On Monday, January 11, 2016, close to 120 members of the Peterborough and surrounding community braved the snow and almost -20c weather to be part of an open conversation regarding the economic future of Peterborough-Kawartha, led by none other than Hon. Maryam Monsef and her esteemed staff. With some people coming from even as far as the GTA’s west-end, it’s easy to say this new town hall style approach to leadership was very well received by residents.
This town hall meeting was held at Trinity Church on Reid Street on the western side of the downtown core. The focus of the event was to gain some community perspective on how they saw Peterborough today, but more importantly, how they would like to see the Peterborough of tomorrow, with regards to local jobs, economic priorities, and which of Peterborough-Kawartha’s many assets could be accentuated further.
I went into the summit and promptly took my seat, pen in hand, ready to bar down on as much information as I could for the two-and-a-half hour talk. With the expectation of hearing from a number of community officials, I was mentally prepared to decipher some political jargon about Peterborough’s economic state, followed by rhetoric on how everything is on the up-and-up.
However, I was pleasantly surprised when I, along with the rest of the crowd, was quickly instructed to form small groups of three in order to speak with someone new on pre-determined questions regarding the economic state of our struggling city.
Each group member was given three minutes to answer questions, such as what we, individually, thought were the crossroads at which we stood in our community, and where did we see ourselves going?
I spoke with many interesting people on Monday night. It was a real pleasure to do so, and to hear the way people, from all walks of life, see their home. “We are worried,” said one of my group members, Paul, a retired 40-year employee of Peterborough’s General Electric. “We want the Peterborough I knew when I was a kid.”
Paul identified a main theme that seemed to be consistent with many of the retirees I spoke with that night: they love this town, but their children are now struggling to find employment, and while they don’t want to sabotage their children’s prosperity, they don’t want to leave their city either. This, evidently, is one way down that crossroad.
There was also a noticeable young presence, which was very nice to see. These residents came with parents, or on their own accord, and also had some very interesting outlooks on how they would like to see their hometown grow into some place where they could raise a family some day.
The idea I got from a lot of these attendees was that they would like to see more community events, such as music festivals at Del Crary Park, which appeal more to a young crowd, and would also attract tourism during the summer months.
“Some of the days I look forward to most all year, are events where George Street is closed [due] to traffic. This is a time where you really get to know and mingle with the amazing residents of Peterborough, but also share this time with out-of-towners experiencing our city for the first time,” said Samantha, a 19-year-old Peterborough native.
It’s no secret that there needs to be a drastic change in Peterborough-Kawartha if we intend to preserve the sense of community that makes summits like these possible. It was amazing to see such a good turn-out of concerned citizens who genuinely want to take action in making their home a better place, not just for them, but for generations to come.
I commend Maryam Monsef and her team for taking the time out of what must be a truly hectic schedule, in order to get real feedback, from real people who matter and who collectively voted her into an office she undoubtedly deserves.