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Kids to Justin Trudeau: Your Websites Are not Lit

Won’t somebody please think of the children?
Source image, Wikipedia Commons

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce: the kids are not alright. We are drowning in debt and there are no jobs and it's too expensive to live anywhere besides your childhood bedroom. Fortunately, Justin Trudeau has heard our wailing and gnashing of teeth and it has touched his heart.

There is no doubt that the man cares deeply for the youth. Trudeau takes the youth very seriously, which is why he took it upon himself to not just be the prime minister but also the minister responsible for Youth. At 45, he is our youngest prime minister (Joe Clark's 10-second tenure doesn't count), and his aristocratic upbringing in the 1970s and 80s as part of Canada's most famous family makes him especially relatable to the teens and tweens of today facing precarious employment, inaccessible housing, growing debt, and the complete collapse of even the pretense of social mobility in a rigidly unequal world. Everyone knows that the most meaningful socio-economic metric today is the year you happened to be born, not where your race or gender or orientation or geographical location places you in the process of the production and distribution of Canada's wealth. Pay no attention to the class society behind the curtain!


It's good for brand consistency that Trudeau is more smoke than fire on youth issues, even if it sort of sucks for the constituency involved. While the Liberals have eased grant access and loan repayments for low-income students and graduates, they also promised to create 40,000 new jobs for young people every year and wound up delivering net total of 9000 part-time jobs in 2016. Easier access to university only goes so far if there is no employment waiting on the other side. But it's a tough economy, and the man is doing his best.

Or maybe not, as it turns out. Research commissioned by the federal government about their youth outreach strategy has revealed that they don't really have one, and that the people they're trying to reach feel as alienated from the state as ever. Government websites are roundly panned as worthless. The layouts are baroque and often indecipherable, and useful information is usually either missing or buried so deep under a labyrinth of links and jargon that it's difficult to know why they're paying for the bandwidth at all.

The information actually there, meanwhile, is offensively out of touch. Most people surveyed bristle at the term "Millennial," which isn't surprising given the way The Discourse has thoroughly warped what is just a demographic label into a shorthand for whiny, narcissistic, avocado-gorging layabouts. Who knew the vastly stratified group of people born between 1980 and 2000 would resent being caricatured as the Socially-Anxious Rich Kids of Instagram? The "youth are our future" brigade can't even patronize the kids properly.

It's strange that such a finely stage-managed government would flub a focus group this bad, particularly since the PMO established a Youth Advisory Council last year to figure out how to address these particular problems to this particular group. Unless, of course, the PMO isn't taking the Advisory Council seriously, in the same way that the Liberals failed to take the democratic reform committee seriously by ignoring everything it recommended that was at odds with the government's preordained agenda.

In all honesty, there is nothing even exciting or scandalous in revealing that the Liberals are treating the youth portfolio as cynically as they're treating everything else in their charge, because that's just how the whole operation works now. Everything is song and dance and extravagant sock collections and delicately manicured "organic" photo ops. Youth are Canada's future, and that future is abyssal, and since a better world is too much work it's good to get the kids used to political disappointment early and often.

"Expect nothing, deserve less" is a lesson that will help young people through the rest of their lives grinding out meagre wages at precarious jobs that they then pay into government programs that deliver progressively fewer benefits. Damn the focus groups—those deadening government websites are doing a bang-up job.

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