Don’t wait for an election to influence public policy

[attach]3498[/attach]Hear Ye, Hear Ye … we want the Town Crier to trumpet the exciting new experiment of our St. Paul’s Summit on February 20 at the Holy Rosary Parish Hall.

We believe that bringing together all levels of government that serve the same citizens is a good idea!

Our fabulous city councillors Joe Mihevc, Josh Matlow, and Josh Colle, with our wonderful MPP Dr. Eric Hoskins and school trustees Shelley Laskin and Jo-Ann Davis. We hope that the 13 Division and 53 Division of our Metropolitan Police will be able to come. We are inviting all BIAs and all ratepayer associations. We have always boasted about the St. Paul’s Model — no finger pointing and blaming other levels of government, just working together to serve the citizens we all represent. As the critic for Democratic Renewal, I am obsessed by the need to develop meaningful mechanisms for citizens to be able to influence public policy not only at elections. St. Paul’s is one of the most educated ridings in the country and one of the youngest. We are diverse, and the majority of our residents are tenants. Behind almost every door in St. Paul’s is someone passionate about something — foreign policy, the appalling conditions for our aboriginal people, the Niagara escarpment. We have more solar power than any other part of Canada. Lots say to me ‘but that’s St. Paul’s’. I don’t accept that. I am excited that in St. Paul’s we have the ability to experiment in mechanisms that could really result in a Democracy between Elections — both in person and online.

In St. Paul’s, we also have some of the best NGOs (non-government organizations) and CBOs (community-based organizations) in the country. We need to develop formal mechanisms so that they too can apply their expertise into better public policy and programs. Rules that prohibit organizations from spending more than 10 percent of their activity on advocacy or the federal government reluctance to provide core funding, only able to fund project-based funding have steadily eroded the influence of civil society.

I always love January, as the House is not sitting, I get to spend time in the riding learning from the best! The Eritrean Community Centre on St. Clair West is in peril … in spite of their indisputable successes integrating refugees and immigrants into our community their funding is being cut by 70 percent. Instead of fighting for their lives, these passionate Canadians should be helping share their best practice across Canada. Kebrom Debru, the executive director of the Eritrean Community Centre has been in Calgary, Winnipeg, London helping design better programs sto support the African community. The E.C.C. has demonstrated that it is possible to also serve non-Africans in a way that has all clients feel truly included.

In a recent meeting at the ECC, I was so impressed to hear from Jonathan, an immigrant from Israel who was so grateful for the help and support the ECC has given him, but also for their approach that had made him feel so valued and welcome.

I hope that all the people of St. Paul’s and those we lovingly refer to as Honourary St.Paul’s — those that have lived here or hope to live here, those who work here or volunteer here — to come out on February 20th to work together to help the elected representatives design better mechanisms for citizens to be able to shape public policy at all levels of government between elections.

We also hope that all St. Paul’s residents and Honourary St. Paul’s citizens will join us for a skate and hot chocolate at the Wychwood Barns on February 12 at 1 p.m. after the Farmer’s Market — it is the guide to ‘Survival of the Canadian Winter’!

We need to work on all the informal and formal mechanisms to ensure that public policy is developed bottom up … and we want St. Paul’s to be the leader.