A group of students at Toronto District Christian High School (TDChristian) will be watching today’s provincial budget announcement more closely after taking part in the 2012 Ontario Student Budget Consultation.
Students in the Grade 10 environmental block civics class took part in the consultation, which was part of a non-partisan pilot project of CIVIX, a new charity that connects Canadian youth with their government.
Students looked at the problems the province is facing, where potential budget cuts could be and determined what is important to them. Results of the consultation were gathered from participating schools and shared with Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.
CIVIX is affiliated with Student Vote, where students take part in a mock election.
“We’ve done the Student Vote for quite a few years and it’s nice to have an authentic project that goes with teaching,” says TDChristian teacher Ben Freeman.
He says government and budgets can be dry topics, but when the students know their feedback is being put together with other Ontario students and sent to the Minister of Finance “that gives a lot more purpose to what they’re doing.
A group of five students in the class took the CIVIX lesson plan material and taught their peers, as well as presented to other classes and at a school assembly.
“It was exciting to see student interest in politics growing into student leadership within our class,” says Freeman.
After learning about the budget process in class and through online tutorial videos, students answered values-based survey questions on the Ontario Student Budget Consultation website earlier this month.
Grade 10 student Angelo Duraisingam was interviewed on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning by host Matt Galloway March 23 about the project. The eight-minute segment, which aired live at 6:10 a.m., featured Angelo and Taylor Gunn, the president of CIVIX.
“I enjoyed the experience of going on CBC,” Angelo tells the OACS News.
Angelo says he plans to go into the political field with aspirations to be Prime Minister someday, though he’s not sure which party he would represent yet.
CIVIX has published the student consultation results online, which show where the 1,367 students surveyed in schools across the province landed on different budget issues.
Overall, students are concerned about the $16 billion provincial deficit, and looked to cut spending rather than raise taxes.
TDChristian received a copy of the recommendations from its students, which Freeman says were close to the aggregated results.
Freeman says students were aligned on eliminating the debt, but had a variety of ideas on how to do that.
With the budget coming down March 27, Freeman says the class will be talking about its highlights and how their recommendations compare.
Traditionally, he says there’s been zero interest in the budget, and it is usually covered in class after it has been released as a news item.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to more extensively look at it beforehand, so I think that has created more interest,” he says.