National Debt Clock Tour Raises Awareness
When considering students and debt, most tend to think about student loans. However, members of one student organization tend to think more of the big picture; they see students as future taxpayers who will one day inherit the governmental debts from current and previous generations. And this group is pulling out all the stops to make sure that other students see with their own eyes the dire state of government finances across Canada.
Generation Screwed is a non-partisan student group that operates on 27 university campuses across Canada. Working as an initiative of the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation (CTF), they argue that debts, deficits, and wasteful spending today will all have to be paid off later by coming generations with interest. These advocates for fiscal responsibility stress that governments are spending away their futures.
To convince others of this rallying cry for fiscal prudence, Generation Screwed launched the Generation Screwed Debt Clock Tour across several university campuses. On this tour that ended last Friday, they partnered with the CTF to bring the “National Debt Clock,” to campuses in Quebec and Ontario.
Leading this campaign was Aaron Gunn, the CTF’s Director of Special Projects and the Executive Director of Generation Screwed. According to Gunn, the purpose of the tour was to “…raise awareness to students who don’t realize how big of a burden they’re being left by politicians spending money out of control.”
The tour functioned by bringing the debt clock to university campuses where local Generation Screwed coordinators showcased the size and the real-time increase in the federal (or their province’s) debt. This put the debt situation into context for students who may not otherwise be aware of the size and gravity of the situation.
And, for the most part, the reception from students was stellar. “Lots of people [stop] to take pictures and ask questions,” said Gunn. “Putting debt into context and showcasing how big of an issue it really is has resonated with students from all sorts of backgrounds and disciplines.”
One notable example of this kind of success was found at McGill University. There, the debt clock was displayed prominently on campus to raise awareness and draw interest. “We’ve seen a great response from students who are all super interested and excited to learn more about the problem,” said McGill Generation Screwed Coordinator, Portia Proctor.
However, the debt clock tour didn’t go off without a hitch at all of the campuses. When the tour reached Université Laval in Quebec city, the campus security deemed the event “unsanctioned activism.” Even though Gunn and Generation Screwed Coordinator Renaud Brossard paid for the parking spots that they occupied, their efforts to inform students about the massive debt were derailed by the university, and they were forced to leave campus.
“The saddest thing about Université Laval’s behaviour is that they have contradicted their university’s very own values,” said Brossard. “They see individual and collective engagement as one of their pillars, yet crackdown on student engagement.”
Brossard optimistically stressed that the message of Generation Screwed resonates strongly with students. “A tour like this one really helps with getting students engaged about this issue. The numbers on the debt clock go up so fast that it’s almost impossible not to feel compelled to take action.”
More than just informing students about the debt, the tour represented an opportunity to highlight the freedom of expression on campus. While these academic institutions should be places for discussions, particularly discussions about topics such as the debt, it is clear that this ideal has been eroded over the years.
Brett Byers-Lane, University of Ottawa Generation Screwed Campus Coordinator
The Prince Arthur Herald
Photo Credit: Twitter, @GenScrewedCdn