COLUMN: Valentine’s redux and real issues

It is always interesting to this writer what discussion is stirred up after an opinion piece is published. That is the goal of any opinion writer, to present a viewpoint on a subject, put it out there for others to read and discuss. What was interesting after Tuesday’s column on removing Valentine’s Day from schools, was the variety of opinion from people commenting via the different commenting options.

Most of the comments were expected. “Let kids be kids,” wrote one person. “Not all school is supposed to be book work,” wrote another. No disagreement with those comments, kids should be allowed to be kids at school, and learning opportunities come in all varieties, not just from a book. A few comments supported the stance taken in the opinion piece. One comment stated that “Maybe they can start teaching our kids real life skills like paying bills and or how to go about getting a mortgage.” While another said “Thumbs up, I agree.”

The most interesting comment from the interaction on social media stated that we had bigger issues to deal with in the city than this.

For over a year this twice-weekly column has tackled many issues about Cornwall, the municipalities in SD&G, provincial and national issues. Everything from the City of Cornwall not honouring promises for a splash pad in Riverdale (which is now resolved) to waterfront issues, economic development, and social issues. Issues of bad governance, high utility prices, mismanagement and incompetence at the provincial and federal level. No favour to one party over another, for the most part. What spurred large volumes of comment and discussion was not any of those issues, but Valentine’s Day.

This speaks to a larger issue that is concerning — disengagement in real world matters. Pocketbook issues should bother people. Having more money go out the door because the government agency which runs the electricity system in the province has screwed things up so much, that rates have increased by 78 per cent over the last seven years. Family issues should bother people too. Having to wait six months or more to find a family doctor, only to have them be a 45 minute drive away, that should make people mad. Given what taxes are paid, and what the needs are in communities, this should not be happening.

Community issues should have people concerned. The rising costs of recreation programs, the lack of good paying jobs. High unemployment rates. All issues that touch on every person in a community, large and small. Every time something is cut, or there is an issue, the outcry gets smaller, and always  from the same voices.

Perhaps the issue is that people feel helpless to change matters, so they just deal with the things they can. Pop culture issues, sporting events, or holidays for kids at school. If that is the case, the key to fixing the problem is to have people unplug the iPhone and plug into what’s going on in the community, the province and the country. The processes are there to be involved, it only takes the will to do so. The more people engaged, the more that will get done.  If more people watch the actions of the elected officials running the city or township, the province or the country, the more accountable those elected officials have to be. It sounds optimistic and simplistic but in reality, it is that easy. There is a flip side to this. If the same officials get to do what they want, unchecked by a disengaged or disinterested public, everyone will get the same degrading circle of community. Paying more for less, unhappy with the changes.

As great as it is to see readers engage with comments on social media and stories about a silly holiday celebration in school, let’s have some real discussions about real issues in our communities. That is where change begins.

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