Cover

RED HOT AND COOL

Today’s leaders-in-waiting have much in common with the first young Canadians to watch that Maclean’s profiled in 1961

ROBERT SHEPPARD September 8 2003
Cover

RED HOT AND COOL

Today’s leaders-in-waiting have much in common with the first young Canadians to watch that Maclean’s profiled in 1961

ROBERT SHEPPARD September 8 2003

RED HOT AND COOL

Cover

Today’s leaders-in-waiting have much in common with the first young Canadians to watch that Maclean’s profiled in 1961

THIS CAN ALL be laid at the feet of the late Peter Gzowski, this national obsession with trainspotting the achieving young. If he hadn’t tramped into the editor’s office years ago, all of 26 himself and complaining about his generation of “middle-aged young,” he wouldn’t have been asked to do something about it. Which he did. That March of 1961, a Maclean’s special report, The Young Canadians: the stiffening spine of a soft generation, unearthed a host of future pooh-bahs, including a talkative young Tory from Quebec, 21-year-old Brian Mulroney, and Toronto law student Ted Rogers, then 27, who was clearly so impressed by the project that he would eventually go out and buy the magazine, literally. The accompanying short story was from ingenue Adrienne Poy, 22, known today as Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson.

That first take on leaders-in-waiting seems to have created a genre, everything from the Governor General’s youth-oriented Leadership Conference every four years (begun in 1983). to Canadian Idol. Other media have jumped in, but we have no intention of squandering our legacy, especially when readers continue to bombard us with a stream of unsolicited nominees.

This current offering of Canadians under 30 includes a Quebec physicist who is imag-

ining a computer so sophisticated it’ll take another 10 years to make it; a knife-loving 23-year-old chef who won culinary gold for Canada at an international competition, and a literary upstart—a newspaper columnist at 16—who has been compared to Oscar Wilde. Gzowski would be amused.

He would also smile wryly at the fearful symmetry of the sons and daughters of baby boomers now sallying forth to take up their rightful place at the barricades and podiums of the nation. Today’s twentysomethings are at the forefront of a looming mini-boom, as demographer David Foot points out. This is the first time in two decades Canada has seen an increase in the number of people in their 20s. With an even bigger market of mini-boomers pulling up the rear, that should give our current profilées a natural leadership edge.

Their other advantage, notes Foot, is they emerge from relatively small cohorts, which has meant less competition for school and jobs, and correspondingly more freedom to wrestle with the big issues in life; perhaps even to take to the tear-gassed streets, or to go abroad as do-gooding engineers or aid workers. That’s exactly the spine-stiffening stuff Gzowski was on about. The guy could spot a trend.

ROBERT SHEPPARD