In Ontario, our Ministry of Culture is offering a tool called, “Supporting Heritage in Your Community”. The objective is to assist local heritage organizations with making a case for heritage at the municipal level. Specifically, the presentation is designed to be useful in trying to convince municipal councils and employees of the value of establishing an “heritage committee” under the Ontario Heritage Act.
The “Supporting Heritage” package includes speaking notes (a presentation) which someone must study and then deliver. Also included are slides and some answers to challenging questions that may come up, such as, “How much will all this cost?”
The Ontario Heritage Act places the initiation of heritage protection right at the grassroots, through committees. In offering this presentation package, in my opinion, the Ontario Government is finally acknowledging that the grassroots are often complete babes-in-the-wood when it comes to kick-starting the process. In many municipalities where there are important resources and concerned citizens, nothing is being done.
However, will a packaged presentation overcome the handicap of an inexperienced presenter? If one is not a competent and confident public speaker, will the impatience and disinterest of councillors be overcome? I have worn these shoes, and political rallies have nothing on a meeting of annoyed and defensive councillors facing a mountainous Wednesday agenda.
Also, without depth of understanding of competing heritage assets, will the presenter avoid being perceived as yet another hysterical, minority interest? Councils are tired of all the whining.
Going to them is a bit like the heritage equivalent of the Dragons’ Den.
The Ontario Heritage Act is deficient in tools to provide leadership. It is intended to empower not to endorse. The “Supporting Heritage” package aims to help while avoiding Provincial interference.
I, for one, will be very interested to know how often the package is used and whether the number of heritage committees increases during 2009.
You can see the the “Supporting Heritage in Your Community” package for yourself at