I am pleased to announce that three winners have been chosen in my essay contest for high school-aged youth living in Gloucester-Southgate Ward. This year’s topic was “Local Government Matters.” We received many creative, thought-provoking entries from young people all over the community, which were judged by representatives from Hydro Ottawa and the South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre.
Thank you to our generous sponsor, judges, and all those who submitted an essay. Stop by my ward office located at the Greenboro Community Centre, 363 Lorry Greenberg Drive, to view the winning entries.
1st Place Winner: Angelina Tohme
Local Government Matters
The Government of Canada is the federal administration that was founded in 1867. This government is divided into three levels: the federal level which generally affects the entire country; the provincial level, which is responsible for certain designated areas; and the municipal level that is generally based in a city, town or district.
There are many ways that I am affected by our local government. To start, my daily life is impacted by the decisions that my local government takes. For example, when it comes to public transportation, it is important for me as a student to be able to access the bus from my neighbourhood and to be able to afford it. Also, having a library nearby is essential because it allows me to use the resources available to help me improve my education and knowledge. When it comes to enriching my experiences and social skills, I can participate in the local activities while offering support and help to my community by volunteering in community centres. Finally, living in a safe environment is important to my family and I, and that is assured by the police and emergency services in my area.
One of the concerns I have in my community is roadway and traffic congestion which I believe should definitely not be ignored. Traffic congestion has a large effect on the number of vehicular accidents and collisions. Collision rates have gone up by 8.4% in the last year due to traffic and busy intersections. Higher collision rates also mean higher mortality and injury rates as well. The majority of people are in favour of believing that intoxicated drivers are the main reason for accidents to occur, but the largest number of accidents tend to happen between the hours of 4pm and 5pm, also known as “rush hour”. Approximately 1,242 accidents, 3,610 injuries and 26 fatalities happened between these hours in 2016. I believe the government should be looking into solutions for this such as, expanding roads or building a new highway. Another issue that I feel strongly about is the lack of youth involvement in the community offerings which means that at my age, despite my willingness to contribute in different activities, I do not necessarily feel included in the programs that are offered to me. It would be great if students my age get invited to a survey where they can express their needs and their desired activities and programs. This will increase the participation of youth in the programs and this is will also open the door to new interesting and creative programs. I have great appreciation for the work that is being done in the community but I feel that the sense of belonging and participation can be tremendously improved.
I am passionate about many initiatives in my community. To begin, my passion lies in bringing additional programs for youth my age regarding their interests. I feel that it is important to assist adolescents in figuring out their future education and role in life by providing opportunities of learning and growth in different domains. Schools provide basic required education, however, in my opinion, we lack many of the essential information needed to succeed in the real world, therefore, new programs can provide us with the tools needed to choose our field of study and the ways to reaching our goals. For instance, we could have a program implemented to create a link between a course taken at school and the outcome of this course in a professional career, this can help students get a better visualisation to make informed choices when selecting their classes at school, university and later on, their profession. Another idea is to connect students with professionals in their field of interest and create a mentorship program to give students a chance to ask any question or concern they may have related. This can take place in à community center, a library, or the professional’s workplace. Education is key to creating a better future with successful individuals, and this is why having more methods that serve this purpose can be key to achievement. I am passionate about anything related to improving my knowledge in my career choices because I believe that this will allow me to be a better citizen and a more accomplished person.
When discussing the idea of lowering the minimum age to vote, we must also discuss how well informed adolescents are. I believe that if the voting age is decided to be lowered, there must also be a method put in place to make sure that every young adult participating in political votings is aware of the issues in question. This method could be a course or information session offered and given in schools with the purpose to educate students on the political matters that in which each representative takes charge. I do believe that youth should be allowed to participate in local elections because although youths between the ages of 0-19 are only 21.5% of the population in Ottawa, they are 100% of the future. Politics do concern us and we should definitely have a say.
Finally, the municipal government’s work is crucial in creating a better society and this is why encouraging people to participate and to share their thoughts and opinions will add to the benefits and the value of the services offered. After all, we all want to live in a healthy community where we have access to the services that we need in our daily life.
2nd Place Winner: Liam Chiasson
Local Government: The Base of Society
Local government is like the base of a governmental pyramid; the bottom supports the middle and the middle supports the top. Without the base supporting the rest of the pyramid, it would not stand nearly as tall.
This is because local government is where the people are, and in a democratic society, power lies within people. Firefighters, transportation, social services, police, parks, playgrounds and more are all regulated by local government. All these things, seemingly small on their own, form a majority of our experiences and interactions on a daily basis without which we could not have an organized society. This means that local government matters because it’s the base of our democratic society. It acts as the link between those at the top, and the civilians like you and I, who form this diverse nation.
However, this doesn’t mean the base is perfect. All around my community I see fractures; wear and tear in the pyramid’s bricks. Whether it be littering, youth drug use/dealing or the precarious relationships between Muslims and Non-Muslims, they are there, lurking. To fix these fractures, much like a pyramid, we must carefully assess where there is damage in our community and allocate resources to overcoming the most urgent issues. If we aren’t careful about which cracks we let linger, one day we may wake up to find the whole pyramid has fallen. Therefore, I suggest this order of importance: the preservation of the environment, the discouragement of drug use and the social unity of our community.
Now that the order of approach has been defined, what should we do specifically to address the issues? Let’s start with littering and environmental preservation. I propose that the local government start an initiative to plant as many beautiful flowers in public spaces as possible. This will deter littering because people are less likely to damage something if it is not already damaged and even less likely to do so if it is beautiful. It will also increase pollination and therefore help the bee population. It may seem a small start but small seeds grow into mighty trees.
Next, the issue of youth drug use and drug dealing. There is no clear way to stop youth from doing drugs; if there was, it would already be done. However, there are ways to greatly deter it. The best method is to show our community’s youth what happens to people who do and deal drugs; even the really unpleasant parts. This could be done by having seminars at local community centers where parents bring their children. A police officer would bring a slideshow filled with images of drug addicts, their records, and what they were like before they started using. Today’s youth are increasingly receptive to images rather than words, so this would be much more effective than simply listing the effects of opioids on the body. They need to see to believe. This segways nicely into another important issue: should the legal voting age be lowered? I believe that would be a bad idea. Eighteen may already be too low as most people’s brains are not fully matured until they are twenty-five. We should not put such an important part of democracy in the hands of those who are not fully aware of what they believe.
Lastly, the segmentation of Muslims and Non-Muslims. From my experience, Muslims think Non-Muslim people dislike them far more often than they do. The reason I know about this misconception is because I have both Muslim and Non-Muslim friends living in my community. I can honestly say that I have seen and heard very few Non-Muslims in my community speak negatively about Muslims. However, I have often heard my Muslim friends talk about Non-Muslims as if they hated or were afraid of Muslims while this is almost never true. I want to present more opportunities for Muslims and Non-Muslims to interact. A multicultural banquet held at community centres every few months would do wonders. People tend not to reveal their true character through everyday things like work or grocery shopping(which is where lots of informal interactions happen between Muslims and Non-Muslims). However, a banquet gives a chance for real, meaningful communication that will make Muslims more comfortable and create a deeper sense of community in everyone.
In conclusion, local government is important because it regulates many small cogs in society’s machinery. It also allows for a community in which real change can happen and where all opinions are considered equitably. In other words, it is important because it is one of the most essential parts of democracy.
3rd Place Winner: Haya Ambaya
Local Government Matters
Let me introduce myself. My name is Haya Ambaye, I am 15 years old and a sophomore at Saint Patrick’s High School. My parents and I immigrated to Canada from Israel in 2006. From then my life had just started, as I grew up in the city of Ottawa I was just like any other Canadian kid. I learned that Canada had always made my family and I feel welcome by providing helpful services which have been greatly useful. This essay will critically examine, how the local government affects me, the concerns I have in my community, the local issues that I am passionate about and should the voting age be lowered to allow youth to participate in local elections.
To begin with, I am proud to say that the local government affects me everyday in my daily life because I use the services that they provide. For instance, when I go to libraries or need to catch a ride on the OC Transpo. If it were not for the services provided, I would not be able to do many of the things I do on a regular basis. For example: when I go to school I occasionally walk, but during winter it can be difficult to walk in the cold. Therefore my alternative would be to catch a ride on the OC Transpo. Since the OC Transpo is a service that the local government provides, that is one way the local government affects me. Another example is when I want to take out a book at the public libraries. There are many varieties of books that I read, hence I go when I need to use books to find information for school or want to enjoy a novel. For various reasons the local government affects me because they are the ones who provide me with the resources I need which are very beneficial.
Secondly, the concerns I have in my community are to increase activities and programs that should be available for all ages to participate in at recreation centers. For instance, increased varieties of programs/clubs such as: hockey and skating rinks, basketball, soccer, art, chess would attract the attention of many people in Ward 10. These activities are affordable and fun. For the older youth, homework and tutoring clubs would be an attraction for those who need help with school work or just a quiet place to study. A bonus is: people who need volunteer hours could help out by doing small tasks such as helping run programs or lending an extra hand. Another concern is advertising these programs more using social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and television commercials. If this small adjustment was made, it is likely for people to find these programs and be motivated to join and participate.
Thirdly, the local issue that I am passionate about is crime. In past years the crime has been going up and down in Ottawa. This issue is important to me because it affects me because my safety and the safety of others is at risk. Feeling safe and being safe in any environment is key and is a right that all citizens should have. Resolving this issue may be difficult, but not impossible. Thus taking attention to detail in crime-ridden neighbourhood is a good place to start.
Finally, the voting age should not be lowered to allow youth to participate in local elections because, many of the youth still need to learn more about how/why their vote will affect their future. The age 18 is where many youth transition to adulthood making them young adults, they learn to be independent, responsible and respectful citizens. At the age of 18, many of the adolescence are getting ready to start a new chapter like: go to post-secondary or to find a job, this requires a very important skill: discussion-making. If the voting age was lowered, there would be problems that would occur because teens would be making decisions that would alter their lives and since many are not aware of why/who they should vote for that can cause stress and improper choices which may cause chaos. It is best to leave the voting age as 18 because the youth are ready to vote because they are prepared to make decisions which not only benefits themselves by being informed and active citizens, but also impacting the community in a positive manner.
To sum up, the local government provides resources that affect me for various reasons. The concerns I have in my community is to increase activities and programs that should be available for all ages to participate in at recreation centers. Crime is a local issue that I am passionate about and I believe the voting age should not be lowered.