How to Get Young People to Vote

Media Appearances, Municipal Government, Frontier Centre

If you know a young person that isn’t likely to vote in the upcoming provincial election, show them this column — it should get them motivated.

You see, there’s a big financial iceberg headed toward our province and young people are going to get the shaft unless we change course now.

For starters, our provincial debt is almost $14 billion (not including Hydro debt) and is increasing at a staggering rate of $50 per second. Meaning, there’s no savings to pay for the coming financial challenges.

The most significant of which is that over the coming years, a large portion of our province’s population is going to retire. Proportionally, we’re going to have fewer people working and paying taxes relative to those that will be relying more and more on costly government services.

Compounding the demographic situation is that as people retire, they tend to demand more expensive government services. Simply put, 80-year-olds receive costly hip replacement surgery; 30-year-olds go to the doctor for nagging coughs.

If this challenge wasn’t enough, people are living longer, too. Obviously that’s a very good thing, but logistically it means more pressure on taxpayers to pay for government services.

Speaking of retiring, the provincial government has signed rich pension agreements with government workers over the years, but hasn’t put enough money away to pay for them. Turn to page 22 of the provincial budget and you’ll see the province owes more than $1.7 billion in pension payouts to bureaucrats than what it has saved up.

Each province in Canada has the aforementioned problems, but Manitoba has three additional challenges.

First, our province’s aboriginal population is growing quickly and it tends to demand more expensive government services than non-aboriginals. It’s a sad fact of life our jails have a disproportionately high aboriginal population and health-care system usage is also higher amongst that segment.

Second, Manitoba is heavily dependent on financial aid (equalization payments) from wealthier provinces. Not only are wealthier provinces trying to reduce such mandatory aid, Manitoba’s share is dropping as Ontario is now drawing from the same pot of money.

Finally, Manitoba’s taxes are high for both businesses and individuals. This discourages investment and reduces the resources businesses have to create the jobs that keep people here.

To address all these problems, we need bold leadership that isn’t afraid to bring significant change to government. Young people should grill each party on what they will do to bring Manitoba’s bureaucracy under control. Consider a Frontier Centre study that found 26% of Manitobans work for provincial or municipal governments; higher than the Canadian average of just 20%.

Young people should also ask each party how they will bring expensive government employee benefits back down to earth, make government more efficient, control spending and turn the “aboriginal challenge” into an “aboriginal opportunity.”

If you don’t want to show this column to a young person, ask yourself this: How many of them will stick around to pay the bills if we don’t change direction?