Budget 2014: High school kids ask Flaherty to pay down debt - again
For the second year, my civic education organization, CIVIX Canada, consulted high school students in relation to the federal budget, and again, they point to Canada's debt as their most important fiscal issue.
The Student Budget Consultation is a civic education and financial literacy project that engages high school students in a study and dialogue around Canada's budget and asks for their input on major national issues.
What's important to understand is that before taking the consultation survey - administered by our partner Harris/Decima - students were asked to inform themselves about the federal government's revenues and expenditures and the major issues covered in the survey.
To do this we engaged Minister Flaherty to speak to students as an 'educator' through a series of web videos, produced and filmed a political panel hosted by The Huffington Post Canada's Ottawa Bureau Chief Althia Raj to cover the major budget issues, and engaged opposition party leaders to participate in a video Q&A. The project followed a curriculum built for use by classroom teachers and the project website remains open at www.civix.ca/sbc
The goal was that participating students established a level of knowledge about the budget process and major issues, before submitting their opinions through the survey. Nearly 5,000 students took part in this year's consultation from hundreds of classrooms across the country. Here is a summary of this year's Student Budget Consultation results:
Debt reduction should be the Finance Minister's number one priority
A strong majority (81%) of students believe that the federal government should place a high priority on reducing the debt as much as possible. Nearly half (46%) of students believe debt reduction should be the first priority with any future surplus. The next choices were post-secondary education, investments in the economy to boost jobs and lower personal income taxes (each receiving 9%).
Education funding and lower taxes key to helping families
A substantial proportion (29%) of the Canadian student population believes their parents had a tough time financially raising children. When asked what would be most helpful for their family, students prioritized lowering personal income taxes (27%) and subsidizing post-secondary education (26%). Nearly three quarters support the children's fitness tax credit and support the idea of expanding it to adults as well.
Increase spending for education and the environment
When asked about spending increases or decreases, half of students want to see budget increases for post-secondary education transfers (51%) and the environment (49%). With respect to spending reductions, prisons/increased sentences (31%) and arts and culture (32%) receive most support.
Youth unemployment is a problem
A majority of students (59%) believe there is a youth unemployment problem in Canada. Regarding ways to address the issue, one third of students (33%) think the answer lies in simply increasing awareness about where the jobs are and one quarter (23%) support investments in education and training.
Cost of education seen as biggest hurdle to careers
Despite negative youth employment perceptions, students are very or somewhat confident (79%) that they will find a job that interests them once they graduate. Approximately 30% of those surveyed said the cost of education was the biggest hurdle facing them in starting their careers.
Stiffer penalties the best way to address cyberbullying
Three quarters of students (76%) feel that cyberbullying is at least a somewhat significant problem, though this decreases to less than half (45%) when talking about the students' own school. Stiffer penalties for offenders is seen as the best solution to address the problem.
Environmental protection related to resource extraction is important
A majority of students (61%) believe environmental protection related to resource extraction should be a high priority, although a smaller number (14%) think it should be the government's top priority. More students feel that environmental issues outweigh potential economic benefits than vice versa, but a plurality (37%) feel like the government can effectively balance the two. When asked for the best way to support Canada's natural resource industry, more than one third of students (35%) chose investments to training and education.
As an organization, we believe that the understanding of budgets and their contents by citizens will improve overall civic engagement, and hopefully, lead to electoral participation.
The Student Budget Consultation is part of an array of civic education programs we are launching between elections to carry on the momentum established with our flagship program, Student Vote, a parallel election program for students under the voting age. In the 2011 federal election, 563,000 students cast Student Vote ballots from approximately 3,800 schools across Canada. .
For the complete consultation results, visit: www.civix.ca/SBC