Prologue – SWO Council Watcher Project
Below you find the rough script of the prologue of the Prologue of the Council Conversation Podcast. You can listen below or on your favourite podcast platform OR you can read a summary!
Welcome to Council Conversations, my name is Frazier Fathers the host of this podcast and initiator of the broader Southwestern Ontario Council Watcher project. Today I am going to set the scene for you. About who I am, talk about the broader project, what this podcast is about, what I hope to accomplish.
First a bit about me, who am I and why am I doing this?
I grew up in Tillsonburg Ontario, which is more or less right in the middle of SW Ontario. 2.5 hour to Windsor, 2 to DT Toronto, 2h 45 to Buffalo, 1h 40 to Sarnia, 3 hours from Collingwood. My parents were originally from Windsor with large and widespread extended family, it saw us driving up and down the 401, 402 and 403 growing up for gatherings, holidays and vacations
I was also privileged enough and to have a family cottage in Lambton County. Many of my Fridays and Sundays nights were driving too and from, through rural Oxford, Elgin, Middlesex Lambton and Chatham-Kent counties. I watched places like Port Lambton, Wallaceburg, Thamesville, West Lorne, St Thomas, Belmont, Ingersoll change as I grew up.
Upon completing high school, I ended up going to Wilfred Laurier University getting a degree in political science. I graduated with that degree in December of 2009 in the teeth of the great recession. I went back to school at University of Windsor and University of Michigan where I received two master degree one in political science the other in public policy.
I have been working in the non-profit sector for the last 6 years doing research and evaluation work related to social-economic challenges in Windsor-Essex. I currently live in Windsor with my dog Izzy.
You can also find me on my personal blog www.gingerpolitics.com, on twitter @Frazier_Fathers and you can also hear me on a monthly podcast called Mean, Median and Moose which talks about data in Canada and its usages.
So enough about me!
What is SWO Council Watcher?
This is a bit of a passion project for me. Given what I said about my background, smaller towns and cities have always interested me. My master of public policy degree focused on local economic development and local government. I have considered at points to purse a PhD in this vein but that hasn’t materialized. But I remained interested and passionate about the region and the communities that make it up.
This work has also been inspired by a couple of other veins of interest. First are people like Joey Coleman and the Public Record in Hamilton and Matt Elliot newsletter City Hall Watcher on the City of Toronto. Although this site won’t (in its planned form) go into the depths of analysis of the 131 municipal councils in SW Ontario that they do, we have to remember that these councils have in many cases the same powers and authorities as the councils of the GTHA.
Whether development planning that results in Ex-urban sprawl, economic development strategies to attract jobs, adapting to climate change, small town decisions do matter to big cities, it is just hard to see. So taking time to examine those decisions, the communities they are happening in and people they impact is important.
The second vein comes from books like Chris Arnade’s Dignity: Seeking Respect in America’s Backrow, as well as more academic works like Enrico Moretti’s – The New Geography of Jobs and Zachery Spicer’s The Boundary Bargain; Richard Florida quasi-mea culpa The New Urban Crisis; to advocacy driven works like Marjorie Kelley & Ted Howards – The Making of a Democratic Economy; and Desmond Cole’s – The Skin We Are In.
Although many of these works do not touch on SW Ontario, they offer insights on fundamental structures that shaped this part of the province that create some of the opportunities and challenges facing our region.
SW Ontario Council Watcher is going to explore the region through 3 avenues – blogs and research, podcasts and a data portal.
Starting with the Data portal it will be the weak link for the near future. Small towns have limited access to data. Even communities like Windsor and London are left out of major statistical sampling from Statistics Canada or suffer from small sample sizes that result in “unreliable data”. That being said, data does exist at Statistics Canada can be made available. Currently the only piece of data on the portal is a list of municipalizes and their websites. I have my eye on acquiring additional data but that will take time, as it will carry a cost. That includes an interesting conversation with a polling firm.
With the 2021 Census occurring this spring, and the data becoming available in early 2022 some I have thought to pre-set a number of tables and data sets for rapid comparisons once the census data is available. Population changes; incomes shifts, poverty levels, ethno-diversity data and others will likely appear in the Data Portal over the coming months as I compile them.
In the meantime, there are a couple of collections already underway. I am currently compiling all of the approved tax levies for 130ish municipalities in SW Ontario. This will be the basis for a forthcoming post on how these municipalities budgets were impacted by COVID 19.
The items above will likely be the first planned major research/blog posts. Which is the second avenue that this project will move forward. I am not really in a position to commit a specific cadence of posts at this point. Certainly, more than one per month is my hope but a lot of that is driven by the data and stories that become available.
Finally, that brings us to the Council Conversations Podcast. If you are reading this, you can listen to me read this too you on your favourite podcasting platform. Please go and subscribe!
Season 1 of Council Conversations is 8 Episodes including this prologue. The other 7 episodes will be released every Thursday evening at 7pm starting on Feb 18th. The release schedule is as follows:
Feb 18th Councillor Kelsey Santarossa from the Town, no wait Municipality of Lakeshore– She is the youngest elected official in Ontario and no one is talking about her. She has launched a national NFP to engage young people in municipal government – Youth Council Coalition of Canada. We talk about her story, her community, youth retention, affordable housing and something about a name change.
Feb 25th – Mayor Marcus Ryan of Zorra Township – You are probably think where is that? But this township of 8,500 is doing really innovative things. They will be Carbon Neutral by 2035, during COVID they implemented a 4-day workweek for municipal staff, while at the same time buy brownfields and selling them to developers for a profit!
March 4th – Councillor Chris Parker from Tillsonburg Ontario – Full disclosure I went to public and high school with Chris. Affordable housing, economic diversification, municipal services were all topics of discussion. We also got a different perspective on regional government to Mayor Ryan as Tillsonburg and Zorra both have representatives on Oxford County Council with the former being one of the smaller communities and Tillsonburg being one of the larger.
March 11th – Councillor Eric Beauregard from Port Colborne Ontario – Is Niagara even a part of SW Ontario, I don’t know but I included them as I feel there is a story to be told. We unpack Lake Erie flooding, COVID Beach Issues and how does Niagara region fit into SWO.
March 18th – Councillor Neil Anstett from North Perth Township – A township made up of 3 villages that expects to double in population in the next decade – we talk rural broadband, development challenges, maintaining community amenities
March 25th – Councillor Nathan Colquhoun from the City of Sarnia – As the only downtown councillor in an “at large” city, we talk climate change in “chemical valley”, reconciliation with neighbouring first nation communities and selling their airport.
April 1st – Not an April Fools – I am joined by Armine Yalnizyan, economist and Atkinson Fellow on the Future of Workers. She coined the term “She-Sesssion” during COVID and we dig into some of the themes and topics from the previous six conversations: housing affordability, mobility, economic development and basic income. This is how we wrap up Season 1 of the podcast and a teaser of that conversation is below.
Hopefully your as excited as I am about these conversations. You should know that work is underway on Season 2 which should drop sometime after Easter!
As I wrap up, I ask you to note three things. First, as with all shows and media what it starts as, does not mean it will stay that way forever. Having edited Season 1 of the podcast, there are already things I that I want to improve in Season 2. “You know”. So please forgive foibles and errors I am learning by doing. The episode are more or less unedited beyond music and a reminder to subscribe.
Second As I am already talking about Season 2 of the podcast that hasn’t full launched yet and I am talking about 2022 Census Data. I am personally making a long-term commitment to this initiative. As of right now it is just me. SW Ontario in my opinion has a huge number of opportunities to explore and highlights, issues dissect and understand and stories to tell. I would love to collaborate on this project with people, so feel to reach out with feedback, ideas and if you want to lend a hand and contribute I am all ears.
So, Thursday night at 7pm the first official conversation drops! I hope you will listen.
Thanks again for listening to Council Conversations and your interest in the broader SW Ontario Council Project.
If you enjoyed this episode, please like and subscribe where you get your podcasts.
You can also follow Council Conversations and the broader Southwestern Ontario Council Watcher project on Social Media.
You can find it on Twitter @SWOCouncil
And on facebook @ S W Ontario Council Watcher
Finally you can follow and subscribe to the website and be emailed whenever a new post goes live www.swocouncilwatcher.ca
Music notes: Deadly Roulette by Kevin MacLeod