Although the Canadian economy has grown by more than 140 per cent in the last 35 years, the average family is making seven per cent less.
"If we don't change that, we will be the first generation in Canadian history to leave less to our children than what we got from our parents," said federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.
"I find that completely unacceptable because the debt is not just economic," he added, noting it's also social and environmental.
Mulcair was in Thunder Bay Wednesday for his party's nationwide affordability tour and met with local poverty advocates in the home of Poverty Free Thunder Bay chair Terri-Lynne Carter for a kitchen table discussion.
The NDP leader heard how the need for affordable housing is a priority in Thunder Bay and said it's an issue the federal government should be addressing.
There is no reason to have that many Canadians without a place to live, he said.
"The federal government can play a positive role on everything from transit to housing, on everything from ATM fees to gouging at the gas pumps," said Mulcair.
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There are common sense items that get lost in the bigger picture of the economy; everyday issues that are slowing eroding people's capacity to get by, he said.
The NDP launched a petition last week to eliminate extra fees for paper billing known as pay-to-pay fees.
In less than a week, the petition has about 10,000 signatures.
"Life is becoming increasingly unaffordable for many Canadians because of an accumulation of these things," said Mulcair.
ATM fees was another example he gave, saying it shouldn't cost $3 to $5 to use a bank machine when it costs the bank about 35 cents.
A 50 cent fee would be fair for both the banks and the customer, he noted.
"We think this is simple gouging," Mulcair said.
Raising the issues now is also important in engaging youth to become involved in politics.
In the 2011 federal general election, 65 per cent of youth aged 18 to 25 didn't vote.
"If young people don't vote, we're not going to be able to change things," said Mulcair.
"These are changes that should be made in the interests of young people in Canada."
While travelling the country, Mulcair has been meeting with college, university and high school students to make them realize they have a say in the decision-making process.
"They often feel powerless. They just see a structure in Ottawa they feel disconnected from. They don't see that that's part of their lives. We have to convince them that it is going to determine a large part of their lives," he said.
Mulcair also met with Mayor Keith Hobbs Wednesday morning at the Community Economic Development Commission office.
The two discussed the affordable housing issue the city faces, specifically the decommissioning of the Royal Edward Arms building.
"Mr. Mulcair agreed sometimes you shouldn't have all your housing in one big spot," Hobbs said.
"We talked about how the federal government has to really start looking hard at affordable housing."
Hobbs also said the NDP leader loves the idea of the event centre and the potential economic benefit of bringing an AHL team to Thunder Bay.
"We talked about the Build Canada fund and he would like to see some federal funding come our way for that event centre, which was good news. So we do have a champion in our court for that," said Hobbs.