Is a better deal for Generation Squeeze possible under Trudeau?

As a member of Generation Squeeze, Justin Trudeau represents a new generation of Canadian leaders

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VANCOUVER, BC Oct 22, 2015/ Troy Media/ – Aged 43 and father of young children, Prime Minister-designated Justin Trudeau represents a new generation of Canadian leaders: he is a member of Generation Squeeze.

Canadians in our 20s, 30s, 40s, and the children we parent, are squeezed on average by lower full-time incomes, higher housing costs, less time and a deteriorating environment compared to 1976 when the Baby Boomers came of age as young adults.

While Trudeau has personally escaped much of this financial squeeze, it is still exciting to imagine what potential his perspective brings to the job of Prime Minister in the pursuit of a better generational deal, one that works for all Canadians. As Trudeau repeated so often throughout the campaign, “In Canada, BETTER is always possible.”

In pursuit of BETTER, Trudeau should be commended for his emphasis on bringing Canadians together. Previous government budgets divided generations, pitting investments in the aging population at the expense of investing in younger Canadians. At Generation Squeeze – a national, non-partisan, science-based lobby for citizens, not shareholders – we know a better generational deal means uniting generations. To this end, we will work with newly elected MPs in all parties to make intergenerational solidarity and fairness a priority in future budgets.

For this work, we will draw on our comprehensive study of the federal election platforms. By its own numbers, the Liberal platform would:

  • increase spending on retirees more than any other national party, while
  • providing less money for postsecondary and child care than did the NDP and Greens; and
  • offering fewer details about pricing pollution than did the other opposition platforms.

Liberal MPs and policy advisors would do well to revisit these details in the Liberal platform before finalizing the 2016 federal budget.

At the same time, the Liberal platform was relatively strong at containing medical care spending by comparison with the NDP platform. This, in turn, left fiscal room for the Liberals to propose more new spending for families with children than any other party, which included the Liberal platform borrowing ideas from the Generation Squeeze vision of a New Deal for Families: (i) extending parental leave to 18 months per household, (ii) offering new opportunities for flextime and (iii) investing in child care services. The Liberals also adopted several elements of our vision for a better housing policy. These commitments should make their way into the next federal budget.

The Liberals campaigned on a commitment to review wasteful tax expenditures. This review is timely, and could help the party strengthen assets in their election platform. In a ground breaking study of how the 2015 federal budget breaks down by age, Generation Squeeze identified a wide range of tax expenditures. Many of these are outdated, inefficient, and cost billions of dollars. These funds could be reallocated to pay for policy adaptations to ease the time, money, service and environmental pressures that squeeze younger generations while not touching the budgets for medical care and old age security on which the aging population is counting.

In support of government budgets that work for all generations, Generation Squeeze urged parties during the election to commit to reporting the age distribution of government spending and revenue collection. We are therefore heartened that the Liberals promised to make “Statistics Canada fully independent” and to “work with . . . other stakeholders to provide a broader range of information.” By annually reporting age breakdowns, the federal government could create a new society-wide opportunity to assess whether our country is finding the right balance between our investments in young and old; finding the right balance between investing in earlier and later life stages for each citizen; and finding the right balance between investing in the things that make us healthy and productive, as compared to spending more later on when we fall ill or struggle economically.

This assessment is badly needed, because research shows that the federal government currently spends $20,868 per person age 65+, $7,185 per person age 45 to 64, and $4,349 per person under age 45.

It is time for a better generational deal. Thankfully, BETTER is always possible in Canada. So says our new Prime Minister.

Dr. Paul Kershaw is a University of BC policy professor, and Founder of Generation Squeeze (gensqueeze.ca).

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