June 22, 2020

Is Your Generation Screwed? Lessons from Canada for Young and Old – with Aaron Gunn [Ep. 24]

Is Your Generation Screwed? Lessons from Canada for Young and Old – with Aaron Gunn [Ep. 24]

Canada. Our neighbor to the north. What can we learn from them? What are the similarities and differences between our two countries?  Are they fighting the same cultural battles we are facing in the USA? Why does it matter?

Listen as Linda interviews Aaron Gunn, one of Canada’s most listened to conservative voices. Aaron is an independent advocate for taxpayers and common sense and was the Founder and former Executive Director of Generation Screwed, an initiative launched to fight back against government debt and its impact on future generations. 

The fight for freedom is not limited to our borders, and the futures of young people around the world are in jeopardy as freedom is squandered in political correctness and economic chaos. What can you do about it? Listen today! 

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Linda: Thank you for joining us today. I'd like to welcome Aaron Gunn. Aaron Gunn is well known in Canada. He is an independent advocate for tax payers and common sense. With over 50 million video views and tens of thousands of followers, Aaron is one of British Columbia's and Canada's largest and most listened to political voices. His videos have targeted massive deficits, destructive energy policies, and the obsession with political correctness. Throughout, Aaron has demonstrated his commitment to lower taxes, less waste, and a stronger Canada.

His content, which he writes and produces himself, is funded by the generous contributions of ordinary tax-paying Canadians. His videos, which are filmed across the country, have together been shared hundreds of thousands of times.

Aaron has worked for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation or CTF, where he founded and became Executive Director of the Generation Screwed initiative. Fighting back against government debt and its impact on future generations. By the end of this tenure, at the CTF, Generation Screwed have achieved a considerable online following and established a physical presence at over 30 university campuses across Canada.

Aaron has a bachelor's degree of commerce from the University of Victoria. He served three years in the Canadian Army Reserves and operated his own company which he founded at age 15 for over 10 years. He calls Victoria, British Columbia, his home. So with that introduction, I welcome you again. Aaron, thank you for being with us today.

Aaron: It's great to be here to talk with you, Linda.

Linda: Yeah, well, thank you. People may wonder why I am having a Canadian on my broadcast when we focus so much on American policies and American economic policies. But as we are always watching our neighbors to the north and see what you are doing, there's just so many similarities - the massive debt, the socialist tendencies, and the overwhelming growth in this political correctness and the censoring culture. We call it Canceled Culture here. One, I want to tell you, thank you for being a bold voice. But also, I'd like to hear your history a little bit of how you got into fighting for lower taxes and less waste and sounder economic policies in Canada.

Aaron: Well, I think the big thing was not so much how I got into it, but despite my best efforts, couldn't stay away. So, I was always growing up interested in politics. And I think that's a little bit of just a weird personality quirk or something when you're in high school, going into university, most students are obviously out doing other things and I was always super interested politics, both Canadian and outside of Canada. And went to university for business and finance, but just kept getting dragged back into political campaigns, and I ended up getting my first job at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, as you mentioned previously. From there, I basically just threw in the towel and decided that the political bug was a lifetime infection for me, and just to do everything I could to make my country, my community a better place in that realm. That's what I've been doing and trying to do. Obviously, right now, as you pointed out, it's a little bit of a troubling political climate but it almost makes, I feel, what I'm doing more important than ever.

Linda: Very much so. Well, thank you for standing up for truth and freedom. Whatever country we are in, I think we all desire the same things. I think everyone across the globe, we desire freedom, we desire the opportunity to live safely, securely, the opportunity to prosper, to raise our families in the way we see fit. I know you and I agree that having a free-market economy and opportunities for liberty are the way to pave that path. Thank you for that.

You did mention that this political bug is something that just won't go away. That's true. I was infected with it early on as well. And no matter what, it always calls us back, doesn't it?

Aaron: 100%. Yeah.

Linda: Yeah, we just can't stay quiet when we see injustice. So, thank you for standing up for that. What was your business? You said you started a business at age 15. What was that?

Aaron: I actually had a business that ended up dovetailing nicely into what I do now. And that was a video production company. This is when me and a buddy were in university. We started a video production company. We had a little bit of a background in that. We saw a business opportunity and helped pay our way through school with that, and it was what basically our summer job was. That ended up working out well, because now I make political videos. I had the equipment, the skillset, and the political inclination, so they ended up actually working well together.

Linda: That's fantastic. I love hearing about teenage entrepreneurs. Some of my listeners have heard before that I homeschooled all my kids, and they all had jobs and even small businesses when they were young, like teenagers and even younger, and it was just a great experience. So, kudos to you for starting that business and then growing it and taking those skills into what you do now.

We have talked a little bit. Well, I'd like to let our listeners know too, how did I get to know you? Well, we've never met in person, although I see you on Zoom right now, but we've never met in person, but a mutual friend and a colleague that you have in Generation Screwed had reached out to me on LinkedIn. He'd become aware of my podcast, was very interested in and encouraging about them. He contacted me and said that I should get in touch with you. That led to the phone call where we first met and I knew that I really wanted to bring your voice to the American citizens so they could understand a little bit about how these policies progress in a country and what it's like living as a Canadian and how these things mirror what's happening in the US. Again, I just want to say thank you for joining us. And I thank you to that mutual friend, Michael, who introduced us.

We have talked offline about the electoral college. This is one thing I'd like to start on right away, because in the US here, especially we're entering an election year-- we're in an election year. And it seems like frequently people say we should not have an electoral college here. It seems like we're lonely voices explaining why this is so critical to freedom in America. Both you and your former colleague, Michael, have pointed out to me how blessed we are in the US to have the Electoral College. Could you explain a little bit about why you wish you had that in Canada?

Aaron: In some ways, we do have an Electoral College, it works differently. That's an interesting question. Obviously, it's about giving regions representation. You guys also have the Senate, which does that as well. We have a Senate, but it's unelected and that's a long conversation. But, yeah, I think that the electoral college, in the case of the United States-- we have a writing system similar to your congressional districts, but they're weighted more for rural districts or whatever, so it's not all per person. I think that's important because it gives rural areas of the country that contribute disproportionately to exports and economic growth and some of the key industries appropriate amounts of representation, as opposed to just having large cities dominating the politics of the country.

So yeah, I think it is important to have regional representation like that. There's different ways of doing it, obviously the electoral college. I'm not an American. To ask someone about American history, I'm not probably your guy. Obviously, there's states’ rights and there's different elements to that in the United States. In Canada, we have our own version of that, but it gets pretty granular.

Linda: Well, I understand Toronto, correct me if I'm wrong, but it's the fourth largest city in North America, correct?

Aaron: Yeah, I think it kind of depends on how you define the area of the city, but yeah, it's up there.

Linda: Right. Toronto though, in my understanding, and like I said, I'm not an expert on Canada, but Toronto has more representation than some of the other provinces combined. Toronto as a city has more representation than provinces, and that can sometimes be problematic. So, that's akin to saying like New York or Los Angeles or Chicago or Atlanta having a disproportionate voice compared to other segments of America. That's where I really appreciate our system of government where it allows for that voice that is across America, it isn't just the populated cities, that elect our president.

Aaron: Yeah. You guys also have the Senate, which is the main vessel for that, obviously.

Linda: The equalizing factor, right.

Aaron: Yeah. Our Senate is maybe the weak point in our link over here, because all the senators are just appointed by the Prime Minister. Obviously, you're run up to the counterargument to that, which is that voters should be equal regardless of where they're living, which is also a compelling argument. I think it's about striking the right balance.

Linda: Yeah. Agreed. And I do appreciate the fact our Senate- our Founding Fathers had such wisdom in dividing the three branches of government and things. It was just amazing. But with that, I think that they probably would never have imagined the level of debt our nation has, and that's something that you've addressed quite a bit for Canada.

When I first was contacted by your friend and former colleague, I looked up Generation Screwed, I thought, “Hmm, that's an interesting name for an organization,” and it sounded intriguing. And one of the first things I saw was a debt clock. And I knew when I saw that, that we were probably aligned, [chuckles] in our thoughts, because you were warning young Canadians about what was happening to their future prosperity by the mounting debt of the Canadian government. What led you to start Generation Screwed?

Aaron: Well, that was a project that I initiated at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation when I was working there. And the big reason because of that was we had an ever-growing debt load that was being left for future generations to pay for plus interest. This is in the context of post-2008/2009 recession, where governments around the world were accumulating massive amounts of debt and basically just putting those on their books with no plan to pay it off. One of the founding principles that I've always had is living within your means, fiscal responsibility, and always taking personal responsibility for any obligations that you take on. So, this was a natural extension of that.

The other part of it was an issue that you could talk to young people about, about their future that wasn't being represented in the mainstream media. The media likes to paint millennials, people under 30, with a broad brush of being left leaning and that might apply to a certain subsection of issues. But when it comes to fiscal issues, I think a lot of it is they're just not hearing the other side of the story. We always want to present the case that, “Okay, you're being shown all these fiscal programs are important for your future-- social programs, I should say, but who's paying for them? While the government is borrowing money and you're going to be left with the bill to pay that, plus interest on top of it.” So, that was the point behind it. Obviously, it's very relevant again, with governments again taking on massive, massive amounts of-- not only debt, mind you, but also unfunded liabilities, pension liabilities, that kind of a thing.

Linda: What do you find is your biggest obstacle in helping people understand the importance of getting that debt back in line?

Aaron: Well, I would say the two biggest obstacles, number one would be voter apathy, especially among younger people. Individuals that are just out of sight, out of mind, they're busy in fairness with their own lives and they don't want to put their head around and get involved in it. That might be number one.

Number two actually, and I imagine it's even more acute in the United States, which is their other kind of flashier or sexier issues that people and the media especially want to focus on. And that leaves important fiscal issues like debt accumulation to the wayside, in a way where it could obviously really come back to bite us. That's obviously another really important thing.

And the third thing I'd say is just individuals, not just young people, but having a proclivity to just want-- everyone wants everything for free. Politicians go around bribing voters with their own money. It's like the oldest trick in the book, with their own money. And people don't really want to be told sometimes that they're going to have to pay for it. So, it's not necessarily a message that people want to hear. But once you lay it out for them, most people get it. There's honestly a high level of kind of unanimous agreement.

Linda: It sounds a lot like America. Voter apathy, a media that doesn't always tell the truth or focus on the right issues, and people wanting things for free. One of the things I say almost every podcast is the government can't give us anything until we give money to the government first, and what we get back from the government is always less than what we gave. Then we don't have any choice of what's done with it. It is really to our own advantage to make sure we have lower taxes and more responsible spending and more controlled regulatory environment so businesses can thrive. It just sounds so similar. Even though we're different countries, we suffer with some of the same issues.

With your videos, I know that you try to combat that media presence that seeks to maybe have a shiny squirrel [chuckles] in the trees that people focus on while the main issue is over here in the grass. And that's not a great analogy, but you really try to get down to the facts and help people be educated. I'd like you to tell the listeners a little bit about your videos. What are some of the recent videos that you've done? What topics have you covered? And people in America can listen to these videos and learn quite a bit as well.

Aaron: Yeah. After the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, I went off working for a group called BC Proud, which is part of the largest Facebook page network in Canada and a registered third-party organization, and started making 60 second to 180-second videos about the top issues in Canadian politics or about issues that Canadians care about.

Linda: I just wanted to explain for our American listeners who might not understand what BC is. It's for British Columbia. So, it's about promoting British Columbia. BC proud, right?

Aaron: Yeah. I would talk about issues related to our province and then also issues relating to Canada in general, federal issues. I've done my best to stay away from American politics because there's enough people talking about that. Then from that, I've moved on from that and just started going off with my own thing. But still doing the same thing with the 120-second videos. And basically talked about any issue that's in the media. Some of the recent ones, the one that I just put out recently was about this new movement to tear down statues and rip out history and viewing history through the lens of our century and not the century when the events actually happened. I saw today in Portland that George Washington statue was getting torn down. We're having the exact same problems here.

Actually, to be honest, my first really big video that took off was about two years ago, here in Victoria, where they tore down the leftist Marion Council. It's like a Portland equivalent. Tore down the statue of Canada's first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald who is a George Washington equivalent for Canada. So, that's definitely where this craziness is going. That's the video that I just did, but they really range the spectrum. I do lots of issues on tax increases, carbon tax increases, about the failure of this country to have a comprehensible energy policy and to get pipelines built. It's a big issue up here in Canada. Videos about political correctness, whether it's in our government or in our society, kind of writ large. And yeah, just right across the board, talking about the issues that matter. Law and order is another one. Our justice system in Canada is really pathetic. [chuckles] There's no another way to put it. Raising awareness on those issues as well.

Linda: Yes, and I've watched some of your videos, and the recent one about the statues. You did a really good job explaining why we should not look at history through just the lens of today. We need to take it into the context of that time period and learn from it. I just hate seeing these statues torn down and defaced. I understand some of the negative things we've had in history, but we can learn from that. And sometimes, those reminders are there to help us never make those same mistakes again. And so, we need to look carefully, I would say, about how we destroy our history because if we don't understand our history, we're doomed to repeat it. And that's a mistake.

Aaron: Yeah, that’s what they say. If you look through history, the one thing you learn is that we learn nothing from history, which is unfortunate, but it definitely makes working in politics a perpetual battle. No victory is ever permanent, no defeat is everlasting, or however the quote goes. You just have to keep pushing back and raising awareness. To one extent, I get it that most people have families, have very busy lives, working and they're trying to put food on the table and make enough money to pay their taxes. So, they don't always get the full story because they're busy people and the media obviously plays a big role in being the problem. The internet now and social media, you can go around them. So that's what I've been trying to do and deliver that message.

Linda: Well, it sounds like you've been really effective. When I said at the beginning you've had over 50 million video views, it's really effective. So, thank you for being that voice, voice calling out in the wilderness shall we say. One person can make a difference. To anyone listening, just take an example from Aaron because one person can make a difference, and we never know who we're reaching when we speak truth, and we really can impact history and the future of our country. I thank you for standing up for that.

I wanted to touch back again a little bit on energy policy. I know that's always a topic that I care about greatly. I've had a couple guests on where we've discussed nuclear energy, we've discussed energy policy within the US. I'd like to hear some of your thoughts regarding Canadian energy policy and just geopolitical policy regarding energy.

Aaron: Yeah, for your listeners, energy is by far the biggest industry in Canada, the most important sector of the economy. It provides billions in government revenues. It's the number one employer. And for some of our provinces, it is a mega industry, particularly Alberta and Saskatchewan in the west of the country, and also Newfoundland in the east with offshore oil. Canada is a big exporter of oil, but 99% of our exports go to the United States. What is actually going on is there's different prices for different kinds of oil in different parts of the world. And right now, we get a very low price for our oil because we don't have access to international markets, number one. And number two, because our pipeline capacity is all maxed out.

Now, a big part of that is actually, your previous President stopping the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is supposed to send Canadian crude oil to American refineries on the Gulf Coast. And so that's exacerbated our problem. But part of it is also that we have just been unable to get-- like we have coastlines ourselves. We should really be able to get pipelines to our coasts. And for a variety of reasons, the environmental lobby and activist groups, weak politicians, courts that are stacked with-- we'll call them “unfriendly judges” -- have made this all very problematic.

We're currently working on building one pipeline to the British Columbia's coast but there's been two others that have since been abandoned, and it's a big, big issue here. Pipeline development and actually getting our oil to markets is a huge issue for us. And we've actually seen the American oil industry and shale oil really explode over the last couple of years. And that, to be fair, has really been at the expense of us probably more than anybody. And a lot of that has just to do with our government shooting ourselves in the foot basically.

And then on top of that, we also have, again, an environmental advocacy group that's pushed all sorts of taxes that are very specific to oil and gas, so we're really taxing our most important industry and taxing it out of competitiveness. It's very concerning, and it actually goes back a little bit to your electoral college remarks, because part of that is the preponderance of voters being based in the east of Canada, and basically voting to enact policies that cripple and hurt Western Canada. There's been a rise of Western alienation. There's separatist movements in multiple provinces. So that's really been a big issue for Canada here. It's really caused a massive spike in unemployment in certain regions, in regions that are dependent on these industries. It's a huge issue over here. There's tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Canadians that rely on that industry.

Linda: Yeah, that's fascinating actually. Every nation is dependent on reliable energy. For those who are the major energy producers, we need to make sure that energy production and the economics of energy production are protected. Like you said, people's livelihoods depend on it. But it's not only that, it's the ability for everyone to have reliable energy. We all depend on it. Right now, if we think about COVID-19 and everybody working from home and relying on the internet, every home depends on energy and we can't just depend on renewables. As environmentalists, we all care about the environment, of course, but there's so many ways. There's clean energy production in a variety of ways. I've always been a proponent of nuclear. I love new generation nuclear, especially my favorite is molten salt reactors. But there's so many ways that we can provide a reliable energy grid for citizens and do it in a way that protects the environment and the economy. I really appreciate you bringing that issue to the forefront.

If you could talk to your-- well, you do talk to your Canadian peers, shall I say young people in Canada and to those in the US, what would you warn them about?

Aaron: Well, I would say right now the most important issue, or the one that concerns me the most with what's going on, especially in the last couple of weeks is the rise of, I guess, cancel culture is the best way to describe it, which I know is what you used. But the inability to have certain conversations is becoming a lot more difficult. I'm one of the only people because I am independent in Canada and there are a couple other individuals in networks or groups like me, I can't really be de-platformed. But there are the vast majority of people-- I've had this conversation a lot. They're afraid of the mob. People are afraid to speak their truth and offer their opinions on certain issues right now because of the little Twitter mob that will go after them, the mainstream media that will pile on and corporate America or corporate Canada who will back down instantaneously and throw you under the bus. I think that is really disconcerting to me.

I've been de-platformed off a university event, which I could also talk about. We have free speech laws in this country, and we have democracy, and you obviously have that in United States as well. There's also something to be said about the spirit of free speech and the spirit of democracy and the spirit of open and honest debate. While a lot of these actions-- the private sector is free to do what it wants and fire who it wants, etc. Facebook is free to do what it wants. There's something that needs to be said about the spirit of these from like a Greco philosophical background and origins from our Western civilization, and they're really being undermined in a way that I would not have imagined being possible 10 years ago.

I think there's a lot of people who 10 years ago laughed at some of the radical and the quasi-Marxist teachings going on in universities, and these students doing ridiculous things, I think the joke was on us because these people have now left universities and they're forming the backbone of a lot of these left-wing radical groups. It's authoritarianism is what it is. I think people have been slow to recognize it because a lot of times authoritarianism shows itself on the right. People know how to recognize it when it rises on the right. When it rises on the left, people are slower to understand what's happening. I think we're seeing that a lot now where it's the inability for people to have conversations about these difficult issues without resorting to trying to destroy someone's life or even the lives of those around them, it's really disconcerting. I know that's not a political issue, but I think that's a good one because it transcends this border that we have between our two countries. And it is definitely just as much in play here as it is down there.

Linda: Really does. Freedom is something like-- I said earlier in the broadcast that freedom is something we all long for. It is something that is-- the longing for freedom is in the heart of man and woman, but it is so disheartening. Like you said too, this was a slow growth. I liken what has happened to almost like a cancer that, maybe it's a skin cancer or some pain you have that you ignore, and you ignore and it comes back and you think, “Oh, I'll go to the doctor eventually.” And people put off really facing this for what it is. And now we're seeing a full-fledged rebellion really against our systems of government. We can see it in these autonomous zones that we have. We see it in the defund police movement. We see it in so many of these things.

You mentioned how it was taught in universities and I have often said that part of the problem that we're seeing now is because we quit teaching the history that our young people really needed to know. The history of our country, the history of your country, the history of freedom, and teaching people how to protect it. I know with Prosperity 101™, I try to help people understand the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity, and then how to protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved, and impactful. And I just think you're doing a fantastic job of helping people become informed. You're helping them be involved and you're showing them by your own example, how to be impactful. When I asked you, what would be your warning to young people, and you brought up this whole cultural shift and the lack of free speech. That's a pretty clear warning that we all need to stand up and be bold, or we won't be able to stand up.

Aaron: Yeah, it's a real fundamental component of our civil society. It's to watch it kind of be degraded like it has been. It's very worrisome. I'm not obviously the only person saying this, but it's reached a new level. I think it's very concerning because as you said, there's something within everyone that has a desire for freedom to an extent. But I think there's also the other side of the coin, where there's a desire to shut down or be authoritarian, also within every individual. And there's always that battle going on. Countries are obviously both built on the freedom side of things, but there's always that ugly head that can rear itself and I think right now it's doing it. I think we just have to be very careful and hope that the institutions that were created by those that came before us are resilient enough to withstand it.

Linda: Exactly. You brought up a good point that there's also the side in human nature that wants to be almost taken care of, and that's where this lure of having government take care of you or the lure of having this socialist society basically where your needs are met through government and you don't have to work the same and all of that, it's definitely a temptation. But it's been said the problem with socialism is when you run out of other people's money. [chuckles] The money just doesn't always flow. When taxpayers can no longer fund the government, the government can no longer provide for the citizens, so it's a definite balance act. But we really do need to promote freedom and we need to continue to be that voice. I am just so thankful, Aaron, that you are a young person who has given your years to basically sound the alarm, to speak for freedom, to speak for sensible government, and liberty for citizens. I'm just really grateful. And I thank you for the time that you've spent with us. Before we close, would you like to add any other thoughts, recommendations for our listeners?

Aaron: Well, I can leave them with where to find me if they're interested in the stuff that I'm doing. They can go to aarongunn.ca. And also, most of my stuff, the main channel is Facebook, which is facebook.com/aarongunn.ca. I actually do have quite a few American followers, especially in Washington state, because they deal with a lot of the same crazy, leftist stuff that we do. You can take a quick boat down there pretty quickly. I'm on Vancouver Island, so that's how you get there, or you can even drive down from Vancouver, so it's pretty close. So yeah, I have a lot of good American followers. So feel free to check that out. Maybe if you want to make your own videos or whatever. Obviously, energy policies, statues, all that stuff, a lot of the issues are the exact same in both countries, that obviously being another example. So, yeah, always looking forward to share ideas, thoughts, and political opinions with my American friends.

Linda: Well, we really appreciate that. And I do recommend to all our listeners, go to aarongunn.ca, and there you can find his videos, you can find out how to contact him. I invite you to watch his videos because even though they are focused towards Canadians, we can learn a lot from what Aaron has, and we can see the similarities and why these policies that I promote through Prosperity 101™ and that Aaron promotes through his videos are really universally beneficial for citizens, no matter where they live. Aaron, I thank you for being a voice for freedom and I thank you for being a guest here today.

Aaron: Thank you for having me.

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