Student debt is a major concern on many students’ minds, but how often do you give a thought towards national debt? Student-run organization Generation Screwed arrived on campus to address the growing concern towards national debt Sept. 15.
Generation Screwed set up a large display in the Arts Quad, which calculated Canada’s total debt and debt per person. It is currently over $630 billion and over $17,500, respectively. The appearance was part of the 2016 Debt Clock Campus Tour around Quebec and Ontario universities.
“Generation Screwed is kind of an interesting organization,” said Heather Bone, University of Waterloo’s Generation Screwed campus co-ordinator and UW student. “It’s a movement of young people that are concerned about their future, because they see it being harmed by the national debt and unfunded liabilities, commitments the government has made where they have no idea where the money’s coming from. We’re concerned because we think it might be us paying for it in the future through higher taxes, and we’re concerned that the government really hasn’t made a whole lot of effort to try to deal with this impending issue.”
Bone stated that Generation Screwed is a non-partisan group, with the goal of having Canadian governments prioritize a balanced budget. Generation Screwed aims to make the public concerned over the matter, so that in turn the government will take notice.
The tour ran from Sept. 7 to 16, though it began with a rough start. At Generation Screwed’s first stop, Université Laval, they were removed from the campus due to unsanctioned activism after they tried to set up in the campus parking lot.
“My understanding is we applied to set up on the university and we were denied that application, so we bought parking spots and we set up there, and we were kicked out for unsanctioned activism. Obviously, we see this as a big problem with free speech, and the fact that students can’t even raise their voice on their own university is kind of sad to us,” Bone said on the matter.
The tour had far less problems when it arrived on the UW campus, and Bone felt positively about the experience.
“[The debt clock] worked really well because many students were walking by and they were really shocked about it, and they were really concerned how big that was. It’s kind of a really in-your-face thing,” Bone said. “I think it was a really interesting way to get a conversation going. Not everyone agreed with our perspective that we need to balance the budgets, but I think talking with people, there was some common ground to be met.”
Speaking about the student reception, Bone said, “A lot of people came up to us and there was some kind of debate and they were curious about our movement and wanting to ask more. They would say ‘what specifically would you want to see done to balance the budget?’ and we would have a conversation about that. A lot of the responses were just asking about the movement. We found a lot of supporters too, people who’d say, ‘this is ridiculous and we need to do something about that.’ It was a nice mix, but I think most people realized that it was really big, most people were shocked by that.”
Bone encouraged students unaware about the national debt to find out more about the issue, and to check out UW’s branch of Generation Screwed for more information and future events.