Volume 12 Week 5

Wednesday, July 23


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Fulfilling our commitment to our most important resource

How many times have you heard a politician utter the words. "Our youth are the most important resource we have."

The phrase has been used so many times by so many politicians it has become as cliché as "the taxpayer always comes first", "keeping an eye on the bottom line", and "every vote counts".

Politicians often say "our youth are the most important resource we have," but very seldom back that comment up with the the level of commitment that comes anywhere close to the actually statement. Not so in Ottawa, where more than $150 million has been invested in community athletic and arts facilities since amalgamation, and that doesn't include Lansdowne Park.

Numerous studies have shown that sports, and especially team sports, can have a significant impact on the positive development of youth. They promote team work, develop self-confidence, character and self-discipline, and often lead to improved academic achievement, fewer behavioural problems and greater self-esteem.

Now that's not to say that if you child doesn't play sports they're going to lack self-confidence, have no discipline and will do poorly in school, it just means that kids who play organized sports often excel in areas outside the field of play. The same can be said for kids involved in the performing arts as well.

I still remember how difficult it was to get city council to commit to building an east end arts facility that would eventually become the Shenkman Arts Centre. The project was only made possible through a private public partnership. It was a win-win for both the developer and the city, but most importantly it was a huge win for the hundreds of youth who have used the facility since it was opened five years ago.

Private public partnerships have also led to the expansion of the Ray Friel Centre, the construction of the Bell Sensplex in Kanata, the indoor dome at the Hornet's Nest in Blackburn Hamlet, and more recently Sensplex East.

Investing in facilities for our youth is fundamentally important because it sends a clear message to our young people that they are valued members of our society and our community.

Now we have yet another project in the works. This one brought forward by Cumberland Ward Coun. Stephen Blais who has been working with city staff and four major home developers on a proposal to expand Millennium Park.

The $8 million project would see the construction of an artificial turf with lighting and bleachers, three more grass soccer fields, two ultimate Frisbee fields, a field house and a play area for young kids.

The project would cost taxpayers $2 million. The other $6 million would be put up by the new home developers who will be paid back through a special surcharge on new home construction in the Orleans and Cumberland Wards.

The homebuilders, which include Minto, Tamerack, Claridge and Mattamy, would be responsible for designing and installing the new facilities.

It is just what the doctor order in an area that will see the construction of 5,000 more homes over the next 10 years. If I was to add anything to the project it would be an area for dog owners.

But be that what is made, the proposal is another perfect example of creative thinking when it comes to providing infrastructure for our most important resource -- our youth.

Kudos to Stephen Blais for putting it together. Now the responsibility falls on the rest of city council to get it done.

(If you wish to comment on this or any other View Point column please write to Fred Sherwin at fsherwin@magma.ca)


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