Though the Ontario election will undoubtedly have a winner, some voters, particularly younger ones, are worried about whether their concerns are aligned with those they are voting for.
With the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects still being felt, and research suggesting it may have long-lasting effects, such as an increased future risk of heart disease in Canadians, advocates have called for increased funding of public sports and recreational facilities.
The Observer conducted a series of street interviews in front of the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, a location known as the biggest investment in amateur sports in Canadian history. The massive complex was built over two years with combined funding from the Government of Canada, the Ontario government, the City of Toronto and the University of Toronto, under Stephen Harper’s federal conservative government and Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal provincial majority.
Physical and mental health matters
“I feel that it’s a weird time after a pandemic. I’m not too sure which way it’s gonna go,” said Anthony Cicirello, a Program Assistant at the University of Toronto, Scarborough (UTSC is a partner in the joint Journalism program that this reporter is a student of).
“I would hope that all three [parties] would prioritize buildings like [Pan Am] and recreational programs for both students and adults,” he said, “because it’s an important part of our physical health and our mental health as well.”
The Government of Ontario provides a wide array of grants and funding to such programs, having recently announced a $30 million investment to help the province’s sports and recreation sector after it was hit by COVID-19.
Yet when asked whether all parties consider this issue equally important, UTSC student Viktor Viagovic
said some parties care more than others.
“The Liberals and the NDP are more focused on how (this issue) would affect the people,” he said, whereas the Conservatives are more concerned with the economy, he concluded.
One proposal: fund free gyms
Even average voters may not think of funding sports and recreational activities as a top priority considering the current state of the world. “I think voters are concerned with what’s going on in the world today,” Cicirello said. He cited the recent mass shooting in Texas, the after-effects of COVID-19 and the ongoing war in Ukraine as some of the bigger concerns in the minds of voters.
Dane Gledhill is an 19-year-old student from Ajax who is looking forward to voting in the election. “It’s only the second time I’ve had the chance to vote so far,” he said.
Gledhill doesn’t think parties are doing enough for their constituents from an athletics perspective, and he proposed a solution.
“I think a lot of people would support some sort of a [government funded] free program for gyms,” Gledhill said. “I think a lot of people would make use of it. In high school, we had a gym nearby and it was free for students to attend, and I went to it almost every day because of that.”
Gledhill said he wasn’t sure how much the government cared about supporting a program like this, since he said it “does not stand to make much money from this.
“But I don’t think they should want to make money off of it as long as they can make enough to sustain [the program].”
None of the parties running in this year’s provincial election have tabled any specific proposals in their platforms for funding athletics or recreation services.