founding principles | about
founding principles | engagebarrie
Our Founding Principles describe the core ideas, principles and values
that Engage Barrie support and agree upon.
These give our organization a common direction that will guide us through
our efforts to build an engaged, equitable, and empowered local democracy.
Local community-based organizing
Engage Barrie is committed to developing a strong, grassroots-based community organizing program, inside and outside of electoral cycles, that seeks to deepen connections and politically engage our communities. We seek to create an environment of inclusivity, solidarity and learning, in which we are not necessarily led by any one person, but that we collectively build the skills and capacity of all our members so that they may also be able to lead. We are committed to fostering a climate of cooperation and empowerment between all regions, people and groups across Barrie, and to considering diverse perspectives on policy issues and actions taken.
Creating safe spaces
We are committed to making Engage Barrie a safe space for all members, and creating space for marginalized voices – within our organization, in our community, and in local government. We may not always agree with each other (we’d be worried if we did!) but disagreements and opposing viewpoints can be held with respect and compassion, and used to learn how to make ourselves and the City of Barrie better for all.
Engage Barrie does not endorse any political party or candidate. Our focus is not on the person, but on the policies and actions taken by those in office (or running for office) – and how they fit with our goals of an equitable community, empowered people, and engaged democracy, and an accountable and transparent government.
Engage Barrie embraces the values of CONSTRUCTIVE criticism, and of working together to address the many diverse ideas and concerns around the various challenges and issues our city and organization face, in order to facilitate positive resolutions. Disagreement and even anger, if respectfully expressed (i.e., not in an abusive, destructive, blaming or accusatory manner), can be powerful tools for motivating change and coming to solutions that take into account the needs of the many different residents and communities within our city.
Accountability & Transparency
While Engage Barrie pushes for accountability and transparency in local government, we are also committed to these values within our own organization. That said, we do recognize that the balance of power does require some of our members to speak anonymously through us – we respect others’ privacy and confidentiality, while holding our collective accountability.
Engage Barrie seeks to diversify our representatives on Council, in Provincial and Federal Parliament, and in all levels of local government leadership. A more diverse representation allows for better decision-making, as many perspectives are brought to the table. Electoral reform is one of the tools that can be used to increase diversity in leadership.
Engage Barrie aims to empower the city’s residents through education, mentorship, outreach, as well as providing and pointing the way to the tools we can all use to make change. We believe an informed society is a first step in ensuring a true democracy.
Engage Barrie believes that our elected officials should represent all constituents – not just those who already hold power and have their voices heard. We believe in supporting and uplifting underrepresented and unheard people, especially in regards to the issues that affect them the most, such as housing, food security, the toxic drug crisis, and systemic barriers to true equity.
Everyone deserves to live free of discrimination and the obstacles associated with it regardless of race, religion, age, health, ability, sex, gender, sexual orientation, language or socio-economic status. The principle of inclusion will extend to how Engage Barrie operates as an organization, as well as our goals to help build a city whose structure works for everyone. A city can’t operate at its best for all residents when large groups of society are systematically excluded from the process. Engage Barrie will always support the work of groups leading the fight against all forms of discrimination locally and beyond.
Innovation & Creativity
Engage Barrie strives to find new ways to involve the public in local decision-making. We each have our own set of interests, abilities and talents, and the community will thrive when all of those are given their space to shine. There is no one way to get involved, and no one way to make change – it takes them all to make our community the best it can be.
Key Focal Points
Decolonizing our City
We recognize and acknowledge that our city and country is one that is built upon occupied territory of the Anishinaabe (including the Odawa, Ojibwe and Potawatomi Nations, collectively known as the Three Fires Confederacy) and Huron-Wendat. The City of Barrie encompasses lands covered under the Williams Treaties (1923), Treaty 16 (1815), and Treaty 18 (1818), and is Chippewa Tri-Council Territory (Rama First Nation, Beausoleil First Nation, and Georgina Island First Nation). Engage Barrie recognizes the historic and ongoing racist colonial violence against Indigenous peoples on this land, and we are committed to dismantling the systems of oppression that continue to make that violence possible, as we work towards reconciliation with all Indigenous people and Nations.
Democratizing decision-making in local government
Power is centralized in the offices of the Mayor and Councillors, and senior level staff, and for a long time, it has seemed that they are paying more attention to developers and large business owners than to the people they were hired to represent. There has recently been a greater show of the City wishing to engage with the community, but the public remains frustrated that their concerns and wishes continue to be ignored in favour of big development and big business. Furthermore, select Councillors have ignored or even blocked communication from their own constituents, and been rude, insulting and unprofessional toward the members of the public taking their time to address Council via public meetings and deputations. The attention and respect of our government representatives needs to be returned to the residents. Engage Barrie will work to take back our democracy, and put accountability and transparency back into the decision-making process, puting the residents of Barrie at the centre of the process.
Electoral Reform / Electoral Representation
Engage Barrie advocates for a citizen-empowered democracy, and are seeking electoral reform that values evidence-based decision-making, giving citizens a stronger voice on the policies that affect our lives. Encouraging City Hall to adopt ranked ballot voting in municipal elections was Engage Barrie’s first campaign and first success, and remains a priority, despite the province since eliminating that choice for municipalities (all three opposition parties have promised to bring local choice back to Ontario as soon as possible). We continue to explore ways to make every vote count, ensure fair representation in all levels of government, ensure our elected councils fully represent the diversity we see in our neighbourhoods, and reduce partisan- and corporate-driven politics in favour of people-driven politics.
Environmentalism and the climate emergency
The climate emergency continues to bring challenges that municipalities need to face head-on and manage proactively, as we continue to face increasing disaster weather events across our region. We need to prioritize public health and safety, protect biodiversity and the ecosystem, and strengthen community resilience. From designing walkable neighbourhoods, to transitioning to renewable energy and providing alternate modes of transportation, to preserving our vulnerable ecosystems, to proactively designing infrastructure, mitigating the effects of climate change needs to be a priority in all decision-making. The people affected most by climate change are often the most marginalized in our communities – Engage Barrie firmly believes that every resident deserves to live in a safe and healthy community.
Engage Barrie upholds the principles of increased density, walkability, connectivity, sustainability, a mixed-use and diverse housing stock, sustainable transportation and resistance to urban sprawl. We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support diverse neighbourhoods (in use and population), pedestrians and public transport, universally accessible public spaces and community institutions, and architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice. We push for city development that is inclusive, allows people of all backgrounds and origins to feel welcomed in every neighbourhood, and offers affordable and healthy housing everywhere – a city whose structure works for everyone.