Written for Root Issues in the Barrie Examiner, published under the title "Candidates invited to tackle poverty issues".
During the 2010 municipal elections in which I am running for school board trustee, guest authors Ruth Blaicher and Karen Fox are taking over my column.
Our key concern is sustainability. That’s far more than just an environmental issue: a community or society must at once be ecologically, socially and economically sustainable. When some people aren’t treated fairly, aren’t given opportunities, or are left out of prosperity, it has negative consequences for all. Therefore, we always seek a “big picture” view and look at what’s affecting each segment of the community so we can move forward together.
A great chance to achieve that takes place at 7 pm next Friday evening, October 1. It’s a special event called “A Night Out in the Cold”. No, this isn’t Barrie’s “Out of the Cold” program for the homeless to spend the night in a church basement. Rather, it’s an election debate designed to force candidates to confront poverty issues head-on. It’s been held at all election levels: 2006 municipal, 2007 provincial, 2008 federal, and now we’re back to municipal.
This event is unique in several ways. First, it is the only event to include candidates for mayor and all council wards. All candidates are invited, but not all take part, which right off the bat gives some indication about who does (or doesn’t) care about poverty in Barrie. (Candidates have had plenty of warning, enough to make sure they don’t have a conflict that evening). This year features something new: candidates have been asked to contribute at least $25 to a local support agency in order to participate. When they introduce themselves, they can say which agency they chose and why, to demonstrate how they perceive the poverty challenge in Barrie. And like the homeless, the candidates will have to take part sitting outdoors, despite hot sun, cold snow, or heavy rain. Whatever the day brings will be their lot.
The event is preceded by a march starting at 5 pm from Queen’s Park to Fred Grant Square to raise visibility. Then at 6:15 a free dinner is served at the Square. Finally, at 7 pm, the candidates will face two hours of questions from the moderator and the audience. The event (and parade & dinner) are open and free to all.
As always, this event is hosted by the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness (SCATEH), a coalition of organizations supporting the homeless, poor or at-risk. Each member of the Barrie chapter is helping with the event, by providing food, a stage, a sound system, dishes & cutlery, coordination, etc. For more information, visit http://www.endhomelessness.ca/.
Founding members of Transition Barrie, Ruth Blaicher and Karen Fox are local Realtors with a passion for Green issues and are directors of Living Green.