The latest buzz-phrase bouncing around the Queen City is “generational opportunity”. Perhaps you’ve heard it referring to the Regina Revitalization Project focused on developing the CP rail yards as well as housing and commercial development in North Central (City of Regina). Now it’s also the guiding principle behind plans for the central RPL branch redevelopment (Leader Post).

On Monday, the “Cultural Centre Redevelopment Project” is going before City Council seeking support. From the report: “The Cultural Centre project presents a generational opportunity for the advancement of a first-rate downtown cultural facility that appeals to the creative class and citizens at large.”

To me the phrase “generational opportunity” already feels cliché and overused. It’s now in the same boat as “sustainability” though at least that one had a good 5-10 year run while this has only recently been used twice.  Both are broad, catchall, non-statements that pretend to say something.

At the moment, it seems that “generational opportunity” refers to the fact that the city and province are seeing an influx of people and money. People want to take advantage of this trend to get projects off the ground, making progress in the city. However the phrase is being used like a shiny sticker slapped onto anything we want to push through without more public discussion or thought about what it could actually mean. “It’s generational! We might not get this opportunity again! Just do something before the opportunity is gone!”

Perhaps this feels particularly empty because there are real opportunities that are being sidestepped or missed outright which are not afforded the glowing sentiment. Despite our positive economic state, we’ve seen foot dragging around creating a comprehensive citywide recycling program; we hear superficial statements in support of reducing GHG emissions while we continually green-light sprawling car-centric, inefficient developments; renovating and making use of our built heritage continues to be a non-issue; and there is a lack of real action on affordable housing.

I think if we are going to keep using phrases like “generational opportunity”, we need to really make them mean something. It has to be a larger statement and vision about the type of city we want to live in. Real generational opportunities are not simply development and business interests aligning. They are also moments where we can step forward and be leaders on important social, environmental, and cultural issues and policies.