The number of seniors in Canada is now larger than the number of children for the first time ever, according to the latest Statistics Canada data from the 2016 census.
The former chief economic analyst at the agency says the aging trend presents serious implications for the economy that need to be addressed by the federal government.
“We’re basically doing everything wrong,” Philip Cross, senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, said in an interview with BNN. “We’re not raising our retirement age, we’re not putting money in a piggy bank, and we’re presenting quite a large bill to the millennials.”
“We’re going to be spending more on older people, they’re going to be consuming [Guaranteed Income Supplement] and [Old Age Security], and a lot more health care,” he said. “We know that spending is going to go up and that we’re going to be running large deficits as a result, so we should be setting aside money now to be building up savings.”
But Cross said despite knowing what needs to be done, the government is doing the exact opposite, and running large deficits at both the federal and provincial levels will leave a hefty bill to younger Canadians 20 to 30 years from now.
“We could have been raising our retirement age. The previous government started to do that, but this government withdrew it,” he said.
Although Cross believes we’re not past the point of no return when it comes to being prepared for this demographic shift, he’s shocked at how unready and unwilling we really are.
“The real surprise isn’t that we’re aging. It’s that we continue to be so unprepared as a society for what is so obvious when you walk down the street. You can tell we’re an older society than we were 30 or 40 years ago,” Cross said. “Yet we seem to be completely at a loss as to what to do about it.”