The saying, “children are our future,” is so often repeated as to have become almost banal – trite, even.
Very much the worse, for that: because the stark truth and pragmatism contained in that saying expose a gaping hole in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s future prospects.
In short, where, today, are the children NOTL needs for its future? Not in its schools – not in near-sufficient supply, at least.
Indeed, even as local politicians, bureaucrats and media are given to citing the growing population statistics, thanks to the likewise-growing real estate prices, the demographics of that growth skew away from the young family cohort, resulting in a very top-heavy community, age-wise.
And, however heartening such growth might seem in the short term, what with rising home prices for established residents and the swelling tax assessments those produce (e.g., our own municipal taxes have increased by a whopping 50 per cent since our 2014 arrival, here), they are actually serving steadily to erode NOTL’s affordability for next generations, young families in particular.
As a result, schools run at less than capacity and playgrounds sit empty: and one of the fastest growing districts, Glendale, has neither a school nor plans for one in the offing.
In fact, such youths as are to be found there are overwhelmingly short-term residents, being students at Brock or Niagara College with near-zero near-term prospects for employment in this area that will pay anywhere near enough for them to settle here.
In short supply, also, is the unique vitality that children and young families pump into a community. It’s a vibrance that invigorates and improves the psychic and, arguably, the physical health of all it touches.
Therefore, before we run the imminent risk of (for all our vaunted growth) racking up a serious demographic deficit in the future, it behooves us to come up with ways to bring “the future,” that is, the children and their families, here.
Preferably in droves.
Indeed, so serious is this a problem that it deserves attention at least equal in priority to the perennially popular subject of economic (read “business”) development.
There are levers at our disposal (e.g., graduated municipal tax rates) plus an unknown number of others yet to be imagined.
Let council strike a committee charged with reporting back with solid recommendations to fend off this looming problem, a committee for which I would be happy to volunteer. And I doubt very much I’d be alone.