A time for new leaders to emerge.

By Casey Cosgrove

BURLINGTON, ON  October 19, 2011 –  It may just be me, but the city feels remarkably quiet and calm this week.  The provincial election is over, and we will have a respite of three years or so (we hope) before going to the ballot box again in Burlington.  In the past year, we have elected those people that Burlington wished to see as its representatives, our political leaders on three fronts  – provincially, federally, and on the municipal scene. I know many friends and colleagues that are looking forward to the time off to re-energize.

Things seem too good to be true here at home.  The ‘mistake on the lake’ (pier) is on the right path, we have a lovely new performing arts centre opening downtown soon, the hospital development and mid-peninsula highway issues are in the hands of the ‘right’ provincial government – things just seem so, well, suburban.

Believe me, as a director of an organization that does work with low-income families across Canada, Halton was a tough place to get partners. It was as if people here didn’t want to recognize that poverty exists. I live here and know it does.

I see no signs of ‘Occupy Burlington’ on the horizon either.  This time of relative ‘peace’ begs the question – What are the ‘burning issues’ that will affect Burlingtonians over the next while?  Of course there are always things to do, ‘one-off’ problems to solve here in the city, but what will occupy the news in the coming months?  Perhaps it will be another fight to preserve lakefront or green space, the protection of a piece of Burlington history, another possible sports franchise relocation, or maybe even a good old-fashioned political scandal! One never knows, and it is just this that would make having a crystal ball so wonderful!

No matter what dominates the news, when I wear my ‘community engagement’ or  ‘leadership prof’ hat, I see this as just the right period in time for new leaders to surface here in the city.  Yes, leaders often emerge in crisis, but it is also these ‘quiet times’ that allow civic minded people to take on a cause near and dear to them, and to plant the seeds to dealing with an important local issue. Take Mina Wahidi, and her building of the Compassion Society of Halton a few years back.  This was a terrific example of leadership in action right here in the community, and was not done with interest of seeking political office.  This was community leadership in its purest form. As a lifelong resident of the city, I do have my own wish list of areas that I would like to see local leadership emerge.

First and foremost, I would like to see genuine recognition that poverty exists here, and then see something done about it.  Believe me, as a director of an organization that does work with low-income families across Canada, Halton was a tough place to get partners.  It was as if people here didn’t want to recognize that poverty exists.  I live here and know it does.  The way I see it, many people that are consumed by taxes and their own pocketbook took the opportunity to vote here in Burlington last week, with a predictable local result.  Now it’s time to get involved, and the best way would be to step outside ones comfort zone and better understand and see that there are a lot of people ‘hurting’ close to home.  I believe that there is a great potential for people to step-up as leaders in the fight against poverty here in Halton, and hope to see it on the radar.

The other area that I believe has excellent growth potential in terms of local leadership involve seniors and youth – both individually and collectively. Imagine a community that not only honours its most senior members (which we have in great numbers), but works closely and actively with them in building community.   Imagine a community that builds leadership in their young people ‘on purpose’, inspires them to be leaders no matter where their personal journey takes them.  Utilizing these two local riches (seniors and youth) both individually and with a number of inter-generational approaches not only contributes to the development and growth of the people involved, but most certainly to the community as a whole.  We hear the word leadership used a lot during elections, but it is this ‘quiet’ period of time in between elections where we should be focused on developing and encouraging emerging local leaders.  Lets get at ‘er.

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