Boomers differ by birth era
The first among them are closing in on official retirement age, but so-called baby boomers are still a big part of the decision-making political apparatus.
Witness Mayor Sam Sullivan and Coun. Peter Ladner. They sit next to one another on Vancouver city council, dress in smart suits, belong to the same political party (the Non-Partisan Association), and vote more or less the same way on issues. They were the only NPA councillors to survive COPE’s near sweep led by former mayor Larry Campbell in the 2002 civic election.
But according to University of Toronto economics professor David Foot, author of the 1996 book Boom, Bust and Echo: How to Profit From the Coming Demographic Shift (Macfarlane, Walter & Ross), there are differences between the men based on when they were born. Sullivan, 47, and Ladner, 58, are at either end of the boom era, which stretched from 1947 (1946 in the U.S.) to 1966.
Like seniors, Foot told the Georgia Straight, boomers—some of whom are now almost seniors themselves—break into subgroups. The early boomers, such as Ladner, came of age in an era of expanding opportunities and a growing postsecondary-education system. Many late boomers, including Sullivan, reached maturity during the brutal recession of the early 1980s, when there was much more competition.
“The early boomer has probably done pretty well,” Foot said in a phone interview from Toronto. “He [Ladner] has had a pretty easy ride. The  guy is almost a Gen Xer [back-end boomer] and probably has a bit of a grudge against the older guy.”
On his NPA Web page (www.peterladner.ca/), Ladner has an unassuming write-up that states: “Councillor Ladner is a fourth-generation British Columbian descended from the founders of Ladner.” He has four grown children and drives a “smart” car and sometimes exudes an air of insouciance. Sullivan, unlike Ladner, is awkwardly self-effacing and has had to deal with the limitations of being quadriplegic.
Before he got elected to council in 1993, the mayor, who proudly paraded the Canadian flag at the Turin Olympic Games, spent several years in his parents’ East Vancouver basement. He admits he availed himself of the social safety net to survive.
“The other guy [Sullivan] is 10 years behind in age, so it is not fair to judge everything as it is at this point in time, as you really ought to be comparing them at the same age,” Foot said. “In general, the back end of the baby boom has had to struggle for a lot of things. But one thing I state very early on in the book is this gives us a very good understanding of the economy but it gives us very little understanding of politics. It gives us a good understanding of policy but not about politics.”
Foot also cautions that Canadians are very “volatile” when it comes to voting patterns, and he did not want to answer any questions about how Ladner might challenge Sullivan for the mayor’s chair in 2008, as has been widely speculated.
“We are very reluctant to use Boom, Bust and Echo for political predictions,” he said. “I’d like that to be my quotable quote.”
Real-estate executive and City Hall regular Bob Laurie, 60, was born on November 17, 1946, and sees some similarities between himself and Ladner. “I’m the one that came out of the war, went through the fabulous ’50s, went to university [UBC]”¦and is married with two kids,” Laurie said. “But Peter has done better. He won the sperm lottery, because his dad had more money than mine, and that is why he lives in a $4-million house [in Point Grey] and I live in a $750,000 house in Richmond.”
Coun. David Cadman was born on November 13, 1948. The two-term councillor, who descends from oil money, admits he is one of the “last of a privileged generation”. He is only two years younger than Laurie but has a different outlook.
“There was an expression in our generation that we ”˜live like there is no tomorrow,’” Cadman said. “We see now that the boomers have not led in the way we would have thought. What have the boomers done? Did they give us social housing? No. Did they give us health care? No.”¦We are way short.”