There’s a new plan being floated around city hall that would see user fees for recreation and cultural activities cut for low-income residents.
Coun. Cory Thomas aims to convince his fellow councillors to adopt a wide-ranging affordability policy. He has been pushing such a plan since being elected and will again drive the issue during next month’s community services meeting. A similar suggestion came from a recent consultant’s report commissioned by the city.
Council voted to approve that report, so Thomas’s push may come to fruition.
At the heart of the councillor’s agenda is subsidization. He wants to allocate $5,000 to a fund to be used to help people with low incomes that want to put their child in cultural programs at Wyatt Heritage Properties or swimming lessons, or any number of other such programs around the city.
Thomas himself has been examining similar initiatives in other municipalities and will be presenting his research at next month’s session.
We agree with Thomas in that low-income families can be excluded from fully participating in their community because they cannot afford to do so. It’s a sad commentary in the world in which we live, but it is not unique to Summerside. If we can provide those opportunities we should at least try.
Cities and towns build and pay for recreation and culture as a matter of routine business. Their citizens want sports centres, museums, and arts and cultural facilities. Municipalities, accordingly, oblige, and do so using taxpayers’ money.
But if a large percentage of those same taxpayers cannot afford to access programs and facilities what, then, is the sense of having them?
That’s where Thomas’s plan comes into play, and we would argue maybe we should go even further.
Such facilities/programs are not created because municipalities see them as revenue generators. In fact in many cases revenue-neutral is even a pipe dream; but we the people demand them and faithfully pay our taxes to get them.
Accepting that, which some are loathe to do, perhaps all taxpayers within the boundaries of the city should be able to access the most basic opportunities for free, and let users from the outside, as well as special events such as concerts, sporting events, trade shows and the like, make up the difference.
This is not to say everything ought to be free, but, for example, swimming lessons could carry an additional cost while a public swim would not – at least not for those with a Summerside address on their ID.
There is a correlation between better health, social opportunities and economics. We should be doing everything we can to foster the growth of each.
Having top-notch facilities and programs that are out of the reach of the common citizen is a complete waste of the taxpayers’ money used to build and operate them. Council should be doing everything within its power to ensure that isn’t happening.