The Gomberg for Mayor platform plank on Recreation.
Recreation for a healthy Toronto.
The public recreation system should provide places and opportunities for people of all ages, incomes, backgrounds, neighbourhoods and abilities to come together, enjoy themselves and learn new skills.
In the current system, user fees, a lack of programs, and — in many neighbourhoods — a lack of facilities prevent people from having access to this fundamental city service.
In many areas of the city, residents have no local access to programs. In fact, people have very few public places to go and be with others. Young people find themselves chased from street corners and plazas. Seniors find themselves isolated at home. Newcomers to Toronto and young parents find too few places to connect with others. Public recreation is key to healthy communities.
User fees are double taxation. Toronto residents already pay for the bulk (approximately 90%) of the recreation system through their property taxes. While user fees may seem like a source of needed revenue for the city, they actually cost the city more in the long run. Fees tell people that recreation is a luxury and that they are only welcome if they can pay the price of admission. That means people are discouraged and even barred from taking part in healthy activities.
Public recreation should not try to be the same as private clubs, there to serve the fee-paying clientele. The system should be built on outreach to those who face barriers to participation, including people of colour, immigrants and refugees, low-income people, youth, seniors, women and girls, gay men and lesbians and people with disabilities.
Trained, full-time front-line staff are crucial to the equation. They ensure safe and clean facilities and provide quality programming. Hundreds of jobs have been eliminated from the Parks and Recreation system since amalgamation, some to be replaced by low-paying, temporary, part-time positions.
As Mayor, I would ensure the public recreation system received the following support:
- the elimination of user fees for all programs
- all cuts since amalgamation to be reinstated immediately (approximately $12 million)
- a plan to build community centres in all neighbourhoods that need one
- a commitment to publicly-run and publicly-funded programs
- permanent, full-time community development staff at all centres.