St. Albert Gazette

Published January 14, 2015

St. Albert woman hopes to raise awareness about Generation Squeeze campaign
By Victoria Paterson
St Albert A campaign seeking a better deal for Canadians under the age of 45 has struck a chord with a St. Albert resident.

Alex Morrison, a 27-year-old Grandin resident, recently read an article about the Generation Squeeze movement and found herself inspired to learn more.

“It really, really hit home with me,” Morrison said. So much so she’s now hoping to help raise awareness in St. Albert and the region about the campaign, which highlights the challenges faced by Canadians 45 and under.

Those challenges? Escalating housing prices, high childcare costs, salaries that haven’t gone up in step with those increasing costs, an expectation that a bachelor’s degree is now a minimum entrance requirement for many jobs and the associated student debt, and governments that spend more on seniors than they do on younger citizens.

According to statistics from Generation Squeeze, the governments in Canada spend an average of $12,000 per Canadian under 45 versus about $45,000 for every retired citizen.

The Generation Squeeze campaign is hosted at the University of British Columbia, where founder Paul Kershaw is a faculty member in the School of Population and Public Health.

Their website states they would like to increase that spending by about $1,000 per person for those under 45 while keeping spending per senior at its current level.

Morrison said she doesn’t want to take anything away from the country’s more senior citizens, but said her generation and others like it are “truly stuck between a rock and a hard place” when it comes to trying to afford a home, have a family and save for retirement.

“How can we create equity and equality in this and how can we work together to make everybody within Canada’s … lives better,” Morrison said.

More government funding for younger people would help those older generations, Morrison said, because they wouldn’t have to offer as much financial support to their children.

“It’s become almost impossible for people in our generation to develop that financial independence,” Morrison said, acknowledging the only reason she and her husband were able to afford a house for their young family was through parental aid.

“What one person made in the ’70s, two people are barely making now,” she said. Morrison said the campaign is about motivating those under 45 to start getting involved in politics so those who make policy hear their concerns.

“Not only give us a voice but add some clout to our voice and make sure what we’re saying is actually being taken seriously,” Morrison said.

John Kolkman, the research co-ordinator for the Edmonton Social Planning Council, agrees there needs to be policy work done to ensure that money is being spent effectively to support younger Canadians.

“I agree – but it’s also going to depend on how we spend,” Kolkman said.

For example, Kolkman thinks the federal Conservative government’s proposed income splitting is a misguided policy that won’t offer relief to those with modest incomes who need it most. But more funding for childcare would benefit many of the young people that are encompassed by the Generation Squeeze campaign.

That spending shouldn’t take away from seniors, he said.

Generational jealousy is not a new phenomenon, Kolkman said, and the campaign shouldn’t pit age groups against each other.

“We faced many of the same challenges,” he said of his own generation, noting each new generation seems to feel they’ve got a worse deal than those who came before.

There are some challenges for those 45 and under – housing is more expensive, Kolkman noted, though he added just how expensive depends where in Canada you live.

But while housing prices are higher, he notes the high interest rates that hindered homebuyers in earlier generations are not a problem today. “Mortgage rates are at a generational low,” Kolkman said.

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