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Amid all the tragedies unfolding in the world right now, the plight of young people in Canada probably doesn’t rise very far up anyone’s list. But make no mistake: for all the talk coming out of Alberta right now about that province getting ripped off by the Canada Pension Plan, it’s actually Canadians under 45 who consistently get the shortest end of the political stick. As some of us mark the first-ever “Intergenerational Fairness Day,” I think that’s worth reflecting on at length.

We can start with the Canada Pension Plan, where Alberta’s latest temper tantrum is obscuring a genuine element of institutionalized unfairness that’s built into the program’s bones. It’s one that millions of young Canadians have become almost subconsciously aware of: intergenerational borrowing. As University of Alberta economist Trevor Tombe noted in a recent Twitter thread, while the effective rate of return on the CPP contributions of anyone born after 1980 is 2.3 per cent (after inflation), previous generations have seen rates as high as 23.1 per cent. The baby boomers, for example, enjoyed an average return between 4.2 and 6.1 per cent.

This is, to be clear, a perfectly acceptable form of intergenerational support. The Canada Pension Plan was in danger of becoming unsustainable, and younger people had to pay in more in order to shore up the system for both their parents and grandparents as well as future generations.

(You’re welcome, by the way.)

But this is hardly the only loan that’s been taken out on their — on our — behalf. Housing policy and local planning decisions in Canada have long been biased towards protecting the equity of existing homeowners, much of which was accumulated through no work or wisdom of their own, rather than affordability issues faced by younger people. That some politicians have recently gotten serious about this issue doesn’t excuse their many, many years of paying it almost no heed — especially as interest rates continue to bite.

Climate policy is another area where a debt is clearly being incurred. The more we punt the work of reducing greenhouse gas emissions down the road, the more onerous that work becomes. The costs associated with climate change for both local governments and the national economy will continue to grow, and our refusal to make any meaningful down payments on them right now only adds to the environmental mortgage we’re expecting future generations to pay off.

Of course, that debt is the biggest in Alberta. The collective bill on the province’s unreclaimed wells and unremediated tailings ponds just keeps growing, all while oil and gas companies remain free to shower their shareholders with record profits and growing dividend payments. In time, the refusal of the provincial government to direct more of those profits towards paying off the combined environmental debts of these companies, which could be as high as $120 billion (and growing!), will be seen as a major failure. But here, once again, future generations will be left to pay the bill.

This intergenerational inequity is not going completely unnoticed by older Canadians. Goldy Hyder, the CEO of the Business Council of Canada, called it out in a recent op-ed for the Globe and Mail. “It is long past time for us to look far beyond the next earnings call and the next election,” he wrote. “We need to make tough decisions about our future, and that might mean some form of short-term pain for long-term gain. We owe future generations far more than just apologies. We owe them action.”

He’s right, but I won’t be holding my breath waiting for it to happen. The odds of older voters suddenly embracing higher taxes and more stringent climate policies in the name of protecting the collective well-being of future generations are only slightly better than the odds of Danielle Smith crossing the floor again in the Alberta legislature.

Whether it's the high cost of housing or the low level of our climate ambitions, young Canadians are getting a raw deal right now. Why that's showing up in the Liberal government's dreadful poll numbers, and how they could go about changing them.

If anything, it’s younger voters who are shaking things up. The recent polls that put the Liberals well behind the Conservatives among younger voters for the first time in eons show they’re willing to try almost anything to change the status quo. Young people are mad as hell, in other words, and they’re not going to take this anymore.

Pierre Poilievre, to his credit, clearly understands this. No, his ideas won’t actually do much to address intergenerational inequities, and sweeping the current government out of office might do more harm than good to the longer-term priorities of younger Canadians. But Poilievre’s willingness to feel their pain and echo their concerns clearly counts for something.

The Liberal government can still learn from that, if it wants to. A good place to start would be forming the Task Force on Generational Fairness that Generation Squeeze has called for, one that would shed more light on the challenges younger people are facing. The Liberals could also try more forcefully calling out complaints about the unfairness of equalization, the Canada Pension Plan, or some other aspect of our federal system. Let everyone know there are other forms of unfairness in this country, and they deserve to be taken far more seriously than Alberta’s constant carping about Confederation. That alone might improve their poll numbers, if nothing else.

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While I get the discontent, has no one ever explained how participatory democracy works to these kids? Voting on a political party that doesn’t even believe climate change is real is NOT going to get them to where they want to be. They need to learn about getting involved in the inside workings of political parties and start agitating fro change from the inside.
And please just ignore the Green Party. They’ve been in existance for 40 years and the only thing they’ve discovered they’re really good at is internal conflict.

This is one thing with the younger voters looking to vote for a party that has openly taken a position to not acknowledge that climate change is real. How can one honestly vote for Pierre Poilievre to tackle climate change, when the party won't acknowledge climate change as a real problem, yet, is a big concern of this group of voters? It just makes my head shake.

Until Canadians embrace proportional representation our psudo-democracy will produce governments that are beholden to their donors and not the voters.

And the problem with the Green Party is that it's filled with former Liberals and Progressive Conservatives, not youth.

So why should the young put faith in our electoral system? Many will vote for change, knowing full well that that change will probably be bad. This is on us for embracing the status quo. Stop voting for parties that don't support proportional representation.

Quote: "If anything, it’s younger voters who are shaking things up. The recent polls that put the Liberals well behind the Conservatives among younger voters for the first time in eons show they’re willing to try almost anything to change the status quo. Young people are mad as hell, in other words, and they’re not going to take this anymore."

Do these younger voters understand that voting conservative will only make things worse and not better as far as climate change? Have they not noticed that the conservative party won't recognize that climate change is real?

When talking to these younger voters, they pay no attention to the news, pay no attention to what is really going on with the political parties. Yet they think voting conservative will meet their concerns. How do you come to that conclusion without understanding the real world and politics?

I fault the younger generation for their naive views, by spending too much time listening to nonsense and conspiracy theories on social media, without fact checking the garbage being spewed by nutbar influencers. When trying to discuss these issues, they discount them and don't want to talk about them. These younger voters seem to be a generation of brainwashed individuals who believe the garbage they read on the Internet is fact and everyone else is wrong.

Are young people getting screwed? Sure, but they are doing it to themselves by not getting at the real facts and listening to a snake oil salesman like Pierre Poilievre, only tell them what they want to hear and nothing more.

Okay boomer.

The intergenerational thing is real, but is to some extent a distraction from the real conflict, which is (and has been for a long time) between the very rich and everyone else. The very rich people who want to hose the social safety net are the same very rich people speculating on housing or making corporations that buy up all the rental properties and hike the rent, the same very rich people convincing people climate change doesn't exist so they can keep making profits, the same very rich people trying to kill public health care. Some of those things hose young people more (property, climate change), some of them hose old people more (health care, fucking up the CPP), but they all hose non-rich people rather than rich people.

The real war is class; most old and most young are on the same side of it. If we lose, both the old and the young get crappy lives. If we win, there is enough for both old and young to live well.

Exactly so.