Engagement in municipal politics can be a challenge everywhere, not just in Brampton. One city councillor is proposing a plan to help boost involvement, especially from parents.

In the last municipal election, only about 30 per cent of residents actually voted and with most council meetings scheduled during the day, it’s difficult for the majority of residents to attend.

Another setback for some people is that they have no one to watch their kids if they attend a council meeting. Councillor Charmaine Williams (Ward 7/8) hopes to fix that by providing cost-effective child care options during council meetings so parents can attend and participate.

“We need to build bridges to democracy and we need to be encouraging families to participate,” says Williams. “I think it’s important that we as a city break down any barriers that prevent families from participating in all of this — the decisions that we make here in the city.”

Williams, who is herself a mom of 5, says she’s heard from constituents that they want to be more engaged with council. She says the recent cannabis debate is an instance where childcare may have given more residents the opportunity to have their voices heard.

Williams put forward a motion at council to have city staff examine the possibility. Staff estimates that offering childcare during meetings could cost somewhere in the ballpark of $38,000 per year, which works out to about $1,000 per council meeting.

Child care would be offered during council and committee of council meetings and parents would have the option to schedule drop-offs.

Currently, there is no available space at city hall so staff will look at the possibility of partnering with the YMCA on Union Street as one of the options.

The idea has garnered support on council but isn’t without its criticisms. Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon says he doesn’t think it isa sound investment using taxpayers dollars.”

Dhillon says that since constituents can already communicate with council members through email, phone or traditional mail, he doesn’t see the program as necessary.

In the past, similar programs have been offered through rec centres but haven’t generated enough interest and were eventually cancelled. Williams disagrees and says she believes that if the option is available and if the public knows, they’ll utilize it.

A new report will be brought before council in the next few weeks outlining options.