6. Democracy in trouble

The night of the 2011 federal election revealed how this generational schism had spread into our democratic system. Pollster forecasts were so off the mark on the election results that they had to go back to find out why. Their analyses revealed a voting fault line: boomers voted; their adult children did not.35 The older the voter, the more likely they were to turn up at the polls (60–80%) and vote Conservative. Younger voters told pollsters they liked the Liberals and NDP, but stayed home on Election Day.

When more than 50 percent of the electorate younger than 45-years-old do not vote, and only 30 percent of those ages 18 to 25 years turn out, politicians pitch their message to and govern on behalf of older Canadians. The more absent the concerns of the young are from public discourse, the more alienated they become.

Canada’s median age is 42 years and rising. The young are aging and bringing with them an apolitical culture. The Boomers are also getting older and bringing with them a huge retirement bill. The tensions between young and old can only intensify, and there will be fewer democratic outlets to address them.

If younger Canadians are to connect with the political process, it needs to address their concerns. For the cohort of people raising young children, a legislature that relieved one of their major stressors by providing affordable, educational care for their children might be worth paying attention to. The alternative is a democracy where one person in two does not see a role for themselves, which is a tenuous base for democratic survival.

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