Millennials are fleeing Canada's big cities as Big Government coddles boomers
In the wild, filial cannibalism is an evolutionary quirk that’s actually a form of tough love. When faced with infection or overpopulation, fish, insects, and birds have been known to kill and consume some of their children so the rest may live.
In Canada, filial cannibalism is economic policy. Baby boomers gorge themselves on millennials’ futures, growing fat on wealth and stolen opportunity. However, Canada didn’t become the Hannibal of nations because of tough love. No, our savagery is the result of generational gluttony and a misguided belief that we’re so spectacularly special, one would have to be an idiot to leave.
But younger people are leaving, in droves. Faced with delusional elders who want to eat them for sport, millennials are doing what any rational person would do: get the hell out of Dodge.
A brain drain is underway, which is unambiguously bad news for the country’s future economic and cultural prospects. The good news is stopping millennial brain drain doesn’t require big new government programs or massive spending. Contrary to popular opinion, younger people aren’t looking for handouts or entitlements. Millennials just want Canadian governments to stop actively working against their interests. Simply put: get out of their way.
In the third quarter of 2020, Canada saw net migration go negative for the first time since 1971. The pattern continued in the year’s fourth quarter, with more people leaving the country than entering it. Clearly this data is impacted by COVID border closures, but drilling down on provincial migration data shows evidence of millennial flight even prior to the pandemic. The number of residents leaving Toronto and the GTA doubled between 2017 and 2019. A February analysis of Statistics Canada data from Ryerson University attributed this dramatic spike to Gen Z and millennials. Data for Montreal and Vancouver tells a similar story. Meanwhile, a 2018 study by Brock University and the University of Toronto found a staggering 65 per cent of Canadian software engineering students leave the country after graduation, along with about 30 per cent of grads in other STEM fields.
There’s a reason most countries actively recruit young people rather than threaten to consume them whole until they flee for cover. Young professionals aren’t just crucial to the tax base; they’re the spenders we need to rebuild everything from restaurants to concert halls post-COVID. They’re the entrepreneurs we rely on to create new jobs, the innovators we tap for big new ideas, and the creatives that drive culture.
Yet no one can blame millennials for not seeing a future here. They’ve been patient, but quite frankly, they’re not so young anymore and need to get on with their lives. The supposedly once-in-a-life-time Great Recession struck just as they entered their adult years, but Canada never fully recovered. Boomer wealth rebounded, but stable employment and good wages didn’t return for many young professionals. The country’s prescribed remedy for this? In 2014, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz told unemployed youth living in their parents’ basements to look for unpaid work. He actually suggested, more than once, that millennials view illegal unpaid internships as “opportunities.”
Instead, millennials started their own companies in record numbers, reviving Canadian entrepreneurship for the first time since the early 1980s. This wasn’t easy. Healthy competition is crucial for innovation, but it’s something Canada lacks in many sectors in favour of state-sponsored monopolies. From the telecom industry to airlines and alcohol, we create policy that entrenches and enriches the status quo. This not only makes it more difficult for new ventures to grow, it results in wage stagnation so pervasive the concept of a “raise” is a myth among many young professionals.
When COVID hit, millennials’ small businesses went on life support. In response, many provincial governments unfairly shuttered them while leaving big businesses open for record profits. Monopolistic corporations received billions in government subsidies on top of their usual government subsidies while most support for entrepreneurs came in the form of loans that had to be paid back.
Throughout this entire period, Canadian home prices soared to such levels that even the IMF became concerned. At first, Canada denied there was a problem and lectured millennials to save more and stop buying avocado toast. Then, they conceded there might be a problem, but said anyone concerned with foreign influence in the market was xenophobic. Finally, this month, MP Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary for housing, admitted Canada built a housing market that’s better for foreign investors than local buyers. However, after a year that saw house prices skyrocket by 30 to 40 per cent, he wouldn’t tolerate a drop of even 10 per cent.
This commitment to preserve overinflated boomer assets to the detriment of everyone else was followed by a federal budget that all but ignored the housing crisis. You know what the federal budget did include though? Huge increases for spending on boomers, already the wealthiest generation in history. By 2025, the price tag to support seniors’ retirements will be almost triple that of the proposed new child care plan. This new money isn’t even aimed at low-income boomers; it’s a blanket generational handout.
It’s clear Canadian millennials are in a toxic relationship with their own country. Sure, sometimes things don’t work out. The best laid plans can fail. However, the dismal state of millennial life in Canada isn’t because “things just didn’t work out.” They’re victims of predatory policy, not circumstance.
Stop artificially propping up house prices. Stop pushing policies that favour foreign investors over young Canadian workers. Stop giving giant subsidies to monopolistic corporations that stymie innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, and wage growth (then turn around and lay young workers off). Stop reckless spending that’s tantamount to intergenerational theft, committing millennials and Gen Z to paying off debt for decades to come.
Millennials may get a bad rep for not “adulting,” but it’s boomers who are being coddled by government overreach. If Canada wants a bright future, it needs to stop feasting on its young and give them the freedom to succeed.