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St. Albert Gazette

Published January 14, 2015

St. Albert woman hopes to raise awareness about Generation Squeeze campaign
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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.

By Dave Lazzarino, Edmonton Sun, October 8, 2014

Edmonton is finding a 'new-found sense of identity", says Mayor Don Iveson, responding to statistics on the city.

The Vital Signs report, a compilation of statistics that aim to give a snapshot of the health of the city from a variety of angles, was released Tuesday. This year the report focused on the condition of Edmonton's youth and according to the mayor it is "encouraging."

"We're finding a new-found sense of identity in our city, a confidence," said Mayor Don Iveson in reaction to some of the data presented at City Hall.

The positive numbers included a decrease in teen pregnancy from 29% in 1994 to just over 12% last year as well as a slight decrease in youth-involved crime.

But the numbers also show some less encouraging trends. Youth unemployment numbers are almost twice that of the average adult Edmontonian and half of those who do find work are making less than $15 an hour.

In a city where rent for a two-bedroom apartment is around $1,180 - $250 a month higher than the national average - and a vacancy rate of less than two per cent, that puts many in the category of working poor.

"We need housing, we need more supply of housing so there's more competition so that rents moderate, and we need more of you earning a living wage," said Iveson.

He said more employers have to see the value in paying $15 an hour as a living wage and suggested the city find a way of imposing a living wage by refusing to contract out to companies that pay any less.

"It's an ethical question to ask as an employer and a steward of public money," he said.

John Kolkman, research co-ordinator for the Edmonton social planning council, said the numbers aren't completely bleak, pointing to the hopeful attitude of youth.

"One of the things that surprised us, we did a survey of youth and we found most youth were quite optimistic about their own personal futures," said Kolkman, who helped develop the report.

He said many young people said they were involved or were interested in becoming involved in their communities.

"The opportunity is there," said Shannon Cusitar, a 26-year-old second-year social work student at NorQuest College in Edmonton. "It's not impossible."

"It is hard work and dedication but if you really want something, it is achievable."

She said young people may not realize the possibilities that are right in front of them and hopes to use her social work education to bring that message to some of the city's struggling youth.

One of those opportunities has been created by NorQuest recently when they announced the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation Hospitality Institute, which is aiming to connect young hospitality students with jobs in the growing downtown arena district.

More information for it can be found through NorQuest College at

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A report produced by the Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) in partnership with the Edmonton Social Planning Council (ESPC), presents a wide range of statistics on housing, education, health, cultural diversity, voting trends, student debt and more, with a specific focus on youth.

Among the many findings, the reports shows that Edmonton's median age is 36, compared to Canada's median age of 40.6 and is the only large Canadian city that actually got younger between 2006 and 2011.

The report reveals that youth are feeling reasonably optimistic about their futures, youth are better educated, less likely to be involved in crime, and less likely to become pregnant. Youth, however, are also facing challenges; unemployment is still high, youth wages are low, and a survey of the youth found bullying and drug use to be high rated concerns.

If metro Edmonton is 100 people:

  • 65 will own their own home
  • 65 will have graduated from a post-secondary institution
  • 34 will rent their home
  • 81 will have completed high school
  • 12 will live in low income or poverty
  • 30 are visible minorities
  • 41 did not vote federally
  • 34 describe themselves as overweight

The report also reveals the attitudes and economic realities of 15 to 24 year olds.

  • 65 per cent of youth agree with the statement: "I think the people of greater Edmonton area accept different cultures and beliefs."
  • 68 per cent of youth feel it is important to be involved in their community while only seven percent of the general population feel that youth actually are involved in their community.
  • 52.9 per cent of youth earn $15/hour or less.
  • Youth cite bullying (16.3%) as the biggest concern facing them today while only four per cent of adults think bullying is an issue.

Edmonton, AB, Canada / 630 CHED

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The city has found the fountain of youth.  Edmonton is getting younger, and better off. And the youth of today seem to be making better life choices. Those are the findings of a pair of social agencies who’ve released a report Tuesday on life in Canadian cities.
The median age of an Edmontonian is 36, the youngest in the country and four years younger than the Canadian median age.

“In terms of being a young city, it’s probably mostly tied to the fact that we have a lot of people moving here and we’ve been creating quite a bit of employment,” said John Kolkman with the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

He says surveys of our youth, both in high school and post secondary, show we’re optimistic about our futures, better educated and less likely to be involved in crime, and socially active.
“Sixty-eight per cent of youth said it was important for them to be involved in the community. Interestingly enough only seven per cent of participants of adults that we did thought that youth were involved in the community so there seemed to be a bit of disconnect there between how youth saw themselves compared to perhaps how their elders saw them.”

On the down side of the survey, that was also sponsored by the Edmonton Community Foundation, youth are still facing trouble in the work place with low wages, and high youth unemployment. “There are a lot of jobs out there but by the same token a lot of the jobs out there are low wage jobs and I think particularly that’s a challenge for youth sort of getting started in the work force,” Kolkman said.

Mayor Don Iveson says with Edmonton’s increasingly younger population, it should provide an opportunity for more political involvement at election time. He says we should not have lower than normal voting rates for young people.




EDMONTON - At a time when most of the developed world is dealing with an aging population, Edmonton is becoming younger.

The median age of Edmonton residents dropped slightly to 36 in 2011 from 36.1 five years earlier, according to Statistics Canada.

That makes it the youngest major Canadian city and one of the few to see less grey hair.

“In the long run, it’s really good news for the city of Edmonton,” John Kolkman, research director for the Edmonton Social Planning Council, said Tuesday.

“It means those of us who are getting a little older, there are more young people coming forward after us.”

Kolkman included the age data in a new Vital Signs report on youth issues put out by the council and the Edmonton Community Foundation.

The median age in Calgary rose to 36.4 from 35.7 over the same period, still far younger than the median 2011 Canadian age of 40.6.

A strong economy and plentiful jobs are likely the main factors drawing young people to Edmonton, although the youth unemployment rate is twice the overall average, he said.

“People move here from elsewhere who are younger than average, and they have children,” he said. “(Also), we have a higher aboriginal population, and the aboriginal population is actually a full 10 years younger, at an average of 26.”

Coun. Ben Henderson said the city has been working to attract and retain young residents, whom he said are crucial to Edmonton’s future.

They’re drawn here by the high-calibre schools and the quality of life, as well as jobs, he said.

He’s not sure what facilities will be needed for a younger population, because the older generation has similar interests in recreation and entertainment.

But Henderson already sees a better mix of age groups on Whyte Avenue, with an older crowd getting dinner early in the evening and their youthful counterparts out later.

“They’re both finding a way to use the space. It’s not either-or, which we saw 10 years ago.”

Gaspard Momba, 26, moved to Edmonton from the Democratic Republic of Congo about three years ago to join his family and improve his education.

He became fluent in English after taking language instruction for newcomers at NorQuest College, where he is now studying several high school courses.

He wants to make Edmonton his home, working and volunteering on community projects.

“In Edmonton, there’s always an opportunity. Whatever you want to do, when you get yourself connected, you can. It really is the best place.”

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© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal


EDMONTON - The number of Alberta families dependent on monthly welfare cheques peaked at 40,000 in 2010 and has yet to return to pre-recession levels, new provincial figures show.

A Journal analysis of newly released provincial data shows monthly caseloads stabilized around 33,000 in early 2014, significantly higher than the roughly 25,000 monthly caseloads before the 2008 financial crash.

The figures also show single people and lone-parent families make up the bulk of households receiving income support, while more than half of all welfare recipients are those not expected to work because they have “barriers to employment” — the only category of recipients that is on the rise.

David Schneider, executive director of program policy for the Human Services department, said the steady increase in that group is mainly made up of older Albertans no longer able to do the work they did when they were younger.

“We see people who are getting older, who maybe when they were in their 30s were able to work manual, physical jobs, and be self-sufficient,” he said.

“They’ve had lots of hard work, and their bodies aren’t in the same shape.”

Schneider said the number of Albertans receiving welfare hasn’t returned to pre-recession levels in part because more people have moved to Alberta, and the figures don’t reflect that population growth. Further, welfare caseloads typically mirror the unemployment rate, but with a six-month delay.

He said most welfare cheques go to single people and lone-parent families because the province measures total household income to determine if a family qualifies for support, and Albertans in a relationship who hit hard times are more likely to be supported by their partners.

The ministry does not measure how many people apply for welfare but are turned away, Schneider said.

The Income Support Program, popularly known as welfare, is a branch of the Alberta Works program. Alberta invests just over $388 million annually to help Albertans in crisis.

Typically, a single person who is expected to work receives $627 per month in support, while a single person with barriers to employment gets $731.

A single parent with two children who is expected to work — say a single mother who has left a violent relationship — receives $1,130.

Albertans on welfare can earn up to $230 a month by working, after which additional benefits are clawed back at a rate of 75 per cent.

John Kolkman of the Edmonton Social Planning Council said the number of welfare recipients with barriers to employment is increasing because front-line caseworkers are under pressure to reduce the number of Albertans receiving Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH).

This is partly because a single person on AISH receives $1,588 per month — more than double the welfare rate — and demand has increased since Alison Redford boosted rates by $400 in 2012.

“People in the front-line agencies will say a lot of those people (who receive income supports) have profiles not dissimilar to people who are in the AISH program, and that some of them should be on AISH,” he said. “It’s really hard to live on income support benefits — they are among the lowest in the country.”

Bill Moore-Kilgannon of Public Interest Alberta said caseloads haven’t returned to pre-recession levels because the government has cut job training programs for people on welfare.

“Unless we are supporting people to get the training they need to get a job, we will continue to see people stuck in the poverty cycle,” he said.

Further, he said “these numbers only represent those who got onto the system. … Who is excluded from support? There is no shortage of people who are in crisis and unable to get help.”

Fundamentally, he said the problem is that the Tories haven’t kept their 2012 election promise to introduce a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy.

“We have to support people before they fall into poverty,” he said.