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Little Brexits All Over Canada

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Like many Canadians, I'm bathing in smugness over Great Britain's vote to leave the European Union (EU).

Brexit supporters are said to be xenophobic, ignorant and short-sighted, among other things. It's as if Canadians would never make such a bad decision, the worldly people we think we are.

A closer look at how Canadians shut down so many job opportunities for young people is certainly a common denominator with how the vote split in Great Britain. Younger people who still have their careers ahead of them voted to stay in the EU. The older population tended to vote to Brexit.

According to Politico Europe, the ratio of votes to leave the EU steps up consistently with the age of the voters. Seventy-five per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted to remain. For those over 65 years of age, the ratio is reversed with about 60 per cent voting to leave.

I suspect that if we, Canada, help a vote on economic opportunities for young people, the vote would also skew in a similar fashion. Cynical you say?

I'm lucky enough to own two properties (city mouse, country mouse) and I'm within viewing distance of a comfortable retirement. That makes me a typical entitled Baby Boomer--a demographic that is increasingly populating rural Ontario where my country mouse self spends his time. Many of my boomer mates are now living off the wealth of a lifetime of employment and property values. That is all good.

What is not good is that many of my boom brothers and sisters are acting very Brexit-like in fighting anything that smells of change in their comfortable retirement communities, even when the change is benign and will bring economic opportunities to young families.

Odious examples include pressuring the county and town councils to shut down the development of tourism-friendly offerings like sidewalk patios, entertainment at local wineries and farms, new residential development, hotels, resorts and other destination attractions.

It's like they're saying, "We have arrived so time must now stand still...unless I don't like what is standing still...and even if standing kills jobs, now that I don't need one." Indeed, we are Brexiting into our own cocoons and damn the rest. On the surface the anti-EU vote was a vote for change, but in reality is was a choice to go back to the good old days.

Brexit reinforced the message to young people that they don't count and so does the kind of anti-job NIMBYism we see everyday across Canada. Bernie Sanders' remarkable showing in the United States Democratic nomination race is a very mild foreshadowing of what to expect. Logically, a socialist should not have won so much support in free enterprise USA. But a better logic holds that if we take away hope for good long-term employment, the dream of home ownership and comfortable retirement, then the old rules break down.

The post Second World War generation and we boomers are playing Marie Antoinette. The abolishment of our monarchy could be upon us.

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