City councillor Paula Havixbeck suggested the city’s arson problem could be solved with a ban on the sale of lighters to minors.
It was an idea that sparked a discussion for her ‘friends’ on Twitter and Facebook.
"It prompted a lot of discussion, which I thought was great," Havixbeck said. "Lots of people just said no, no, no… but a lot of other people had suggestions and significant comments related to parenting and they delved into some deeper issues about what kids are doing with their time.
"It’s a good discussion, I think."
Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) said she first put out the question on the lighters Wednesday night on Twitter – before this morning’s four fires – and repeated it on her Facebook page.
Havixbeck is a frequent user of social media, often putting questions out either via Twitter or on her Facebook page.
"For awhile, I had a question of the week on Facebook. Sometimes you get interesting responses and sometimes nobody’s paying attention. This one struck an interest."
Havixbeck said the lighter question was prompted by a comment from police that 90 per cent of arsons are started with lighters.
Banning the sale of lighters to minors would only be a short-term fix, Havixbeck acknowledged, adding Winnipeg has struggled with an arson problem for 20 years.
Keeping youth engaged in positive activities during long, hot summers, she said, is part of the solution.
"What are kids, who are starting these fires, engaged with or could be engaged with, instead of committing these crimes," Havixbeck said. "Are community centres open and accessible and are there programs going on. Could the schools be opened – these nice, air conditioned places where kids could play basketball or some other sport to keep themselves busy instead of getting into this kind of trouble."
Havixbeck said many people who responded to her question put the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of parents.
"Some were quite hard on parents, saying parents need to have a more active role with their kids and what they’re doing," she said. "It’s not just about getting lighters out of kids’ hands, it’s about much, much more."