need to start closing the home ownership tax shelter, and lots else. 

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Former Green Party leader (and current Green Party leadership contestant!) MP Elizabeth May chats with Paul Kershaw about taking our #GenFairnessChampions pledge, the increasing polarization in Canadian society and politics, the importance of addressing the climate crisis, and a whole lot more.

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Caroline Lee, a researcher with the Canadian Climate Institute (CCI), talks about their new report, 'Damage Control: Reducing the costs of climate impacts in Canada."

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This Halloween edition of the Hard Truths podcast features a discussion about government budgets. Mary Shelley's classic novel 'Frankenstein' serves as a backdrop, but we don't just make lazy references to the book—e.g. "Boo! Government budgets are scary just like Frankenstein's monster." No, ours is a deeper engagement. We use some of themes in the book to help illustrate what budgets are, why they're important, and why we should seek to intervene in their creation.

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Umair Muhammad and Angie Chan chat with Paul Kershaw about the campaign Gen Squeeze recently launched to have elected officials pledge to be #GenFairnessChampions. We discuss what the purpose of the campaign is, why an intergenerational lens would benefit our politics, as well as about the short-term tactics and the long-term strategy Gen Squeeze hopes will help to create a political culture in which generational fairness is taken seriously.

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The kind of intergenerational framing and language that Generation Squeeze champions is increasingly making its way into the mainstream of Canadian political discourse. We've chatted in the past about Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland saying that the housing crisis is a form of "intergenerational injustice." In this episode, we talk about the kind of intergenerational analysis the new leader of the official opposition, Pierre Poilievre, has been using. We think it's great that the kind of framing we've helped to pioneer is becoming more common, but we're also wary that it's not always accompanied by the kind of nuance we would hope for.

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Young and old alike need to be onboard with fixing a systemic problem like generational unfairness. How do we point out what's broken without making older generations feel guilty? How can we inspire them to feel a shared responsibility for being part of the solution? These are some questions hosts Paul Kershaw and Angie Chan wrestle with in this messier, more challenging episode, as they reflect on how Generation Squeeze has evolved and explore what it means to be good intergenerational stewards. 

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In this episode Gen Squeeze's Umair Muhammad and Paul Kershaw chat about the problem of campus affordability—an issue that is increasingly in the headlines, as some students are forced to rely on food banks and homeless shelters to get by. While the issue of campus affordability has many dimensions, the root of it has to do with the housing crisis that is affecting Canadian society more broadly. The discussion focuses in particular on the University of British Columbia and the potential steps institutions like it can take to help address housing unaffordability.

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Paul Kershaw chats with Bill Robson, President and CEO of the CD Howe Institute. They talk about interegenerational unfairness embedded in Canadian federal and provincial budgets. The existing fiscal reality is that older generations disproportionately benefit from government spending while younger future generations are left holding the bill. Paul and Bill talk about how we got into this situation and how we might find a way out. 

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The $10aDay child care campaign's success is a huge victory for Canadian families and a reminder that change can happen. Hosts Paul Kershaw and Angie Chan interview child care advocate Lynell Anderson about the campaign's history, why it was so successful, and what work still remains to create an affordable national child care system. 

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Gen Squeeze's Paul Kershaw sits down to chat with DT Cochrane, lead economist with Canadians for Tax Fairness (C4TF). Their discussion ranges from the personal to the technocratic—including some reflections on DT's complicated relationship with the field of economics, the work C4TF is doing to close tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy few while leaving us all collectively poorer, and the inherently failure-prone terrain of policy-making. 

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Gen Squeeze's million-dollar-homeowner surtax proposal has garnered lots of responses. As one would expect, there's a fair bit of support for the proposal but also... some people are not all that enthusiastic about it. Who would've thought that asking people to pay a modest surtax on wealth they didn't do any work to create would get them so riled up?

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We've proposed a modest annual surtax on homes valued more than $1 millionas one strategy (among many) to tackle the housing crisis. The surtax could generate $5 billion per year to fund affordable non-profit housing. It would also disrupt a cultural problem that fuels the crisis: many everyday Canadians have benefitted from skyrocketing home values, creating wealth windfalls that are largely sheltered from taxation. Meanwhile those same rising values erode housing affordability for younger generations, whose earnings from work are fully taxed. Public opinion supports asking the country's wealthiest homeowners to chip in more to chip away at housing unaffordability, according to new polling data. In this episode, Paul Kershaw and Umair Muhammad chat about Paul's article on the housing surtax in Maclean's Magazine this month. 

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B.C.'s Speculation and Vacancy Tax successfully returned 20,000 vacant homes to the long-term rental market between 2018 and 2020, according to a report released this summer. Gen Squeeze founder Dr. Paul Kershaw interviews Jen St. Denis about her coverage of the empty homes tax and other solutions to the housing affordability crisis. "It takes a long time to get housing built, but we had all these units that were apparently just hiding under the couch cushions," said St. Denis, The Tyee's Downtown Eastside and "Hot, Hot Housing" reporter.

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Inflation seems like big news lately, but runaway inflation has been around for decades when it comes to housing prices in Canada. Gen Squeeze volunteer Kareem Kudus joins Umair and Megan to connect the dots between housing unaffordability and inflation, in particular how mismeasuring housing inflation has contributed to soaring home prices. Since 2005, home prices have risen about 300 per cent on average across the country. But the housing component of the Consumer Price Index -- which we use to measure inflation in Canada -- has only gone up 60 per cent. "So it's completely disassociated from reality," Kareem explains. Fixing this faulty monetary policy will help make homes affordable for younger and future Canadians. 

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Environmental economist Dave Sawyer and Gen Squeeze's Umair Muhammad and Megan Wilde discuss how Canada is cutting carbon emissions to fight climate change, one of the greatest intergenerational injustices of our time. Dave gives us the low down on the federal government's recent proposal to cap and cut carbon emissions from the oil and gas sector, Canada's largest and fastest-growing source of carbon emissions. He also explains the differences between cap-and-trade and carbon-pricing systems and how these strategies have worked across Canada. We then delve into Gen Squeeze's climate solutions framework and voter's guide platform analyses. And we learn what an environmental economist would do with a magic wand.

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Umair Muhammad talks with Dr. Paul Kershaw and Andrea Long about recent messages Gen Squeeze has received -- some angry, some not. We hope this discussion offers insights into the problems we tackle and our approach to solving them. We also want to learn from our mistakes and believe we can do our work better when we listen and respond to criticism.

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Fixing big systemic problems like generational unfairness requires a well-functioning democracy. This episode finds Angie Chan and Paul Kershaw having a bad day, as they grapple with democracy's seemingly grim prognosis after record-low voter turnout in Ontario. They also discuss how and why Generation Squeeze tackles systems change, the heroism of flexing even small democratic muscles, and what citizenship and solidarity really mean.

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The new federal Affordability Plan promises to ease the painful effects of inflation. How fairly will these affordability measures work for younger and future generations? Umair Muhammad chats with Dr. Paul Kershaw and Andrea Long about what inflation and the Affordability Plan mean for wellbeing, housing prices, and family affordability.

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Are you wondering what the heck just happened in Ontario's election? New co-host Umair Muhammad chats with Dr. Paul Kershaw and Andrea Long about why less than half of ON voters turned out and what voter apathy means for generational fairness in Canada. 

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A generational bias in Canadian politics prioritizes seniors in government budgets, leaving younger generations fighting for table scraps. Paul Kershaw and host Angie Chan interview Sean Speer about the generational unfairness baked into Canada's budget pie and how it's harming younger and future generations: from unaffordable housing and a diminishing middle class, to not having as many children as parents want. Sean is editor-at-large at The Hub, the PPF Scotiabank Fellow at the Public Policy Forum, and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. He was previously a senior economic adviser to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. 

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It's springtime, when birds sing, flowers bloom and governments strut their stuff in budgets! Budgets shape all of the actions governments take, so if we want progress on housing, child care, climate change and generational fairness, it needs to be baked into our governments' budgets. In this recording of a recent live virtual event, Gen Squeeze founder Dr. Paul Kershaw goes beyond the flashy headlines to explain what the new federal budget really means for younger Canadians.

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The myths that young Canadians are lazy and seniors are poor have real power in our lives and the world of politics. These myths fuel our broken generational system and distract us from solving today's most pressing problems. Join Dr. Paul Kershaw and Angie Chan on a myth-busting mission in Gen Squeeze's second Hard Truth. Challenging these assumptions will help make Canada work more fairly for all generations.

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Unaffordable housing is a symptom of generational unfairness that most young Canadians know all too well. Across Canada, it’s a hard and obvious truth that our housing system is completely broken for those of us wanting to buy a home, settle in our communities, and achieve some financial security and autonomy. But for people who own homes, the housing system is actually working fabulously well, making them wealthier while they sleep. Gen Squeeze thinks Canada is culturally and politically addicted to high and rising home values. How can we break this dangerous housing addiction? This special bonus episode is a recording of a live virtual event on March 29 hosted by Gen Squeeze founder Dr. Paul Kershaw. 

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Paul Kershaw and Angie Chan confront Gen Squeeze's first Hard Truth: Canada has a generational fairness problem. If you've never heard the term, you probably know the symptoms of this systemic disease: unaffordable housing and child care, low wages, climate change. Listen and learn what generational fairness means and why it matters so much to the lives of younger and future Canadians.

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