Wayne Arondus wants to know what three things you're going to do to help your community today.
It is a question the local businessman has been pondering, and answering, since he returned home from the Governor General's Canadian Leadership Conference in June.
Arondus, who is a senior director with KitchenCraft Cabinetry in Burnaby, was one of 230 members of the conference, which ran from June 1 to 15. The conference is held every four years.
"It was definitely a mind-blowing experience," he says. "They're looking for young leaders or the next up-and-coming leaders in Canada to be part of it, because then we're going to come back into our communities and then obviously, shape policy."
The conference began with three days of listening to speakers from the public, business and not-for-profit sectors, including Frank McKenna, deputy chair of TD Bank and former premier of New Brunswick; Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union; and Naheed Nenshi, the mayor of Calgary.
It was the green button with "three things" on it that Nenshi had pinned to his lapel, to remind himself to do three things a day for his community, that got Arondus thinking about the steps he himself could take.
The focus of the conference was leadership and sustainability. The members were divided into 16 groups of 16, and each study team went and explored a specific part of the country for more than a week.
Arondus' group focused on the Greater Toronto Area and eastern Ontario. The team took a bus from Toronto and traveled through Cornwall, Port Hope, Kingston and Ottawa, according to Arondus.
Along the way they met with local business owners, politicians and community workers, touring warehouses, food banks and more.
One of the concepts that Arondus encountered that intrigued him was tri-sector leadership - companies headed by people versed and active in the business, not-for-profit and public sectors.
It was one of the first times I'd heard of it," he says. "I've spent the last 18 years in business honing my skills, and then giving back in the not-for-profit world, but really don't have much of an understanding of what goes on at our municipal, provincial and federal levels. I only deal with the laws that are in front of me, not really knowing how as a Canadian you shape those laws either through public and private policy, et cetera."
At the end of the conference, each group had to create a presentation for the Governor-General of Canada, David Johnston, on what they learned about leadership and sustainability.
Overall, the thing that hit Arondus the most on the journey was the amount of need he encountered, he says.
It changed the way he views government spending, he adds.
"From a public sector standpoint, I always had this opinion about government spending," Arondus says. "I think at the end of the day, I didn't realize how many people have their hand out for money. And I think I didn't realize how many layers upon layers of need there are in our country."
Arondus has focused his community work on housing issues for years and serves on the board for Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver, but he says he is looking at expanding his community involvement following the conference.
His three focuses are sustainable, affordable housing; lunches for hungry school children; and spreading the three things message - encouraging people to consider what three things they'll do for their communities today.
Regarding housing, Arondus says it is a complex issue in the Lower Mainland because of a lack of available land and the high cost of housing in the Vancouver area.
"I sit there and I go, how is it sustainable? How is raising a family here in Vancouver sustainable?" he says. "Is home ownership a dream versus a reality? Those are the things I think about now."
Now that he is an alumnus of the conference, he wants to stay involved with it, whether at a regional or national level, he says. Arondus has applied to be on the executive board and is going to Toronto this month for the annual general meeting.
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