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Harper Government sticks it to youth with budget 2012

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The federal government's budget gets a failing grade when it comes to intergenerational equity.

The government has outlined priorities with clear winners and clear losers, and the line drawn in the sand places the biggest burden on my generation. From changes to the pension plan, cuts to key youth training programs and no action on the climate front, the future as imagined by Stephen Harper is not looking that appealing to me.

First, let's look at the major winners in this budget -- Harper's friends in the resource extraction sector. Big corporations and polluters will reap the rewards of significantly weakened federal environmental laws, including changes to the environmental assessment process and cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The budget eliminates the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, but keeps in the over $1 billion in subsidies to the oil and gas industry.

As Marc Lee points out in his post on the budget, the word "climate" is only mentioned four times in the budget, and twice it is in reference to the investment climate. This is not a budget from a government that is taking the threat of climate change seriously; it is the budget of a government that is selling future generations down the drain.

Climate change is the biggest challenge that my generation will face. Our fossil fuel dependence is shifting our balance out of whack. In 50 years (when I will finally be close to retiring), our weather systems will be different and unpredictable, our crops less productive and water scarcer.

Instead of taking this threat seriously, the Conservatives have placed the oil and gas sector at the center of its decision making. Fast-tracked approvals for pipelines, ever expanding tar sands extraction and now a move to cripple environmental non-profits by threatening their charitable status.

Above and beyond hanging us out to dry on the climate front, Harper said a big "FU" to my generation on a number of fronts -- like the announcement to change the retirement age to 67. Not only will this mean that we have to work longer to access public pensions, but it also means baby boomers will have to stay in the work force longer -- effectively freezing youth out of jobs.

Youth ages 18-25 have the highest unemployment rate. We also have the highest debt load ever. The average student debt is $30,000, which would make a sizable down payment on a house.

With cutbacks and layoffs across the public and private sector, the number of good job opportunities available is less than ever. And now we face a workforce full of people who are forced to stay in their jobs longer.

I have started to notice a difference when doing hiring or applying for jobs. People my age are now competing with people approaching retirement age for good jobs. And in that competition we often lose out to people who have many more years of experience.

To top it off, the death by Conservative cuts of the popular Katimavik program and other job training programs for young people is the final straw in the intergenerational betrayal. These programs shaped many of my peers' lives, and offer valuable work experience for young people. But no, these programs are no more. No more work experience. No more cultural exchanges. Just crippling student debt, poor job prospects and a government that is ruling for the one per cent.

This is a war on youth. And we need to fight back.

Young people seem like easy targets because we don't vote. We are surrounded by a fog of social media and video games, and the Conservatives are counting on us not noticing, not paying attention and not waking up.

Well my friends, if we don't start taking our country back now, it will be a mess beyond repair by the time we inherit it. And I don't know about you, but I want a country that puts young people ahead of oil companies.

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