Learning how democracy works


Petrolia elementary school students want to know what town councilors do, why the house on the hill isn’t fixed up and if the town is going to do anything about their bikes and skateboards being caught in the sewer grates.

About 200 students filled the Victoria Playhouse theatre Monday as council held its regular meeting during the day on the stage to encourage the schools to attend. It was all part of Local Government Week celebrations.

After the regular business of council was done, Mayor John McCharles gave students the opportunity to ask questions and dozens of hand shot up.

The first student was concerned about sewer grates. “Our bikes and scooters and stuff might get stuck in the holes and we might fall,” he told council. Town operations manager, Joe Adams, assured the students the new grates were more bike friendly.

There were questions about how much it costs to build a subdivision (that depends on the size but about $30,00 per lot was the answer), what storm sewers are for, why there wasn’t a bowling alley in town, how many houses there are in Petrolia and what is a councilor (basically a ‘cheerleader’ to the mayor’s coach, according to Councilor Mary Pat Gleeson.

And there was a question about “the house on the hill” commonly known as Fairbank House. “What are you going to do with it?”

“We’d like to do lots of things with it,” says McCharles. “It’s one of the houses we’d like to see totally restored.”

But McCharles says the home is in private hands and “there is not much the town can do except work with them to get it restored.”

McCharles was impressed with the students whom he says were engaged through most of the meeting.

Petrolia was not the only municipality to hold a council meeting and invite students to attend. Brooke-Alvinston and Dawn-Euphemia both held meetings this past week in schools.