Let’s make Halifax a place young people rave about

littleeasys

Little Easy Launch – photo by Natalie Irwin

Like the last election I’ve made 30 promises this campaign, progressive ideas that focus on our neighbourhood priorities, supports stronger communities, and builds a better HRM. This is a detail policy blog that outlines three of those promises.

The municipality needs to be a youthful city – the kind of place young people want to move to and stay in.

It is too easy for the government to ignore the needs and aspirations of our youth. Students and young people starting their working lives are often too busy to get involved in politics, or don’t know how to get involved, or feel excluded when they try. This means that young people are often not involved in great enough numbers to get things changed, and often other concerns are addressed first.

While in the short term it may seem easy to ignore the concerns of young people, the youth of the municipality are its future. If the city is going to grow and be successful, we need to attract and retain young people. That means investing in playgrounds, skate parks, public libraries and other resources that make this the kind of place you want to stay in, settle down, start a career, and maybe raise a family. It means making the city attractive enough to entice some of the 30,000 post-secondary students who live here to stay after graduation. And it means attracting skilled workers at the beginning of their careers, and getting them to stay here for the long term.

Luckily Halifax has no shortage of talented people trying to make sure new voices are heard. There are people like Byung Jun Kang and Uytae Lee with their Planifax videos. There are organizations like HeartWood Centre for Community Youth Development and  Fusion Halifax, with their work challenging young professionals to take charge of the city’s future. There are students llike Jo Fitzgibbons who wrote her undergraduate thesis at Saint Mary’s on “Youth Engagement in Planning.” These are just a few of the exciting people who are giving Halifax so much energy and hope!

In the last election I promised to work on making Halifax a youthful city, with a platform focused on issues that mattered to youth and students, especially transit, cycling infrastructure and affordable housing. To date we’ve launched the Housing and Homelessness partnership, developed the Moving Forward Together plan, and adopted the Active Transportation Priorities Plan. All of these plans are progressive and forwarding-thinking, though I share concerns about how long they are taking to implement. People’s eagerness to  put these plans into action shows how important these issues are.

Luckily this election there is a guidebook for ideas and projects that are important to youth. The Little Easy is a proposal by a coalition of activist groups that think they have answered the question “How do we make Halifax a city young people will rave about?” They propose three things: Halifax should be easy to get around, easy to live in, and fun. I unreservedly support these principles, and commit to moving them forward in the next term.

If HRM is to become a municipality that even more young people chose to stay in, we need to make sure there are jobs for them. We recently adopted our new five-year Economic Strategy. In the past, Council passed economic strategies and then put them on a shelf, with no plans or funding to act. We’ve changed that and made sure the last plan was acted on (though two years after the past Council adopted it) and we’ve already passed a first-year implementation plan for the new strategy. We need to ensure that the municipality and its public and private sector partners all work to make the strategy a reality.

Finally, we need to listen to Halifax’s young citizens – and not just when there is an election! HRM is in the middle of a review of engagement and public participation. We need to listen to the work of Jo Fitzgibbons, learn from the experience of Heartwood and Fusion, use new methods like Planifax, and make sure  everyone’s voices are heard when making decisions.

Commitments:

  1. Endorse the Little Easy platform in principle and work to implement its goals during the next term.
  2. Ensure the municipality and its partners actively work in support of the 2016-2021 Economic Strategy.
  3. Change the way we engage with citizens to make sure all voices are heard, especially young people’s voices.
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