Roundtable discussion focuses on transportation, employment
Jeff Leal, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs was in Welland Monday participating in a discussion with local youth leaders and local politicians on how to retain and attract youth in rural communities.
Transportation, employment were noteworthy points that came out of a roundtable discussion held in Welland between local politicians, local youth leaders and Jeff Leal, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
The discussion held at City Hall in Welland Monday was basically focused on how to retain and attract youth in rural communities.
“Our young people make up about 15%-16% of the population,” Minister Leal said Monday after the discussion. “But they make up 100% of our future.”
“We need to go out of our way to make sure that their needs, their ideas can be reflected in the whole policy making process,” he said.
According to a press release from the City of Welland, the purpose for the round table discussion was to assist the Ministry in their preparation of topics and priorities for the 2016 Rural Ontario Summit.
In the press release Welland Mayor Frank Campion said ““Building a Welland that retains our youth and also attracts young graduates from Niagara College to stay in Welland is favourable to our economy.”
“As a Youth Friendly Community it’s essential to invest in our youth, and ensure they have access and support to a variety of opportunities,” he said.
“I heard about transportation being one of the barriers here today,” Minister Leal said. “One of the things I heard today is that the Region of Niagara is going to be building an integrated transit, plans are being made, that will be very helpful for someone who is in Wainfleet who wants to get to St. Catharines (but doesn’t have a car) or someone from Port Colborne wants to get to Niagara Falls.”
“Having that integrated system would be very helpful, particularly for the young people,” he said.
The discussions of transportation for young people in rural areas was directly linked to employment, better transportation would allow youth in rural areas access to jobs for which they would normally have to move out of the community for.
“I think it was really good (the roundtable discussion),” Wainfleet Township Mayor April Jeffs said. “I really appreciate Minister Leal reaching out and including the politicians, but, more importantly the youth.”
“It is something that I hear, the parents of older youth in our community, that they want to come back and live in Wainfleet but, it’s expensive, there aren’t the jobs in Niagara,” she said. “So how do we solve that, employment for youth, how do we make it more affordable?”
“In Wainfleet we are going to renew our economic development and if we can help businesses to expand, that helps, but, that’s a bigger issue across the region,” she said.
“My dad said ‘Why don’t you stay in Guelph, there’s more opportunity there,’” said Meghan Dykstra of Wainfleet who was at the roundtable discussion. Meaghan had gone away from Wainfleet to the University of Guelph and has returned home.
“That may be true,” she said. “But I wanted to come back to Wainfleet, the family ties are there, I want to grow in Wainfleet, I want to raise my family there.”
“It is difficult, but, today it was great, we were able to speak from our point of view,” she said. “We are the future and we have to make our thoughts known.”
For Port Colborne High School student Meghan Chamberlain today’s roundtable discussion was revealing in opening a dialogue on subjects not discussed before.
“We’ve learned about topics that weren’t really presented to us before,” she said. “They were in the back of our mind, but, we really didn’t have that connection to our municipal government, but, I think today we kind of learned the connections that can be made and the starting grounds for them.”
“It’s nice to know that people actually care about you,” said Port Colborne High School student Robert Klonowski. “To see all these communities come together and take time and discuss these issues, they want to find a way to fix them, that’s great.”
“It’s nice to see they are thinking about the actual processes of getting transportation for us, that’s a big deal,” said Port Colborne High School student Mae Lannan.
Jeff Leal, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has been meeting with people throughout the province with interests in helping to build a better future for Ontario’s youth.
Strengthening rural communities is one of the many aspects being focused on in the upcoming 2016 Rural Ontario Summit, Leal feels everyone should have a role in helping to strengthen rural communities.
“I believe that responsible rural leadership means ensuring the next generation can have a bright and successful future in rural Ontario. Finding a good job or getting access to high quality health care and education shouldn’t mean having to move to an urban area,” said Minister Leal. “While the needs of urban and rural Ontarians are often the same, the way these needs are met can be very different.”
Photo submitted – Port High youth have a voice! Mae Lannan, Ontario Minister Jeff Leal, Bobby Klonowski, PC Councilor Yvon Doucet, MPP Cindy Forester, Lincoln Mayor Sandra Easton and Meg Chamberlain who all were invited to participate in a roundtable discussion about the needs of youth in Niagara.