Entries in democracy (1)


Policy Forum 2014: celebrating community to reinvent local democracy

A recent discussion about “Reinventing Local Democracy” at Policy Forum 2014: Connecting the Dots suggests that we should energize democracy through community building.  The discussion participants were participating in the policy forum hosted by the Young Professionals Group (YPG) of the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce with about 45 business and community leaders.  The event was held November 27th at the Holiday Inn Waterfront Peterborough.

The policy forum was based on an article by best-selling author, economist, thought leader and current Chancellor of Trent University, Don Tapscott. The article called “As Toronto dithers, Guelph sets sights on 21st century” was first published in the Toronto Star on Friday, October 17, 2014.  It identifies seven key areas for improving a community: 

  • Promoting Entrepreneurship to Achieve Prosperity 
  • Open Government
  • Turning Public Safety Inside Out
  • Rethinking Transportation 
  • Creating a Sustainable City
  • Transforming Social Services
  • Reinventing Local Democracy

So far in this series we have revealed the table discussions on entrepreneurship and open government. Entrepreneurship wrapped up with a call for a coordinated strategy.  Having an official strategy would allow all interest groups to map out a united front on entrepreneurship the community can present to its own residents, the province and beyond. 

Open government made six recommendations in total including two quick wins: 1. Putting the councillor
handbook online as a guide to government for all residents and 2. Use external language vs. internal language to communicate better with residents and businesses. 

Reinventing Local Democracy

The table participants lead by newly-elected councillor Diane Therrien identified the following concerns as
barriers to municipal politics: 

  • a lackluster attitude toward voting and some issues; 
  • trust in government officials 
  • the balance of representation on city council

The group felt the best chance for success was through exercises that engage the community and that build up community spirit. They felt that democracy is about being active – active physically and mentally in the community and identified the following opportunities for Peterborough: 

  1. Parallel council 
    This mock council would be made up of people reflecting all ages and segments of our community and would make “decisions” on the same issues as the elected council.  
  2. Youth
    Taking any and all opportunities to encourage young people to find and pursue jobs and/or careers that are in demand in Peterborough.   
  3. International Students 
    More encouragement and programs to keep Trent University and Fleming College international students in Peterborough 
  4. Continued community dialogue
    This can happen in a variety of ways, according to the group:
    Town Halls: Mayor Daryl Bennett encouraged councillors to take up these kinds of initiatives in his inaugural address to the 2014-2018 council on December 1, 2014.
  • Council meetings outside of council chambers
  • Referendums 
  • Social Media

5. Areas to promote: Trail system, waterway and public square

The table participants felt that continued promotion of these public areas increases a sense of community and the end result of which is a community more in tune and engaged in its local government.

In the article by Chancellor Tapscott he wraps up the “Reinventing Local Democracy” section with a suggestion to move from an “us vs. them” relationship to “we’re in this together.” Interestingly enough, it’s a sentiment gaining ground in Peterborough City and County Councils, and community and business associations such as the Chamber of Commerce as we head into 2015. In the Chamber world, we lobby governments for improvements to the business climate municipally, provincially and federally. To do this we find strength in being the collective voice for our member businesses.  Peterborough, City and County, it seems that the time is ripe for collaboration and energizing democracy in the Peterborough area. 

Comment through the “Peterborough Chamber” group of LinkedIn