Mayor Rob Ford is a football coach but his proposal to introduce sports fields fees shows that the hours he’s spent on the field have failed to make him realize one essential thing: you need to give everybody a chance to play.
The GTA prides itself as a city that meets the needs of residents across the economic spectrum. But this latest addition to the municipal budget threatens to turn it into a place where only the well-to-do can enjoy most outdoor recreational activities.
Take Scarborough for example. More than a quarter of its population is made up of low-income families and another quarter consists of newcomers struggling to find their footing in a new country.
To save money on daycare, some families turn to volunteer groups who offer free activities like sports lessons. Some, in an effort to make sure their kids are off the streets and spending their time productively, send their kids to free sports programs. This is only possible because of the availability of free public sports fields.
The newly imposed user fees for these fields, which comes to a whopping $120 per child, will significantly change that.
Most volunteer sports organizations won’t be able to afford the increase, signifying the end of free lessons for many. Even some families who send their kids to private leagues that use the fields would be forced to pull their kids out from participating in the sports programs because of the increased cost.
I imagine that almost all the kids who use the city’s sports fields find it enjoyable playing, learning, and growing up on them.
To take that away from them — especially without proper consultation — is abhorrent.
What’s worse is that the projected $1.5 million revenue from these user fees won’t directly go to increased quality services or the better upkeep of the fields but instead, to the city’s general revenue.
Now, with sports organizations and families unwilling to pay the new fees, I don’t see how Ford’s government will get that additional $1.5 million to balance their books.
Simply put, it’s a lose-lose situation.
Without another look at this new fee, I can envision the grim future of GTA’s sports fields: empty and laying to waste.
Thanks, Mayor Ford.