A modest proposal from Jay Stapleton (Red River Ward)

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THUNDER BAY – Going door-to-door on this campaign, I have heard repeatedly that there is not enough information flowing between city hall and the citizens of the city. I was recently asked how I would do things differently, and these are the first three structural changes I would like to see.

Civic Census:

With the recent StatsCan cutbacks, and the gutting of the long-form census, the Census and the value of information has been in the news lately.

A municipal census offers our politicians and administrators access to high-quality, relevant information. Questions can be tailored to suit local needs, and the information can be readily collected, verified, and put to use within the city.

The city would benefit from more information to guide policy decisions, and the people would have the opportunity to participate. The census itself could be built and maintained in partnership with the social science faculties at Lakehead University – keeping the money in the city, and building bridges between the University and the rest of the city.

City Council Journalist:

I have mentioned many times before how I believe that the existing methods of disseminating information from council are insufficient. I believe that hiring a journalist to cover the city council meetings, and distil the content down into an easily perused article would be a positive step.

The broadcast meetings mean that interested parties need to sit through the whole thing, likewise the minutes are not meant to be easily readable, and lack essential contextual details. Having someone who has the skills to reduce the information would allow people to pay attention, and do more research when an issue crosses the council floor which particularly interests them.

Political Literacy Campaign:

I believe it’s important for people to understand how the political systems work. My degree is in Political Science, and as such I spent some time and effort examining political system structures. The current high school curriculum offers a light touch of structure, but no direction on how to get involved.

There should be workshops available to residents on how to become more politically aware and active. They can be offered through the College, University, or High Schools, or facilitated directly through city hall.

An educated, involved political population will lead to a city which is responsive to the needs of its citizens. It is the responsibility of those who assume leadership in the political sphere to make sure this happens.

Having your phone number published, having ward meetings, and providing media releases amount to the bare minimum. An active city council must help create an environment which encourages participation, not just allow participation to happen. This is what will build a political culture in Thunder Bay.

Jay Stapleton

You can contact Stapleton at his blog: Jay Stapleton Blog

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