A Student Perspective on the 2014 SBC

March 4th, 2014 by CIVIX

My name is Laurier Boucher and I am a grade 10 student at Sacred Heart High School in Stittsville, Ontario. I am also a Royal Canadian Air Cadet and what is known informally as a ‘base brat,’ which means I come from a military family that moves a lot. I am not much more than your average teen.

Unlike most teens, however, I received the magnificent opportunity to take part in the Student Budget Consultation (SBC). The SBC is a program created by CIVIX to stimulate the involvement of Canadian youth from all ends of this amazing country. It deals with Canada’s revenue, spending, and saving; in other words Canada’s ‘piggy bank.’

Students discuss the SBC results with Andrew Saxton

I have to admit, I was not particularly thrilled with the idea of taking, what seemed to be at the time, a random survey that would end up in an annual write-up. In reality, the SBC gives students a chance to have their voice heard. In the end, I truly did enjoy the program in every aspect possible, and it helps that I had the astounding opportunity to fully appreciate what it had to offer first hand by meeting with the CIVIX team. I believe it to be a great learning objective, allowing one to be grateful for what we have as a country, and to be given the chance to share our opinions.

Another amazing opportunity offered by the SBC was the rendezvous with Andrew Saxton, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. Meeting Mr. Saxton was a privilege of which I am enormously grateful for. Even if I may have felt incongruous at first, the atmosphere in the room soon filled with constructive and coalescing conversation. The whole process was much less nerve racking than anticipated! It is definitely something the SBC should continue to do for the benefit of all our advancing adolescent population.

The SBC also taught me a great deal of what the majority of teens from around the country thought about our budget. Many results are similar to what is included in this year’s budget, but there were some differences. Some exceptions, however, were related to things such as the environment, where teenagers took a more precarious approach. A large portion of the poll believed in equal opportunities, no matter the age, on government programs (such as recreational activity support). Furthermore, students are strongly convinced that any surplus made by 2015 should be primarily saved for the benefit of paying off Canada’s debt that will one day become our burden.

Capture

I do hope that the opinion of the students whom took part of the survey is taken into substantial consideration. Although we do count for a small segment, we are Canada’s youth. As youth we are Canada’s future and that should be the reason they take our votes seriously. Yet, it is understandable that the economy will take time to be as renowned as it once was.

The SBC has enormously changed my viewpoint of Canada and its people, and it would be my pleasure to aid it with its endeavours in positively changing our country for the greater good of our world. If the SBC would have a motto, it would have to be “Kaizen”, which when translated from Japanese means “continuous improvement.”

What I have learned from this program reminds me of Dr. Seuss’s famous quote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” The SBC is indeed a valuable program that should be available, and grow in importance to all Canadian youth.

Thank you for the amazing experience!

Visit the Student Budget Consultation website for more information, teacher resources and complete survey results.

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Student Budget Consultation: Post-Budget Comparison

February 13th, 2014 by Dan Allan

The 2014 federal budget was delivered in the House of Commons on Tuesday by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. The budget received an array of reactions from political parties, stakeholders and the media, but what would high school students think?

On Monday, we publicly released the results of the 2014 Student Budget Consultation. Nearly 5,000 high school students from across Canada learned about the budget and major national issues, and took part in an online survey between November 2013 and January 2014. A group of students met with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance Andrew Saxton to brief him on the results in advance of the budget.

Student Budget Consultation

We compared some of the survey results with provisions from the budget:

DEBT, DEFICIT AND SURPLUS

There will be a $2.9 billion deficit this year, and next year’s surplus is projected to be $6.4 billion. Speaking to journalists, Flaherty noted that the government “will make sure Canada’s fiscal position remains strong enough to weather any future global economic storms. That starts with paying down the debt.” Some Conservative MPs mentioned implementing income splitting to lower personal taxes as a possible use for the surplus; income splitting was a Conservative campaign promise in 2015.

Students were asked what the government should do with the anticipated surplus, and a strong majority of students (81%) believe that reducing the debt as much as possible should be a high priority. 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%).

SPENDING

Flaherty said that there will be few increases to expenditures. The government will delay $3.1 billion in spending on new military equipment. However, the government will spend $1.5 billion over 10 years to support research at post-secondary institutions.

Student Budget Consultation

Across a wide range of issues, students expressed that they wanted spending to remain the same. Most popular areas for spending increases were post-secondary education (51%), the environment (49%) and Innovation and R&D (37%). In terms of spending reductions, arts and culture (32%), prisons/increased sentences (31%) and National Defence (18%) received the most support.

ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The budget allocates $28 million over the next two years to the National Energy Board regulatory body that reviews energy projects, like pipelines. The budget also removes tariffs from mobile offshore drilling units, reducing their business costs.

A majority of students (61%) believe environmental protection related to resource extraction should be a high 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.

JOBS AND THE ECONOMY

The budget makes a number of investments in job creation. The Canada Job Grant will be launched to ensure job training reflects skills shortages, the Canada Apprenticeship Loan will provide interest-free loans for Canadians undertaking apprenticeships and $40 million is being dedicated to full-time internships for post-secondary graduates.

Student Budget Consultation

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, one quarter (23%) support investments in education and training and more than one fifth (21%) endorse job grants or tax credits for businesses.

FAMILIES

The budget will provide a larger tax credit for families who adopt children. The government will also put a cap on wireless roaming rates.

When asked what would be most helpful for their family, students prioritized lowering personal income taxes (27%) and subsidizing post-secondary education (26%). Only a small number of students selected income splitting for parents (7%) and capping telecom fees (6%).

Click here to view the complete Student Budget Consultation results.
Click here to learn more about the 2014 federal budget.

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Student Budget Consultation 2014 – Young Canadians to Jim Flaherty: Pay down the debt

February 10th, 2014 by CIVIX

For the second year, 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.

Student Budget Consultation

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

Student Budget Consultation

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.

Click here for the consultation info graphics, and here for the complete consultation results.

This post also appears as a Huffington Post Canada blog.

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