The City’s Community Recreation and Development Committee’s endorsement of a plan to expand the number of priority centres is great news for Torontonians. Currently only nine of the 13 priority neighbourhoods have priority centres. Increasing inequality, growing numbers of low-income families, and a greater concentration of poverty in the inner suburbs has increased the need for priority centres. Priority centres can function as critical anchors within communities. Recreation services and programs help to strengthen connections within neighbourhoods.
Research shows that increasing access to recreation improves our health, our connections to each other, and saves money in health and social costs. To expand these health and social benefits to all Torontonians we hope that Councillors will support this proposal, and go further in increasing access to recreation for Torontonians — regardless of where they live or their age.
Reinstate Free Adult Programming at Priority Centres
The objective of priority centres is universal access to recreation in low-income communities. The 2011 introduction of fees for adult programming detracts from this objective. By limiting the focus of free recreation programs to children, youth and seniors, the city has increased a cost barrier to the health-enhancing impacts of recreation. A reversal of the policy of charging fees would combat the decline in adult registrations and promote good health across all age groups.
Increase Access to the Welcome Policy
The Welcome Policy provides access to recreation for those with low incomes across the city. In recent years access to the program has been reduced. In the face of increased inequality and low income, this policy is important for the health of Torontonians. Doubling funding to the Welcome Policy and returning to a program-based allocation will enhance access to recreation for low-income Torontonians.
Expand Youth Programming
With communities demanding solutions to recent tragedies resulting from youth violence, it is important that councillors provide greater support for youth. Councillors should carefully consider supporting the youth leadership proposal in the service plan.