Big Society Needed in Winnipeg

Blog, Municipal Government, Les Routledge

Gordon Sinclair writes a column today complaining about the trend towards volunteers maintain parks in the City of Winnipeg.  I disagree with his opinion.

As a university student, I would have jumped at a chance to bid on a contract to mow the lawn and provide maintenance of parks. This is one function that should definitely be contracted out to non-unionized operations (ideally ones operated by young entrepreneurs).

Indeed, during my teen years, I was contracted to provide maintenance and grounds keeping service to a rural cemetery. I doubt that I made much more than 2 dollar per hour at that time, but I also took a lot of pride in having one of the best kept rural cemeteries in the area. That was my first “off farm” job and it was a good learning experience.

I disagree with Sinclair that local residents should not take some ownership of their local parks. A good method to avoid anti-social activity in a park is to have neighbourhood people frequenting the place all the time and having a feeling of ownership so it is “our park” instead of the City’s park.

In order to stimulate more volunteerism in the care and maintenance of parks, perhaps volunteers should be offered prizes to be drawn from a lottery with the prizes donated by area businesses. In an ideal world, those area businesses would also donate supplies, equipment and fuel to the volunteer effort.

Over in England, the Prime Minister talks about the concept of “Big Society” where people voluntarily take on functions that have been filled by government in the past. Perhaps we need to figure out how to get that concept moving in Canada.