For many of us, governments and the work of politicians seems far-removed from our daily lives. We may not see many people who look like ourselves among the leadership of our city. We may question whether the people elected will actually understand or represent our interests. We may find it hard to speak up. We may have been raised in a country where speaking up was not allowed. Or, as women, we learned that men made important decisions. Or we found our opinion was less valued because of the colour of our skin, our indigeneity, language, income, sexual identity or disability.
We Have a Lot to Contribute
Government can be difficult to influence. On the other hand, it’s important to recognize the contribution of Ottawa’s diverse residents can build a better city.
We know our city because we live and work here. We see the needs of those around us. We have our own experiences. We know what is needed to make our city a better place because we:
- Live and volunteer in our communities.
- Provide and receive services.
- Care for our families.
Improving Ottawa’s Community Wellbeing
The Canadian Index of Wellbeing measures how people are doing. It measures areas of education, employment, feeling safe and engaged, as well as having access to quality health and social services.
A report in 2014, “Bridging the Gap: The Ottawa Community Wellbeing Report 2014”, released by the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC) and the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa (CHRC), made visible the extent to which people are experiencing wellbeing in Ottawa.
- One in ten people in Ottawa live in poverty, highlighting the income gap between the affluent and everyone else.
- Housing affordability is a high concern with one in every five families in Ottawa. They spend over one-third of their income on shelter.
- Food security is a challenge with eight per cent of Ottawa households. They are not able to get to nor afford nutritious food.
- Public transit is key for low income people to access services, yet one-third of Ottawa residents expressed dissatisfaction with the public transportation services provided by the municipal government.
We can work with our City Council to improve this.
We Can Make a Difference
There are success stories of residents and community organizations in Ottawa speaking up and being heard by City staff and City Council. Being heard is the first step towards positive change. We can build on these experiences and then pass our learning on to our communities. We have both a right and responsibility to do so.
“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
When we dare to speak out on our concerns, we dare to be powerful.