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EDITORIAL

Asking much of children

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tudents at a school in Barrhaven will launch a hiring guide for local businesses this week. The Grade 4 students put a lot of work into their product, meeting with more than 30 local business managers to find out what hiring tools they currently use. The kids have since compiled a hiring guide, which will soon be for sale, with proceeds to Big Brothers, Big Sisters. The goal was to develop something that would help people in the community and the hiring guide could help connect job-seekers with prospective employers. The project was developed with help from the Learning Partnership, a national non-profit organization that promotes the public education system in Canada. The organization is participating in similar projects at 240 schools. By working on the guide, students got a taste of teamwork and the value of all the steps in the business process, say organizers. Encouraging entrepreneurial spirit in youngsters is a good idea, but it’s also reasonable to ask if

maybe we’re expecting our kids to grow up a little too soon. There will be time to learn marketing and project management in high school or at college or university, all before those skills can ever be honed in the real world. Grade 4 is too early for students to choose a future educational goal or career. It’s not clear what skills a nine or 10-year-old might develop today that will be of value when they enter the workforce. Sampling many careers might be a better use of the kids’ time than carrying out one intensive project. Parents of any kids involved in the Learning Partnership programs should share their thoughts with teachers, principals and school board trustees. It would be interesting to know if the parents think their kids’ time was well spent, especially if there was follow-up years later to see if a Grade 4 student went on to bigger things and was inspired or prepared in part by the Learning Partnership program. Without that information over the long term, it’s impossible to say if learning business skills at a young age is the right course or if kids should just be kids for a little longer.

COLUMN

Fixing Queen Street, and other Ottawa fantasies

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n Ottawa, even the good news is somewhat mysterious. Take, for example, the word that the city is looking for submissions from engineering consultants on ways to improve Queen Street, so that it will be nice to walk along in a few years when light rail is running underneath it. The mysterious part: how could anyone think that Queen Street can be improved in any way other than blowing it up and starting over again? The Citizen article on the Queen Street study contained the usual allusions to planting more trees and widening sidewalks and adding benches, but hey. There’s no retail on Queen Street, hardly a restaurant and lots of ugly glass buildings. You think wider sidewalks is going to help much? Two years ago, on a Saturday afternoon in April, Tyler BrĂťlĂŠ, the former Ottawan turned London magazine tycoon, was wandering around downtown. Here’s his description, in the Financial Times, of what he saw: “The street was littered with soggy bits of rubbish; some shops were out of business; almost every office tower had a lease sign in the lobby window and it was eerily deserted. I walked a few blocks hoping the urban

CHARLES GORDON Funny Town landscape would improve but the few retail outlets that were open felt tatty and tired, the streets were buckling and full of potholes and every other block was punctuated by a vacant property, an empty parking lot and restaurant closed for business, permanently.â€? Not a bad description and it obviously made an impression, because BrĂťlĂŠ was invited back to Ottawa, where he spent two years in the ‘80s going to Nepean High School, to give a public talk as part of an ideas project to improve the city. For reasons understandable to those who deal with famous people, the deal fell through and the organizers are now looking for another expert. “The vision of bringing someone to give us some advice is still on the table,â€? Coun. Mathieu Fleury told the Citizen.

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“We want to bring someone with that kind of profile.� As the old saying goes, an expert is someone from out of town. Too many cities get their reputation from the guy who spends two days there and writes an analysis based on the airport, the personality of the taxi driver who brings him from the airport, the hotel, two restaurants near the hotel, the street the hotel is on and the taxi driver who takes him back to the airport. A guy who walked around the Glebe or the Market, rather than Queen Street, would have a different assessment of Ottawa. A guy who stayed in Ottawa South or Kanata would think differently from a guy who stayed at the Westin. Which is not to say that Queen Street is not awful. It is. It’s just that we don’t need to pay someone to tell us that. Many of the problems that plague our city are obvious to anyone who lives here and don’t require expert advice. If you want a vibrant Queen Street, put some stores on it. For those stores to thrive they need customers, people who live downtown. That means apartment buildings instead of office buildings. People have known this

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for decades, people who are not from out of town. Persuading business and government to do anything about it is, and always has been, the problem. It costs money. As time passes without anything being done people learn to live without downtown. They have their neighbourhood stores and restaurants, if they are lucky enough to have that kind of neighbourhood. If not, they have the nearest mall, where there are stores and the parking is free and easy to find. If Queen Street is awful, it ceases to matter to a lot of folks.

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8 West Carleton Review EMC - Thursday, April 11, 2013

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WestCarleton041113  

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WestCarleton041113  

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