You are the Millennials. Some call you “Generation Y,” but that doesn’t do you justice, because it implies you’re just a continuation of Generation X. You’re not.
You’re different than every other generation before you: you’re the first to grow up with (and on) the internet, in an age of global digital communication technologies that fit in your pocket. And as the most interconnected generation in history, you’ve come to appreciate—and celebrate—the wonderful diversity of humankind.
You believe in social justice, in protecting the environment through sustainable solutions and developing green energy, that income equality needs to be taken more seriously, that a generous society has a duty to help its less fortunate, that it’s okay to be gay or lesbian or bi or trans*, that everyone has equal marriage rights, that government policy should be guided by reason and science in the best interests of people and not corporations, and the list goes on. This way of thinking, of behaving, and of being is progressive. Study after study have shown that as a generation, you’re overwhelmingly progressive in your social and political beliefs. And given the huge challenges facing the world in the twenty-first century—climate change and economic inequality among the most urgent—your wanting real progress is a good thing. We’re counting on you.
You also grew up in a world of global terrorism, of unnecessary (and expensive) wars, of economic crises and recession, of worrying whether you’ll get a job when you graduate, of whether you’ll be able to buy a house, of whether you’ll be able to actually retire someday. You have to re-adjust your plans—and your dreams—over and over based on these harsh new realities, and you’re frustrated that politicians are more concerned with gaining and keeping power (and fighting amongst themselves) than coming together to bring about real change and real progress.
So yes, your generation deserves a name that better represents you, your progressive beliefs, and the realities you’ve inherited as young citizens of the twenty-first century: Millennials. Be proud of that.
When it comes to politics, they say you’re apathetic, cynical, and lacking interest in voting. But it’s probably more like you don’t trust that politicians, the way they run our government, and the system itself, will ever actually lead to any real change that puts people and the planet before power and profits. In short, when it comes to politics and government, the way things work (or, more accurately, don’t work) turns a lot of you off, because you find it hard to believe that any real and lasting progress can be made the way things are now.
But you don’t have to accept this political status quo. You must never feel you’re powerless to stop it, because in fact, you have a lot of power already. By 2020, you’ll make up 35 to 38% of the Canadian voting-aged population. That’s a pretty sizable chunk of voters. So the question is: what are you going to do with your power as progressive Canadian citizens?
Just as marketing companies ruthlessly go after your dollars—the 18-to-34 group is their consumer goldmine—so do politicians go after your votes. They know they need you, and they make great promises, some of which they keep and some of which they don’t. They ask for your vote, but they never seem to ask you a simple, yet important, question: How do you want us to govern? The Canadian parties on the centre-left range of the political spectrum—the Liberals, the New Democrats, and the Greens—will run election campaigns on very similar platforms, but once in Parliament, they insist that because of their parties’ supposedly wildly different cultures, or traditions, or ideologies, or whatever, they can’t work together. (It’s more like, they won’t work together.) As opposition parties, they seem to spend as much of their time attacking each other as they do Stephen Harper and his Conservatives. They want to shred each other in order to beat the Conservatives and take power. So how’s that been working out so far?
It hasn’t been. Because of the way our electoral system works, splitting the centre-left vote (which includes progressives) in the 2011 election let Stephen Harper and his Conservatives form a majority government (enabling them to pass any legislation they want) with only 39.6% of the popular vote. The rest of the vote was split between the NDP (30.6%), the Liberal Party (18.9%), the Green Party (3.9%), and the Bloc Québécois (6.1%). So almost 60% of Canadians, as they voted for the party they supported, also rejected Stephen Harper and his Conservatives. And since then, this real majority, which includes most of you, has had to live with the Conservative majority government. You don’t have to go far online to find websites listing nasty ish the Conservatives have done, especially when it comes to the environment. But if the opposition parties keep up this tactic of fighting each other in order to defeat the Conservatives in the 2015 election, we could be looking at Stephen Harper as Prime Minister, with a Conservative government continuing to force its right-wing agenda on Canada, until 2025. We need to convince the Liberals, the New Democrats, and the Greens to work together to change this.
We can’t just put urgent issues on pause until we get a strong progressive government that will finally start really fixing things. Income equality and the realities of the twenty-first century economy have to be addressed. We need to get serious about climate change and green energy. We also have to come up with new solutions to strengthen our social programs and safety net, so that hopefully there’s enough left for you when you retire. (And make it so you can retire in the first place!) These things can’t wait, but you can bet the Conservatives aren’t in any hurry.
This is where we come in. The Libdemo Movement is dedicated to promoting progressivism and democracy in Canada, and increasing voter participation, particularly among your generation. Our first project is to advocate for the unification of the Liberal Party, the NDP, and the Green Party to better represent the clear and growing Canadian progressive majority. This isn’t a new idea: it’s come up again and again over the past couple of decades, but nothing ever comes of it. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen—and we really believe that your generation can start making it happen now. We need your help.
The first thing to do is to ask yourselves this: How would we, the Millennial generation, run a country?
Because you will be running things, and sooner than you think: not just in government, but in business, as workers, as consumers, as citizens—and, so very importantly, as parents. And one of you will be Prime Minister.
So how would you govern? How would you go about developing sustainable solutions for twenty-first century problems?
Based on how you’ve grown up so far, you’d probably get together and get to work, with partisanship and ideology not even entering the equation. You’d crowdsource solutions; you’d get the best scientists (including social scientists) to study the issues and report back with solid recommendations reviewed by other scientists to ensure their credibility. You’d develop policy and draft legislation based on what’s most likely to work in a sustainable way that respects the interests of people, business, and the environment. And you’d want a unified progressive party in government to ensure that all of this can be efficiently implemented. You are pragmatic.
You value progress over partisanship. You value new ideas over old ideologies. You’re the game changers we’ve been waiting and hoping for. And you can start the change literally right here, right now: like this article on Facebook and/or tweet it using the buttons at the bottom of the article. Like our Facebook page. Subscribe to our Twitter feed. Join our email list so we can contact you about future projects to bring the voices of Canadians, in their own words, right to Parliament. (Check out our first article, and like and tweet that too.) Don’t ever think your clicks don’t mean anything: for every like or tweet, everyone on your Facebook or Twitter sees it, and some of them will share it with their friends, and so on, and so on. Before you know it, this message—your message—will reach hundreds of thousands of other concerned Canadians. (And we need the older folks reading this to do the same!) At some point, with enough public support, the politicians are going to have to listen to us.
So it’s true: a unified progressive party for the twenty-first century would be your party, and you could do what you want, as good Canadian—and global—citizens.
With faith and hope,
Your Generation X brother.
Peter Nicoll is a political sociologist with the Libdemo Movement.