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Opinion: Aging Is Major Issue

Published: October 31, 2016

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Many of you have heard me talk using my population pyramids and you have heard various chairs and panelists saying oh no, he’s going to babble about it again.

Reality is sometimes something a lot of people want to avoid hearing about. Indeed, I had clients dodge the subject, a subject I often much later learned was because they and some of their advisors pooh-poohed the whole notion and the client person had told management “not to worry.”

A recent article in the National Post, ‘Trump points finger at Canadian health care, but misunderstands the real danger,’ quoted the parliamentary budget office’s annual fiscal sustainability report with quotes including:

  • Population aging and escalating healthcare costs [will] result in steadily deteriorating finances
  • Provinces cannot meet the challenges of population aging under current policy

 

So population aging is a major issue. The article continued, “rising costs will put the provinces’ debt loads on an ‘unsustainable’ trajectory.”

I am fortunate to have had as one of my mentors, the late David Meynell, an executive compensation consultant, for many of my years at Mercer. As an up-and-coming lawyer at Tory's, Meynell sat in on the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s Big Blue Machine think-tanks frequently chaired by William Davis, a man whose history you know. At those meetings, the Davis social agenda was totally formed around demographics and you saw, or participated in, his expansion of the school system including the creation of community colleges and expanding the number of universities.

Meynell also shared with me his memories of the Big Blue Machine’s solutions at the other end of the spectrum brought about by declining enrolment and an abundance of seniors, but the time frame was way too far into the future to develop policies. The point was simply that demographics should shape government policy and that with demographics, you should have a good sense of outcomes 40 to 60 to 80 years into the future.

If you recall the motivation that drove Dr. David Foot to write ‘Boom, Bust and Echo,’it was that marketing guru Faith Popcorn wasn’t a guru, just lucky and timely. Foot, when he talked to the graduates of my university at the King Edward Hotel decades ago, pointed out the flaws in Faith’s pronouncements and laid out his demographically based marketing campaign.

What’s the expression? Figures don’t lie and liars can’t figure. Demographics are the figures of our past, our present, and our future. Demographics are boring, have no sales sizzle, and are a trap for the non-believers.

Fred Holmes is an employee benefits consultant.

 

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