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Labour Day

During Labour Day weekend 2,700 students will be returning to Laurier Brantford and Nipissing Brantford. (I just heard that as of last week, there are 1,996 alumni from Laurier Brantford).

If you were to venture down on Labour Day, perhaps in the morning to view the Soapbox Derby on Icomm Drive, you will see line ups of vehicles filled with family and the stuff that will fill the hundreds of residence spaces in the downtown. There will be anxious Moms and Dads dropping off their sons and daughters in an environment of intellect and independence.

The universities have been a boom to our downtown, and made Brantford the model for downtown revitalization that is being studied and emulated in communities across Ontario. And yet, we are still shrouded in a myth of misperception.

When I hear from people who are negative about the downtown and the campus, I often ask, "when was the last time you were downtown?"

"I don’t go downtown," says he.

"Why not?" I ask.

"There is nothing to do downtown; it is nothing but university students."

"What about Harmony Square? That is wildly successful with movies on Thursday nights, music on Friday, festivals, the splash pad and even skating in the winter?"

"Ya but, that is just Harmony Square," says he.

"Ok, that is not enough? How about the restaurants and coffee shops, The John Peel, Lonnie’s, Stir It Up, Warmingtons, Piston Broke, Admiral Sub, KFC, Sushi Jacks, Coffee Cultures, William’s the chip wagon on Darling, the hot dog vendor in Victoria Park … and that only scratches the surface?"

"Well it’s not like it used to be when I was younger," says he

“No it isn’t, and it isn’t going to be like that again, the downtown is predominately a university campus, a municipal services campus, a residence (and not just for students because there are two substantial senior’s homes downtown) and then supporting retail commercial.

"There is also the library, the Beckett Centre for seniors, the courts, churches, the Sanderson Centre, the post office, the employment office and all have been here for quite a while, and all offer the potential for huge draws of population in the area," I say

"Ya, that is all well and good; you can point out all the things to do, places to eat and the places to go, but it isn’t safe," says he.

"Ah, now we get to the heart of the matter. It is true that crime happens in the downtown, but it happens in all the other parts of the city too. It is true that there are people who don’t look…don’t look…don’t look like they will be walking their little dog down a suburban street that night.

"It is true that there are food kitchens and services for the poor in the downtown, but remember many of them are offered by the churches in the area as part of their desire and drive to help others in the name of their love of God. Many of the people working in the kitchens and doing good work are your friends and neighbours," I say.

"Ya …well … it’s all changed," he says with finality.

Downtown Brantford offers a wealth of opportunity for you and your family, consider it an adventure to explore the downtown and have an understanding of the changes that have happened – and continue to happen.

Is there a safety issue? Of course there is, just as there would be in other cities and similar environments. It is not a safety issue in the sense that there is lawlessness, but you are in the urban core of a large municipality there are reasonable concerns and precautions that must be adhered to.

It is interesting that we often hear about the safety concerns in the downtown, and yet two weeks ago, Councillor Larry Kings and I stood in Harmony Square on a Thursday night and watched more than 500 people come together for a viewing of Tangled. There were children playing, the coffee shops and patios were full, there were people on their balconies, families walking down the streets with folding chairs over their arms; it was a remarkable thing to be a part of.

"Do you feel scared?" I asked Councillor Kings.

"I don’t know how I could," Larry replied.