Hope for the present and the future in 2019

MLA Doug Donaldson on the next wave of adults, generation Z, and our future.

The New Year is upon us – 2019 is here.

It reminds me that those who were born in the year of the Y2K scare are already voting, have full-time jobs or are combining work with further schooling and, yes, can legally go for drink in a pub as 2019 unfolds.

Those born in 2000 are part of what is being called Generation Z and this also makes me think of something else associated with a New Year – hope.

Generation Z is loosely defined as those born 1995-2005. They make up a significant part of the Canadian population at about 18 per cent and an even bigger percent in the US at nearly 26 per cent. Representing such a significant block of the population means Gen Z is being viewed with interest by cultural analysts.

This is a generation who grew up fully in technology – Facebook became really widespread in about 2008 and the iPhone was first released that year as well. In the US, 92 per cent of Gen Z’ers have some kind of digital footprint in social media. It’s pointed out they’ve also grown up in North America with some key events: the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the 2008 recession and the shooting February 2018 at a school in Parkland, Florida that killed 17.

Compared to recent previous generations they are said to be more social justice minded, more dependent on technology and more frugal and less brand-conscious. These broad generational characteristics need to be taken with a grain of salt but a couple of specific traits struck me as we begin another year as government in BC. A Gen Z’er described two “hurdles” she and her colleagues will face: “the environment and the polarization of political parties.”

Environmental concerns span age groups in B.C. but are especially relevant for a generation that will strongly influence society until well past 2050. There is still much work to be done, but I’m heartened by three actions already taken by our new government that address the present and the future. One is a new environmental assessment act strengthening environmental protection and increasing First Nations and public participation in assessing new projects. Another is Clean BC, our climate action plan leading to reduced GHG emissions making us a leader in Canada. And the third is our agreement with First Nations and industry phasing out open-net Atlantic salmon fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago and an overall policy addressing these types of operations on the entire coast.

While I believe these actions will help address one part of the “hurdle” described by Gen Z, the polarization of political parties is a huge challenge. In speaking to polarization, Gen Z identify themselves as social-justice minded and more inclusive. Although the move towards more polarization of political parties is spreading from the US to Canada at the federal level, the way we have collaborated in a minority government situation with the BC Greens definitely bucks this trend. We’ve reach resolution on an entire spectrum of issues both formally through our Confidence and Supply Agreement, and informally on a daily discussion basis, in a demonstration that cooperation can occur in the legislature. This has had numerous social outcomes for Stikine and the entire province: a massive housing initiative for First Nations, seniors, low income, homeless; building new public schools; and expanding health services in rural and urban areas are a few examples.

I look forward to more results from our government in 2019 that will address present challenges and give Generation Z hope for lasting change. Happy New Year to all.

–Doug Donaldson is MLA for Stikine and Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

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