For our federal budget coverage, we wanted to highlight how Canadians across different demographics felt they would be affected, and what they wanted to see included in the budget.
Two weeks before the budget announcement, we co-ordinated a callout asking our readers to weigh in. We created a simple online form to collect the comments, and promoted it through Facebook, Twitter and our website.
Globe and Mail journalists then used the form to contact some of the respondents, who were featured in an online slideshow and in our print edition.
After the first 400 responses came in, we put them into a spreadsheet and grouped them by age to see whether there were any common themes within demographic groups. We also used the responses to create word clouds that would highlight the most commonly used words.
Not surprisingly, respondents focused on the issues that affected them most. Students were most likely to complain about the high cost of education and seniors were more likely to express concerns about Old Age Security.
However, a few themes resonated across all age groups.
What stood out most was the across-the-board call for higher taxes. Yes, you read that right. Respondents said they want the deficit reduced and are willing to see the GST restored to 7 per cent. In our online Balance-the-Budget interactive, many selected a 2-per-cent increase to the GST as one of their top choices for eliminating Ottawa's deficit.
Respondents also called for higher taxes for corporations and high-income Canadians and an end to what they called “boutique” tax credits, such as children’s arts and fitness credits.
Job creation was another common goal across age groups. Respondents called for more high-quality jobs, R&D spending and an investment in innovation to create a modern, sustainable economy.
In addition, all age groups wanted to see MP pensions reformed, civil servant salaries cut and internal spending reduced. With so many Canadians out of work or suffering from stagnant wages, respondents said the government needs to share the pain.
To read more about how your comments shaped our coverage, check out Mind the gap: A generation battle brews over budget.