Learning about local government

From Oct. 14 to the 20, Waterloo and Kitchener will be having their yearly Local Government Week. This is a school-focused campaign with the hopes of educating society,  primarily the youth, about the roles of the local government through a variety of ways, such as guest speakers, or even having students sit in during a council meeting.

The reasoning behind the week’s conception was simple: to inform people about the role the local government plays in running the country. As stated by the Mayor of Waterloo, Brenda Halloran, “It is just an awareness opportunity for the local government to reach out and teach the community about what the local government is.”

She went on to say that it aims to “explain to citizens and to students exactly what municipal government does, because I think there’s a lot of confusion with the roles of various levels of government.”

The Local Government Week was instated by the Ontario government, and has been carried out in some other provinces, like British Columbia. Plenty of public service employees help out as well through various events or interaction with the public.

Stevie Natolochny, council and committee support specialist at the Region of Waterloo, said “locally, and it depends on each municipality, some municipalities may not organize any special events or initiatives to celebrate it, but there are municipalities across Ontario, and I believe other provinces do as well.”

Halloran is involved in the program, and plays an important role.

“Today I was at regional council, and we had two grade-five classes come in to watch regional council in action, so I was able to address the students and kind of explain what regional council does,” she said. At one point during the presentation, she brought out the key to the city, evoking the response from the students: “Where’s the door?”

According to Natolochny, the program has been in planning for about a month and a half.

However, as stated by Halloran, “Because this is a provincial initiative, we don’t really have any sway or influence over it, so whatever the provincial government decides to do, we’re just part of their initiative.”

Local Government Week is relatively more freeform than other events. Halloran said, “It’s inside the schools; we don’t really have any events ourselves.”

Despite advertising and public notices via websites, public meetings and social media, Halloran claimed the event doesn’t have a lot of popularity. “I don’t see much community awareness and much action happening around it,” she said.

However, she maintained, “It is extremely important. It always interests me, the lack of information people have about the government.”

Halloran concluded, “I think that local government week is really important, because it talks about municipal government, and being the mayor of Waterloo, I’m very proud of our municipal government and all the work that we do to make this city a great place to live. Local government works and it matters.”

By Jonathan Peres De Silva

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