SUMMERSIDE — City council is going to be asked to adopt a wide-ranging police that will see recreational and cultural activities become more affordable and accessible for low-income families.
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Coun. Cory Thomas.
Coun. Cory Thomas intends to bring up the issue for council’s community services department when it meets next month.
“The City of Summerside commissioned dMA Consulting to develop a strategic plan for our community services department from 2012 to 2017. I have been pushing for some sort of affordable and accessible program since I was first elected. It’s recommended in this report that we do that,” said Thomas. “Council voted to approve this plan and it’s just been waiting until things get settled at community services and we had a permanent director. The director is really going to have to lead this and do a lot of research for council on this.”
The vacancy has since been filled by, with long-time city employee JP Desrosiers taking on the community services director role on a permanent basis.
Thomas will address the next community services committee meeting about subsidization or some kind of accessible policy of council for low-income residents to participate in sport and recreation and cultural activities.
He would like to see a fund set up in the city’s upcoming budget.
“We can allocate $5,000 to go into a fund that can be used to help people with low income that may want to put their child in one of our cultural programs at Wyatt Heritage Properties and do not have the money to do so,” said Thomas. “There could be a process there that could let that happen or they could put their kid in swimming lessons or any programs around the city.”
He said research has already been conducted on this topic and other municipalities have similar programs and policies in place.
“I’ve been examining other municipalities and I’ll be presenting my research at the community services meeting,” added Thomas. “Low-income families and their children are often excluded from fully participating in their community and many times feel isolated. If we can provide those opportunities it will help build a healthy child and a healthy community.”
He said all studies point to better social and economic conditions meaning better health.
“We always say we want to be a healthier community,” added the councillor. “Let’s extend that to all residents regardless of their income. You often hear in communities municipal recreation has now become the domain of the middle class and the same with cultural programming, so many times many programs aren’t accessible to low-income families.”
He noted that said statistics show children in low-income families are much less likely than those in high-income families to participate in organized sports and cultural programs.
“Parents simply can’t afford it,” added Thomas. “It’s hard to make ends meet. Barriers can exist, like high fees or equipment costs. Weed to look at that and council needs to adopt the policy that deals with this. It’s important to the health of our community.”
Thomas noted the city’s Crime Prevention Strategy outlines the need for youth to be involved.
“They identified that recreational and social development are important to reduce crime,” he said. “If kids are involved in activities. They’re less likely to get involved in crime. Recreation is crime prevention as well.”
Thomas wants to go beyond subsidizing programs.
“One of the things we need to do is look at our user fees as well,” he said. “Last year we eliminated the fee for pre-school skates but then we put all of our other recreation fees up by two per cent.”