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Do the math- Why all Canadians under 30 should support the student protests in Quebec

September 4, 2012

I am a baby boomer. I think the question everyone should be asking themselves is not why students in Quebec, who enjoy the lowest tuition in the Canada, are protesting tuition increases. The question we should be asking is why are the students in the rest of the country not joining the students of Quebec in protest.

The students in Quebec have made their feelings the clear on this issue of tuition increases. This message has not resonated with  all students in Quebec or with students the rest of Canada. The message certainly has not captivated the general population. However, should the students in Quebec change their message slightly; anyone under thirty will promptly join the protest. Baby boomers in Canada should be very afraid of this.

The change in the message is quite simple. The students are angry about the tuition increases but they are even angrier about the $250 billion dollar debt that Quebec has accumulated and that will be the responsibility of Quebecer’s under the age of thirty to pay.

Democracy was built on truisms such as ‘no taxation without representation.’ In Quebec [you can substitute Quebec with the name of just about any other province or even Canada for the matter] the baby boomers, in order to satiate their appetite for more of everything and for perpetual good times have spent, through their governments, not only their own money, but their children’s and grandchildren’s money as well. The children of baby boomers, who are in school now, will not have any important decisions to make when they replace us in positions of power. They will not have any choices to make regarding which services to provide the public. They certainly will not have any options when deciding the structure of post secondary education. The baby boomer generation will have left them a bare cupboard. They had no representation when their tax dollars were spent as they grew up. Once the younger generation is in power the only choice they will have is which debt to pay first. Canadians under the age of thirty should investigate the combined federal and provincial debt if they need any motivation to join the students in Quebec in their protest.

I will not bore you with statistical alchemy that is the usual weapon of elected officials, economists and baby boomers. I would simply ask each student, [or brave baby boomer] to pick up a calculator and do some basic math. Quebec’s public sector debt is about 250 billion dollars. Quebec’s annual deficit is out of control. Extrapolate these numbers forward a few years and you come to the inescapable conclusion that the students of Quebec will spend the rest of their lives paying off the government debt accumulated by their parents. There will be no road repairs subsidized day care, health care, great civil service jobs, or public works projects. The students in Quebec have nothing to look forward to except grinding debt and hard and difficult sacrifices to service the debt that was left to them by their parents. The situation in Quebec is not unique. Ontario checks in with a 250 billion dollar debt and a 15 billion dollar deficit. Canada has accumulated a 580 billion dollar debt and it is climbing rapidly.

If you want to believe that Quebec or Canada’s political baby boomer politicians are going to successfully confront the debt crisis I would simply ask you to make a list of any 10 year period in the last 50 years when government debts declined sequentially  I wish you good luck.

The youth of Canada, whose future tax dollars have already been spent without their consent or representation should be in the streets, arm in arm with the students of Quebec demanding change. Baby boomers should be prepared for a special tax so that tuition is free for students in Quebec [for that matter everywhere in Canada. ] A post- secondary education is an essential tool for the next generation to have any hope of digging themselves out of the ditch dug by the baby boomers. That the baby boomers would pay a special tax to subsidize free tuition is one way my generation can say, “Oops, sorry about that crushing debt we are leaving you.”

As baby boomers generally only act in their self interest I would ask my fellow baby boomers to pick of that calculator again and do some basic math on our health care costs. If those Canadians who are students now are not well educated and well employed and able to pay significant taxes society will not be able to pay the massive health bill that the baby boomers will present to society as boomers enter their golden years.

Canada and its provinces are now inexorably linked together in either a death spiral or an economic rebirth. It is up to students of Quebec and Canada, in fact all the youth of Canada and, perhaps reluctant baby boomers to decide which whether our future is death spiral or rebirth. Regardless of the path chosen it is going to require sacrifice on everyone’s part, [including baby boomers.] 

There is no easy solution, Should Ontario or Quebec consider separation as an option, the world’s financial markets would quickly refer to these provinces as ‘Grebec or Gretario since the finances of these provinces will soon be similar to the situation that is confronting Greece. The only illusion that allows Canada and its provinces easy access to the credit markets is the belief that we are a stable country. Separation by any province would launch Canada over the credit abyss. Please do not take my word for this fact. Do not rely on the talking heads and politicians who offer banal, soothing clichés to try and reassure you that everything is going to be fine. Do not believe it when you are told that it is OK, we can still have it all. Do about five minutes of research on Google, then pick up your calculator and do the math.

The students of Quebec should be not being mocked, vilified and suppressed. They should be viewed as patriotic Quebeckers and patriotic Canadians who want to prevent Canada’s baby boomers from driving the province and the country over a fiscal cliff. 

To the students of Quebec if you do not believe that the baby boomer generation of your province lead by its baby boomer politicians is prepared to throw your generation ‘under the bus’ I would ask you to consider how much time the leaders of all there parties have spent discussing the fiscal abyss that your province in moving toward with speed that would make Usain Bolt jealous. Solidarity with Quebec’s students is not an option it is non- negotiable position that all Quebecers and Canadians who care about our children’s future must fully embrace.

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