Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Learning about Local Government

Over the last couple of weeks, I really enjoyed the times that staff and I visited some of Pelham’s grade schools and EL Crossley to talk about the importance of Local Government.

You see, the “new” curriculum for grades 5 and 10 includes a focus on “civics.” And, the provincial government encourages Towns and Cities to get more involved in schools during “Local Government Week.”

In the past, the Town Clerk and I visited several grade 5 classes and the grade 10 classes at Crossley. Because of the municipal election last fall, we took a year hiatus.

Well, we reinvigorated the visits this year with a presentation developed by the Clerk’s department. Trying to make it as dynamic as possible, the lesion includes a slideshow complemented by props like an old water meter (complete with the “curb stop”), a copy of the 3-inch-thick Ontario Municipal Act, and a game. For the game, we distribute a picture to each student about a government service – like public swimming, or recycling collection, or the Canadian mint, or health care. Then, we ask the student to identify whether the local, Provincial, or Federal government provides the service.

Most students appear surprised about the number of services provided by local government.

We try to clarify why we have three different types of police – Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police, and Niagara Regional Police.

We also try to explain why we have four types of roads – Trans-Canada Highway, 400-Series Highways, Regional Roads (like Regional Road #20), and local roads.

Most classes contain a mix of students from urban and rural homes. While many receive Town water, others know that their water comes from a well or is “trucked-in.”

In addition, Mayor April Jeffs and I encouraged Crossley’s grade 10 students to think about local government and encouraged the four candidates to become “Mayor for the Day” in Wainfleet and in Pelham. With the help of several students, the Clerk’s Offices ran an election – which included speeches, a voters list, a secret ballot, and ballot boxes.

Then, it was my pleasure to host Jacob Mantler as Pelham’s Mayor for the Day on Monday. Jacob toured Town Hall, spoke to staff about their responsibilities, visited Pelham Cares with me, and helped judge the 2011 Pelham Christmas Card contest; he also stated our regular Council meeting.

Thanks to the teachers and students for your warm welcome and for helping to spread the word about all the great services provided by local governments!