Note to boomers: The future belong to us
The discussion began as many do, chronologically. However, I wasn’t interested in that. I wanted to hear ideas.
While there were a few good ones, there was one really bad idea that even now I still can’t shake out of my head; no caps on tuition fees. As in, no limits on how much a university or college would charge a student to be ordained by the ivory tower. As in debt for 40+ years. As in your child will live in your basement until the ripe old age of 50.
Who would propose such a ludicrous idea? Apparently it was Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
When I first heard it, I wrote it down to ensure that I heard it correctly. Then I read it to myself. Then I read it again. And again. As everyone else continued to speak in what suddenly sounded like muffled sounds, I wrote to myself in my notebook, “Did Roger Martin really say that there should be no cap on tuition?”
As a student of both U of T and Ryerson, I couldn't help but feel a fiery mix of anger and confusion welling up inside of me. Why do our city’s decision makers and key influencers continue to throw stones at the millennial glass house? Have any of these old people ever been stoned (and by stoned I mean hit by rocks)? Do they not realize that they are setting up a younger generation to collapse under the pressure of the bad decisions of the past?
Like many other questionable ideas I’ve heard before, Mr. Martin, a Baby Boomer, seems to live in alternative reality. So I’ve taken it upon myself to write a letter to Baby Boomers to shed some light on what its like to be a millennial today:
Dear Baby Boomers,
This is just a short note to say that you are not the life of the party -- we are. Your future relies on how well we do in the present. To that end, this letter is a request to stop making silly sweeping judgments and rash decisions about our future without truly thinking about the future implications on our precious lives.
When we entered this world, we had no choice but to trust you. We believed that with time, you would mentor us to become the leaders that we thought you were. That is until you decided to squash any chance of us enjoying the fruits of our collective labour.
Speaking of labour, thank you for everything that you’ve done with the labour movement. You’ve managed to create stable jobs with benefits in a number of sectors to benefit yourselves and us. When you retire at, oh wait, no cap on retirement. Well, at least we can rely on one-year contracts.
I guess there is no time like the present.
Thanks for creating world-class institutions. While economies across the world wallow in their own recession-induced self-pity Canada has become a model for excellence in avoiding financial meltdown. In fact, many of you are at the helm of leadership in organizations that are shaping the way my friends and I live. And by live I meant, at the mercy of OSAP.
But at least mortgage rates are under control, right?
Don’t get us wrong, you have done a tremendous amount for our generation. But at what cost? In 2020, our world will look different as many of you hit retirement age. I can’t help but imagine you in the getaway car, while we hold the baggage of the last 20-30 years; a deteriorated social safety net, “free market” universities with tuition equivalent to the cost of a house in Rosedale, and education and training that is irrelevant for a changing economy. A heavy load indeed.
These ideas are not unfounded. In fact, some of your peers are addressing similar issues and others. In fact 250 of them (and a few millennials) got together last month to address these very issues. If someone had told me in February that a group of leaders from the financial sector, labour movement, academia, government and the community sector were getting together for a generative conversation about the future of our state (and the state of our future), I would have keeled over laughing in anxious denial.
However today, sitting in front of Frances Lankin, CEO of United Way, Warren “Smokey” Thomas, president of OPSEU, Mitzie Hunter, CAO of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation and Len Crispino, CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce I learned about the 2020 Steering Committee and saw with my very own eyes that Boomers do care.
As the story goes, a group of usual and unusual suspects came together to discuss what Ontario would be like in 2020. Radical ideas from the left and the right were put up for discussion, and apparently everyone lived to tell the tale. Actually, many agreed to meet again for another conversation. Whowouldathunkit?
So Baby Boomer, with your wealth and your privileged experience, it’s not too late for you. You had your time in the '60s and '70s. While you are no longer the life of the party, you can still be an amazing party planner. Embrace that. But what good is a party if you keep throwing stones at our glass houses?
Am I being dramatic? Maybe. But the point is that today’s political/institutional agenda continues to be driven by a Baby Boomer’s self-interest. Doing this would allow us to have difficult conversations about the state of our future, much like the folks at the 2020 conference did. Toronto prides itself so much on inclusivity and diversity that it's taken for granted and consequently excluded from very important conversations about where our city is headed in the next 10 years.
If I learned anything from the recent presentation from the 2020 Steering Committee, it’s that a lot can be accomplished when we remove self-interest and start thinking about each other.
As much as we want to believe it, I'm not sure if Toronto is ready for that.