Considerations for youth

Youth also have a lot at stake in this election. You’re at an age where future considerations are important, since you’re going to spend considerably more time living with the long-term outcomes of today’s decisions than all other categories of voter. Are Canada and Ontario where you think that you’ll likely spend much of the rest of your life? If so, what kind of society do you hope to live in? Do you want it to be a safe, positive, happy place in which everyone is reasonably well cared for and has a decent chance to get ahead in life? Or do you want Canada to become more like our neighbours to the south, an evermore unequal society steeped in anger and violence, where your best hope is to get wealthy however you can so that you too can live apart in a safe, gated community and receive good health care?

If that dystopic future sounds far-fetched from a Canadian perspective, consider the degree to which automation and the artificial intelligence revolution are eliminating good jobs at an ever-increasing rate. It’s really happening faster that we think. We’ve already passed the tipping point where, if someone has sufficient capital, the expected returns from investing in automation are greater than from comparable investments in hiring and training people [*]. If you were a corporation or capitalist, which would you choose? That’s why the cherished conservative mantra that corporate tax cuts stimulate the economy and create jobs no longer works. Tax cuts now serve mainly to make a few people wealthier and to increase inequality. Conservatives believe that’s ok because they consider unfettered market forces sacred. Liberals, on the other hand, believe in the role of government to level the playing field sufficiently that your chances in life aren’t set in stone by the socioeconomic status of the family into which you happened to be born.

The current Liberal government has recognized that, while post-secondary education is critical to life success in today’s harsher economy, it has been harder for youth from low- to middle-income families to participate in. Debt loads on graduation were becoming so prohibitive in comparison to starting salaries (even for those who didn’t have to resort to unpaid internships) that many were being deterred from even trying. The Wynne government’s unprecedented response was to make tuition free for students from such families (it’s worth noting that both the PCs and the NDP voted against this measure). Even if you’re from a higher-income family, you can appreciate how important this measure has been for so many of your fellow students. For those in your circle who require prescription drugs, free pharmacare has lifted a big burden from their budgets. And, if you needed student loans at any point, it’s good to know that you can defer repayment until your annual salary reaches the $35,000 threshold. Now ask yourself if those necessary changes would have happened under a PC government, especially one led by Doug Ford.

It’s clear from what Mr. Ford has said that he is a populist politician, which could have serious implications for your future. Should he become Premier, Mr. Ford’s priority will be cost cutting and tax cuts, which will ultimately hurt education and students, as well as move our Ontario society more in the direction of its more unequal U.S. counterparts. If you don’t want that, please refer to my strategic voting post for some ideas on what you can do to make a difference. If you’re one of those who has been put off by the multi-year conservative campaign of pervasive distortions and negativity directed at Premier Wynne, consider what her government has already done for youth, read this very thoughtful Toronto Star article on the Wynne legacy and consider my analysis of those depictions, bearing in mind that it was primarily written for the benefit of Liberals who have likewise been influenced by such views. Or, if Mr. Ford’s misleading sky-is-falling depiction of Ontario’s debt load has you worried, it would be worth your while to check the facts, which gives it some rational perspective.

Finally, if you don’t currently intend to vote or if you’re inclined to consider voting for Mr. Ford’s candidate because you believe some of the things that he’s been saying, you should at least consider what happened to your British counterparts. They grew up knowing that they would have the freedom and opportunity throughout their lives to live and work anywhere in the 28 countries of the European Union. That bright future has suddenly been snatched away from them by the votes of older, less-educated voters in the hinterland who disliked modernity, felt left behind, and fell for the distortions and mistruths spread by the populist politicians on the “Leave” side. British youth mistakenly assumed that Brexit would never pass. While those that did overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU, too many didn’t bother to vote. As a result, their futures are now mostly restricted to Britain, which is less than a quarter of the geographic size of Ontario. Their hard-learned lesson? Never, ever assume that your vote won’t matter.

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