Thursday, March 5, 2015

Get involved in Ontario's fight against climate change

An oft-repeated criticism of the updated Ontario sex ed health curriculum is “parents weren’t consulted”. If that were true, then it would be a serious flaw. However, the changes are actually the product of almost a decade of consultation with many stakeholders, including all 4,000 school council chairs, chosen by the parents of our schoolchildren and serving as the information conduit, in both directions, between parents and the school boards and Ministry of Education. This means parents at Ontario’s public schools were connected to the process, which is a good thing and helps validate the results.
Unlike many of the columnists in this paper, I’m not anti-government. I actually believe government can be (and often is) a force for good, which might be why all developed nations have extensive government while nations in severe difficulty have little, or no, or failed government.
However, for government to do good, it must be done well, and that means incorporating participatory democracy. This fancy phrase simply means our input into policy doesn’t start and end at the voting booth; government must constantly consult the public before undertaking major projects, letting us review new proposals before they are imposed, with worthy improvements incorporated. That is where many governments, including our current federal one, have failed; handed pre-written legislation by a particular industry or lobby group, they ram it through, ignoring or stifling debate and refusing any edits or improvements before making it law.
In Ontario, at least sometimes, this isn’t the case. Besides the sex ed curriculum I mentioned, I took part in the creation of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act and Plan, as stakeholders like me were able to modify and improve the legislation significantly before it was passed. Of course, for this to work, you must stay informed and take part actively, not just wait to be asked.
It's time to talk about this.
Well, now Ontario is going to adopt a new strategy for fighting climate change but before they do, they have released a discussion paper and are holding a series of local town halls to get public feedback before creating new laws, regulations, policies or programs.
Sadly, the nearest town hall to Barrie is in Aurora on March 18th. Luckily, you can take part in this process without leaving town, by attending the pre-town hall conversation hosted by local Green Party candidates Marty Lancaster and Bonnie North.
This Sunday afternoon (March 8th) at 3:30 pm, concerned members of the public are invited to the Café at Local Foods Mart (enter through the Local Foods Mart on Dunlop at Mulcaster, or directly from the rear via Lakeshore Mews) for round-table discussions on topics relevant to climate, such as clean energy, local food, and carbon pricing. You can review the discussion paper online at this link, but we’ll also have copies at the meeting. The ideas you put forward or prioritize will be noted to present at the Aurora town hall or mail directly to Glen Murray, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
Be heard! Attend our local meeting or make your way to Aurora. This is YOUR opportunity to get involved in the policy process and tell the politicians or bureaucrats what you want to see happen; don’t let it pass by and complain you weren’t consulted when they take action in your name.

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Curriculum changes not made in the shadows"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.

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