Volunteering and philanthropy are important elements of civic engagement, which refers to actions by individuals and groups to improve the quality of life in communities. Levels of civic engagement depend on many factors including – but not limited to – personal values and experience, broader community and societal conditions, and perceived needs and opportunities.
Municipal governments play a huge role in the everyday lives of Canadians. Municipal land use planning shapes how a City looks, feels and functions and sets the stage for the future. Municipal governments also have jurisdiction over much of our local infrastructure and many services (e.g., roads, water, sewage, garbage, transit, parks, libraries, community centres, police, and fire). Given the range of responsibilities and authorities held by municipal governments, public engagement in city politics can have major implications for the quality of life of its residents.
There are many types of communities beyond the place where one lives. But sense of belonging at the city and neighbourhood level (place-based community) remains important to personal and societal health and well-being. Historically, community cohesion came from common backgrounds, beliefs and traditions. Today, place-based community-building involves opening to diverse ethnicities, beliefs, traditions, sexual orientations, abilities, etc. It requires particular attention to those most at risk of isolation and disconnection.
Beyond the impact of crime on individual victims, criminal activity can significantly affect neighbourhoods and communities. For example, it can influence residents’ sense of safety and trust, the use and enjoyment of public spaces like parks, the views that non-residents hold about the neighbourhood, and property values. Concerns about crime can also empower communities, bringing residents together to work for increased public safety.
Arts, culture and recreation do not account for a significant proportion of jobs, and employment income in the sector is notoriously low. But its full economic impact goes well beyond direct employment and income. A strong cultural scene helps attract, retain and fuel a creative workforce. It also stimulates other elements of the economy, in particular the hospitality sector.
Participation in arts, culture and recreation includes both direct engagement in artistic or athletic endeavours, and appreciation of the visual and performance art and sports activities of others, whether amateur or professional. Research indicates correlations between participation, and individual and societal health.
Municipal, provincial and federal governments invest in arts and culture through grants to artists and arts organizations, as well as through operational and capital funding. They may also subsidize access to the arts. Governments fund the arts for a range of reasons related to both the economic spin-offs from such investments, and the broader societal benefits. Government investment can be crucial to enabling artists and arts organizations to leverage income from other sources.
Low skill levels in reading, writing and math are major barriers to socio-economic well-being, and opportunities for improvement. Ottawa stands to experience relatively significant increases in adults with low literacy levels. Beyond the basics, life-long learning remains important both for employment conditions and quality of life.
A strong public school system, with well-trained and motivated teachers and relevant curricula, is essential to fulfill the potential of individuals and meet the needs of society. The system faces a challenging pace of change in relation to demographics, technology, theories of education and more. On average, Ottawa’s public school population performs relatively well on standardized provincial tests, though there is significant variation between schools.