Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

82% of Canadians would rather work than retire: poll

with 14 comments

CBC News

I am not surprised. The information comes from Royal Bank and is part of the spring RRSP campaign. What is important is that for most of us, work defines who we are. “I am an economist” sounds so much better to me than “I am retired”.

For me, this is my work. Blogging is only part of it. Once upon a time I used to be paid to try and implement the Livable Region Strategic Plan. Somehow that ceased to be the most important thing my employer was supposed to do. Not that anybody back then bothered to change the legislation – or even the rhetoric. When I came to BC I had not even heard of the LRSP. I remember looking at Transport 2021 and wondering where the new freeways were going to be. It took me quite a while to start to understand the concept of “liveability”. Indeed, I remember very clearly being invited to help organise a conference on “sustainable transportation”, and simply not being able to decode what to me was a meaningless catch phrase.

Trouble is, once I began to see what it was supposed be about I was struck by the dissonance between what we said we were doing and what we were actually doing. Which, truth be told, was not a whole hell of a lot really. Lack of available funding being a terrific all purpose explanation. But now there seems to be a lot of money on the table. $11bn for Gateway apparently. $14bn for transit (which turns out to be quite a bit less).  But still, not chump change.

So now we are at a turning point. And this self appointed job seems to me to be the most important thing I can do. It gives me a feeling of some worth. What do retired people do? Can you think of yourself sitting back and saying, “My work is done here”? I suppose if I had been working on turning out widgets I could have stepped away from that easily enough. But my work has always been about what kind of place I live in. Or what could be done to some other place to make it work better. And frankly, as a transportation economist, I killed a lot more projects than got built, because there are some really nutty ideas out there. And often there is a charismatic politician (or, worse, one who thinks [s]he is) promoting some scheme [s]he dreamt up in the bath. Sadly we have had more than one of those inflicted on us in recent years. And you would have thought by now that we would have become a tad more sceptical of mega projects in general and transportation mega projects in particular. But, as someone observed, the price of not understanding history is to repeat it. And every time you do that, the price goes up.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 29, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Posted in personal thoughts

14 Responses

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  1. I think it is important for people to continue working. My Mom could have retired three years ago and she still is working full time (she is a professor). There is even some non-paid work that needs to be done, for sure.


    January 29, 2008 at 8:52 pm

  2. I’ve heard either of two consequences –
    (1) that the baby boomers clinging to their jobs will prevent the next generation from advancing, or
    (2) that an en masse retirement of baby boomers would mean shortages of workers from the less populated next generation.

    Ron C

    January 29, 2008 at 11:02 pm

  3. “I remember looking at Transport 2021 and wondering where the new freeways were going to be. It took me quite a while to start to understand the concept of “liveability” – indeed I remember very clearly being invited to help organise a conference on “sustainable transportation” and simply not being able to decode what to me was a meaningless catch phrase.”

    I don’t mean to be unduly pest-like, Stephen, but you must admit this is a most interesting reflection.

    Personally I believe that the Transport 2021 papers were driven by gross political considerations, the most obvious being a refusal to spend for fear of the political consequences of raising property taxes. That plan contained no cost-benefit work and could not have done so because there was no detailed project descriptions to analyze, and no alternatives. Route lines purporting to represent various roads or bus/train lines were spread across a map in broad brush strokes that were two miles wide. Transport 2021 talked a big line about GHGs and social costs of driving, but in the end nothing was done, because that was the real plan all along. Do nothing.

    At a meeting in Maple Ridge a couple of months ago to update the LRSP Johnny Carline was asked what happened to the last one. His answer was that senior governments didn’t come through with big dollars as the GVRD had hoped, so things didn’t get done. I thought that was about as close as a public servant could come to saying, “Our plan passed the buck upstairs and they dodged the pass”.

    Budd Campbell

    January 30, 2008 at 8:25 am

  4. Ron C nails it.

    This is symptomatic of the privileged. Once you’ve climbed the ladder to the roof, make sure to kick it out under you.
    So now we have baby boomers who got cheap education, cheap homes and a job simply by walking out the university door clogging up the system. They changed the rules for just about every social service available (UI/EI, welfare, student loans, etc etc etc) once the last of them was over the line and didn’t need to lean on it any more.

    If you wonder why nothing changes it’s because the same goofs that have been towing the company line for so long simply have no concept of sharing. So we’ll have promising immigrants leaving because fat assed Henry can’t grasp the idea that maybe he could contribute to his *COMMUNITY* by volunteering instead of taking a 2 hour lunch on his $90,000 dollar salary. We’ll have boatloads of graduates with nothing better to do than sling coffee because “Wide Load” Mary just doesn’t “feel like” retiring quite yet and of course, like every other “right” they’ve trampled over in their greed quest, they’ve tossed the retirement age in the bin.

    There is *NO* good reason for anyone who has had their turn at the wheel for 40 years to stay on the job past retirement age. ABSOLUTELY ZERO.
    If, for whatever reason, they can’t seem to move on, they could at least have the grace and consideration to utilize their skills as mentors in their community. UNPAID.
    But most won’t.

    and they won’t because…
    Baby Boomers are scumbags.


    January 31, 2008 at 3:01 am

  5. The rules for social welfare were changed by right wing politicians who did not represent even a majority of the electorate, let alone the majority of those who were born after the second world war.

    Like all generalisations and stereotypes, yours are misleading and unhelpful.

    I think you meant “toe the line” but I will let it stand

    Stephen Rees

    January 31, 2008 at 8:46 am

  6. The excuses available to the ignorant invariably outnumber those available to the stupid.
    “It’s not our fault” being far and away the first response.

    You are a baby boomer – so you cannot fathom the pain and suffering your generation has inflicted by its ignorance on those coming up.
    Someone somewhere voted for Reagan, Thatcher, Mulroney et al.
    Boomers did.
    Those are indusputable facts Mr Rees.
    George Bush is a confirmed dumbass, but 59 million Americans still voted for him. That’s not a sweeping generalization – it’s an indictment of rampant, largely “Baby Boomer” idiocy
    Maybe you did vote for these assholes and maybe you didn’t and maybe; just maybe, you are so completely immersed in your own concerns you’ve failed to appreciate the world *YOUR* generation left behind.
    It’s not a sweeping generalization that YOUR generation did NOTHING to make issues about affordable education relevant. I dont hear howls of protest from your generation about not having to retire because – like every other piece of crap legislation in the Boomers time, it benefits them and makes others pay for it.
    You don’t take issue with the observation that fattened pigs in thre trough continue to suck up the choice bits while others (immigrants and new grads) are forced to sit on the sidelines.
    I’m sorry the truth hurts Steven, but maybe you sould reread Monbiots quote on his web page; you know the one…
    Baby Boomers are the most arrogant, ignorant, selfish pigs to have ever inhabited this planet.They thought nothing of eating their young – and they’re still doing it.
    And how exactly is noting this fact “unhelpful”?

    PS: don’t get too smarmy over typos on my part, you have your share too…


    January 31, 2008 at 3:17 pm

  7. OK Mr Shift

    Yes I make typos. I go back and correct a lot too.

    I spell my name Stephen. I am Canadian. This blog is by and large not too concerned about US politics – but it does not stop me from commenting elsewhere.

    And I will no more apologise for my birthdate than my ethnicity and both are completely irrelevant to this discussion.

    You have revealed yourself to be a troll. You wish to take over the discussion and make it about your concerns, and this you will not be permitted to do here.

    If you wish to continue this debate in this fashion I suggest you start your own blog. They are free and very easy to do. Further intemperate outbursts such as the one above will simply be deleted.

    Stephen Rees

    January 31, 2008 at 3:37 pm

  8. No Stephen, it’s not so cut and dried.
    I’m sure you’d like to be the put upon and the oppressed but you’re not.
    That poll reveals nothing so much as brain dead morons clinging to their “same old same old” instead of being adventurous and courageous and venturing out into their communities to make them better.
    You can spin it however you see fit, but that’s not how many of us on the tail end see it.

    John Ralston Saul notes that those reaching retirement age have little to do largely because they’ve done nothing but work. They know nothing of their communities because they frankly don’t gve a shit other than what the potential resale value of their house is. So the Faith Popcorn cocooning crowd has added little to their cities and will continue to add little as long as they insist on being tethered to the leash that bought them that McHome. It’s all about them and to hell with everything else.

    If you don’t understand or appreciate the frustration that new graduates or immigrants face on their uphill battle against the “entitled”, and the patently ridiculous lack of an enforced retirement, then say so.
    Peopl should be made to retire.
    If they want to continue contributing, then they should go vounteer – ideally in their communities and ideally with an eye towards making them better places to live.

    To push this as “trolling” – you should be ashamed of yourself.These are genuine and not inconsiderable truths Mr. Rees.


    February 2, 2008 at 3:13 am

  9. They are your truths, not mine.

    And this is my blog and not yours. And I am not at all sure I want to argue about this – I feel like I am being dragged into an argument I do not want to engage in. That is as good a definition of trolling as any.

    To assign views to people – or to chacterise them, as you have, simply on an arbitrary set of dates – is as offensive as racism or sexism. Dismissing the views and concerns of people between the age of say 55 to 65 is just as bad as referring to people as “yids”. And I have heard this before: not so long ago all the ills of the world – or at least our part of it – was blamed on “yuppies” (another demographers’ shorthand). There is much nasty sniping in Britain at present aimed at “chavs”. All arbitrary and stereotypical.

    When you label someone, you see the stereotype not the person. That is the cause of bigotry. And worse. You presume that you know me and what I think based solely on my age. But you could not be more wrong. And I resent the fact that you try to force me to defend myself against crimes which I have not committed but which you blame on my generation.

    I think you probably would behave like this in my drawing room, and it would get you an invitation to leave, because it is rude. But I think it is also important that you think about what it means to be human, and what we mean by human rights. And why there is legislation against discrimination against people on many grounds and one of them is age.

    You know nothing of the oppression I have experienced. (JRS is a boomer too, by the way, not that it matters.) There is a lot wrong with the world. But there is one thing older people do have that young people do not and that is experience. Which is just as valuable as enthusiasm, and eagerness to try something new. But the worst feature that I have found in my life has been the readiness of some to dismiss groups of their fellow human beings as worthless, based simply on some prejudice about age … or colour or gender or disability or religion and so on – all the many and varied versions of chauvinism.

    Everyone must be treated equally. Jobs must be filled based solely on ability – no other criterion should be permitted. If someone wishes to continue working beyond a certain age they should have that right – in exactly the same way that women now have the right to be doctors – or to continue teaching after they marry – or now that Sikhs have the right to be a police officer and wear a turban, or someone in a wheelchair has the right to be seen as a person and not as a disability.

    I am very sad indeed that you do not appear to understand this simple truth. I thought it was self evident.

    Stephen Rees

    February 2, 2008 at 6:35 am

  10. What you’ve failed to address are the inequities that an entire generation have foisted onto the one behind it. And when I say inequities, I mean social, cultural and environmental ones.
    Why was retirement for a 65 year old okay in 1986, but now it’s not?
    Because those who were 40 something saw it as an automatic rise in the hierarchy.
    And to what demographic did those 40 somethings belong in 1986?
    Baby Boomers.
    Why was UI (now EI) so readily available to the unemployed in 1983 but now requires onerous “proofs”?
    Because most of the people who had traversed the jobs of high turnover had found their”careers” in middle management and knew that keeping their mouth shut and their heads down was all they had to do. And who were these people?
    Baby Boomers.

    It is disingenious to suggest that some Baby Boomers rights trump an immigrant or a new grad simply because they “were there first”. Or is that the argument you’re suggesting – because you haven’t actually addressed the demonstrable fact that a democracy enforces the tyranny of the majority.
    To deny that our social systems have changed irrevocably for the worse for those most in need of them since Baby Boomers came along is so plainly and obviously wrong it beggars belief.
    You can slag me all you like Mr Rees – the facts speak for themselves.
    In a democracy, the population is ultimately responsible for the policies of the ruling government.
    Full stop.
    And the result of the narrow minded, selfish greedy Baby Boomers is “MORE FOR ME” – and screw the rest.
    Baby Boomers eat their young.
    What I maintain is that if you’ve been working 40 odd years and haven’t got a clue what to do outside of continuing your efforts to enrich other people monetarily- you’re a loser. In every conceivable connotation. I have and take no issue with elderly people volunteering to mentor or participate in their communities – however large they envision it.
    What I do NOT agree with is the exercise of rights based upon some nebulous concept of “having earned it”. Isn’t this the generation that threw every part of “competition” and “flexibility” at the working class? Weren’t they participating in that rigourous weeding out of the unworthy and welfare bums? Listen to NW98 Stven.
    Those are the Boomers talking.
    And their ugly, spiteful, ignorant hypocrits.
    Maybe it’s time they shut their pie holes and practiced a bit of what they’ve been preaching to those behind them on that Ladder…


    February 3, 2008 at 4:04 pm

  11. > Why was retirement for a 65 year old okay in 1986, but now it’s not?

    Who said it was okay in 1986? Not me.

    > Why was UI (now EI) so readily available to the unemployed in 1983 but now requires onerous “proofs”?

    Becuase the elected government of the day changed the law. That my ignorant young friend is what is called here “democracy” – doesn’t make it right, or just, but it is legal. And I didn’t vote for them but I still have to obey the law. Doesn’t mean I like it, though, does it.

    > It is disingenous to suggest that some Baby Boomers rights trump an immigrant or a new grad simply because they “were there first”.

    It would be – that is why I didn’t.

    > a democracy enforces the tyranny of the majority.

    Which of course is so much better than the tyranny of a minority or an individual. Not perfect I grant you, but the least worst system we have yet to devise. (Not my words, Winston Spencer Churchill actually)

    Who is NW98? Some radio chat show I suppose, no I don’t think so. I prefer to listen to classical music on my radio.

    Who, come to that is Stven?

    I don’t know about ugly but you certainly fit the bill for spiteful. And I am afraid your hate is going to hurt you very badly – and probably much more than the people you rage so impotently about.

    This message was actually trapped by Akismet. I de-spammed you. I cannot imagine why. So here is your final warning. Either clean up your act or leave. Otherwise you will be left to the mercy of Akismet.

    Just one further thought for you. If that was a repesentative sample survey, properly weighted by age and sex, then the 82% must include a lot of people who are not “boomers”.

    Stephen Rees

    February 3, 2008 at 5:18 pm

  12. This has been interesting to read, if a little uncomfortable as you both seem angry. I’m 58, I stopped working full-time a few years ago and it isn’t because I have a pot of money. I have had to cut back on living expenses. But I believe we ought to have more free time not less. Work if fine, many thrive on it and for many it is a large part of their identity. For others, it provides social contact they might not have otherwise. But most work because they must.
    Through my teens and adulthood there was the promise of an earlier legal retirement age, we wouldn’t have to work as long. This was supposed to be fairer, to be good for us. When I learned the mandatory retirement age was to be abolished I was flabbergasted.
    There is no substitute for experience but it will be hard for those wanting to enter the workforce to gain experience if those already working don’t make way for them.
    Absolutely, volunteer your time or start a business if you want to work until you drop. But unless you are filling an indispensable role step aside when you get to 65 or sooner if you like.
    The idea of collecting a wage after 65 while collecting CPP bothers me. I hope it all gets clawed back in taxes but I’m sure it doesn’t.
    I have to agree with quikShift, us so called Boomers have been the problem. We have a lot to answer for.


    February 3, 2008 at 5:57 pm

  13. Wayne, I am sorry that you have been made to feel both uncomfortable and guilty.

    I have tried not be angry – and indeed I feel I have extended this person too much space and time.

    I too had to stop working long before retirement age – and find new ways to use my talents. I too have found that it is possible to live a full and useful life even if you no longer bring home a large salary. But that was not easy or comfortable.

    I think immigrants tend to have a harder time than young people who have been schooled here, for they do not have Canadian experience, which so many employers insist on, quite needlessly in my view. And the role of professional bodies in refusing to acknowledge other countries’ educational and professional qualifications is a disgrace especially when people were recruited in their home countries by the Canadian government and when they get here find the self regulating professions will not let them work in their field. This results in a lot of underemployment and very poor service in some sectors – especially health care and engineering, both of which are desperate for qualified people.

    If you do not retire at 65 and still collect CPP, it will of course be taxed – but not “clawed back”. Moreover, CPP is a contributory scheme – so the people drawing it have paid into it so they are entitled to receive payment.

    Oddly enough, I thought one of the arguments that convinced government to change was not the absolute human rights case I made, but the economic one. The younger generations, it was calculated, could not afford to support the boomers if they all stopped working once they got to 65. The pensions would not be getting enough income to support the pensioners. This is a weakness of a “pay as you go” as opposed to a funded scheme. In fact in the case of private pensions, when markets were buoyant, many companies got greedy and took payment holidays – or simply raided the pension fund for their investment needs. Not a few victims of company pension schemes have found that the promised pensions are smaller or non existent due to corporate failures.

    Delaying the day when retirees start drawing pensions helps funded schemes. I have two pensions I am entitled to, but do not draw either. If I die soon I will have lost out – but if I live longer than the actuaries calculate my eventual annual payments being higher may mean I make more overall. It’s a gamble, pure and simple. And as usual the odds are stacked in favour of the house.

    When I was doing public consultations over the vehicle levy I found the older people the most angry. And when I sat and listened to them carefully, the biggest cause of their distress was that they had miscalculated how long they would live. In once case, a man had taken a higher rate of pension payment which would only last ten years. He did not expect to live until he was 75 – and now he was over 80 and did not have much to live on.

    We do not have a lot to answer for – because we no more chose to be born than any other generation. Demographics are supposed to be a study to help us understand society not create artificial social divisions – we have enough of those already, heaven knows.

    We also have not had good government, on the whole. The rise of the neoliberal right has meant governments have worked for a corporate agenda, and people have not done as well as corporations. And none of that wealth trickled down. Young people are as much victims of that system as anyone else: we all got screwed. Fighting among ourselves only strengthens the hand of those already doing far too well by exploiting our divisions.

    Stephen Rees

    February 3, 2008 at 6:54 pm

  14. Thanks for your reply Stephen. I understand you disagree but my feeling is that recent generations are responsible for our present predicament and that is why I say we have much to answer for. If we had we bad government, we elected them.
    If I were in my 20’s and frustrated trying to find employment in my chosen field I would resent those over 65 who decided not to retire and the gov’t that made it possible.
    You may be correct in suggesting the decision to abolish mandatory retirement may be an attempt to prop up CPP. I hope not.
    To clear up one point, I stopped working full-time by choice. I was tired of working 40 hours a week.
    That’s all I want to contribute to the topic. My reason for subscribing to your blog is to stay informed on transit issues in the lower mainland. I appreciate the effort you are putting into this site.


    February 3, 2008 at 8:53 pm

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