Summit showcases civic engagement project
The city’s civic engagement project, called “Our Future Hamilton,” has been billed as an unprecedented chance for all citizens to shape their future 25 years down the road.
Chris Murray, the city manager, suggested that the inclusive initiative is further proof that Amazon should set up its much coveted second headquarters here.
Speaking at the Our Future Hamilton Summit at LIUNA Station Tuesday, Murray said a possible Amazon move to Canada “speaks to what we are doing here today,” adding that compared to the U.S., Canada, and by extension Hamilton, is a “welcoming” place to attract CEO Jeff Bezos (an avowed foe of U.S. President Donald Trump). With that, for the 400 gathered in the ballroom, Murray played Hamilton’s slick “Welcome to Unstoppable” promotion video, urging the sound engineer to “crank it up.”
The video, he said, has already been downloaded 53,000 times — which is just shy of the number of Hamiltonians who have had their voices heard in the engagement campaign over the course of a year.
The city’s “community vision final report” to date says 54,332 people were engaged in this stage of Our Future Hamilton, a reboot of the city’s 1995 visioning plan called Vision 2020.
The largest number of responses — 20,801 — came visiting the city’s website; another 10,000 from those stopping by lemonade stands at festivals.
A random table at the back of the room illustrated the diverse nature of the project: McMaster student Maria Correa, Environment Hamilton’s Lynda Lukasik, Accessible Hamilton’s Susan Creer, east end citizen Heather Donison, and Eva Quildon and her daughter Felicia, from the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Hamilton.
Not that everyone was all-in with it: Creer, while supportive in principle, questioned if some viewpoints will be ignored by the city and developers — for example, building housing on the waterfront that will be unaffordable to lower-income residents.
The report says the visioning exercise has led to six community priorities: community engagement, economic prosperity, public health and safety, environmental responsibility, built infrastructure, and culture and social diversity. The next step is working to achieve that vision through “community involvement, action, and evaluation.”
One theme at the summit highlighted by Chelsea Gabel, a professor in McMaster’s Indigenous Studies Program, was better engaging voters with online voting.
The keynote speaker, Greg Essensa, Chief Electoral Officer for Elections Ontario, said he supported the approach. When Essensa took questions, a man stood and demanded that driver’s licences no longer be permitted as identification at the ballot box, to eliminate “bias” in favour of those who drive cars.
Later, another participant took the floor, uninvited, to vigorously denounce Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and call for political reform.
But given the nature of the event, and the audience, both men were listened to and met with neither cheers nor jeers.
After the second man had his say, master of ceremonies Terry Cooke, not missing a beat, quoted Winston Churchill: Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest.
To learn more about “Our Future Hamilton” go to: