What do you consider to be your civic responsibility?
As our provincial election draws near, this is an important question to ask yourself and your neighbour. Voting is a responsibility, as is being informed about issues. But I’m thinking more about the day-to-day, build-up-your-neighbourhood responsibilities. There are some people who take this role seriously, and others who ignore it completely. But I believe most of us want to see our communities thrive and are willing to participate, but aren’t always sure where to begin.
I’d love to know what ideas others have, but here are two that have been on my mind lately: Washrooms and wildfires.
Public washrooms are surprisingly few and far between, especially when it comes to an area in which my family and many others spend a lot of time: parks and playgrounds. I understand there are financial costs and likely regulatory concerns when it comes to operating a washroom on municipal land, but there must be a way to make it work. Just like the City of Moncton partnered with neighbourhood groups to build and maintain outdoor rinks each winter, couldn’t we connect on maintaining port-a-potties for a few months each summer?
The rink program required a minimum of four volunteers that were “responsible for all labour and maintenance associated with the rink” after it was installed by the City (which also inspected the rink on a monthly basis). I’m sure a similar washroom partnership would see enough parents with a sense of civic responsibility – and desire to have a playground washroom! – to be worth running, as I’m sure it would result in more families spending more time outside playing together.
We could also step up as responsible citizens when it comes to fire bans in the summer. Travelling through Ontario this summer, it was impossible to miss the signs: fire ban, no burning. These signs weren’t just at fire stations and municipal offices. They were on the lawns of homes. Small signs, similar to the election ones soon to dot our landscape.
I can imagine local sign companies partnering with local fire stations to provide these signs free to residents willing to post them when necessary. The province could help with promotion and awareness, ensuring residents knew how to get a sign and when to use it. Everyone could then do their own part to share information. If all that prevented even one forest fire, wouldn’t it be worth it? More than half of the wildfires in our country are caused by people. Canada as a whole suffers more than 7,000 wildfires each year, with an average of 2.5 million hectares destroyed annually. It costs the country up to $1 billion a year.
Sure, not every citizen wants to put up a sign or help clean a washroom. But there are some who would, if asked. That’s the kicker, though. Someone needs to take on each cause and make it happen. That not only takes leadership and vision, but also takes time and a persistent attitude that not everyone possesses.
But the bottom line is this: we need to stop waiting for someone else to do it. We need to step up and make things happen. If you think the washroom partnership is a good idea, reach out to your municipal councillor and ask about setting up a program. If you think the fire ban signs are a good idea, contact the local fire station and ask about helping out. Let all those potential provincial leaders who show up on your doorstep know not only what issues matter to you, but also what you’re willing to do to make things happen.