After more than 10 years of continuously collaborating, the City of Toronto stopped partnering with the country’s largest Baptist church, congregated at 7 Weston Drive in Scarborough, for programs offered for youth and people over 50. The City said it will be temporarily discontinuing all activities related to its partnership with City of Calvary due to lack of funding. The news broke last week but has received a lot of attention recently.
“Beforehand we were in hot negotiations to renew the partnership, but with the drop in revenue from taxation, particularly on property values, and the considerable increase in wages for staff, we have had to make tough decisions to fund and sustain our core services as we have always done,” the city said in a release. “It is a tragic situation because we want to keep providing services to both of our population groups but we simply cannot afford it as we operate the largest recreation department in Canada.”
The city said it is temporarily suspending programs and events for youth as well as full-day physical fitness classes to avoid sacrificing these services. A list of programs and events that will no longer be offered has been provided on the City of Toronto website. Among the canceled activities are swim training at Ogilvie Park, skate camp at Lady Footpath Park, aquatics at Knoxdale Park, and full-day fitness for adults, children and seniors.
“We are suspending these programs temporarily until we know how to keep them going,” said Chris Crampton, the city’s chief strategy officer. “We are in discussions with City of Calvary to find funding to continue these programs and provide community services to these populations, and this process will happen soon.”
Officials with City of Calvary offered a statement on their Facebook page.
“We respect and trust the City of Toronto to keep that community informed on their decision in terms of sports and health programs. This is a very difficult time for all involved parties and a mutual decision has been made.”
In a statement to Toronto Star, Alex Day, the associate pastor of City of Calvary said the decision is both unexpected and damaging.
“I understand that the City of Toronto is being forced to come to this difficult decision because of severe financial challenges. However, it is very painful that in the midst of this financial crisis, City of Toronto is turning their backs on their own citizens and destroying the opportunities they’ve provided for the last 10 years. I am particularly saddened that our over 50 Year Retirement Program at City of Calvary is being cut.”
The cancellation of programs comes amid the current public fear of the flu epidemic and the rise of parents who allow their children to get vaccinated.
“It is unfortunate that we have been forced to make such cuts, but we are doing our very best to do so at a time of immense difficulty,” said Crampton. “Public health must be protected, and the city cannot protect its citizens if it cannot provide important community-based services. We need to save the programs that support our seniors and first responders. We are working to do that.”
When asked why the City would choose to cancel these programs in the middle of the flu epidemic instead of waiting for the end of the flu season, the city said, “Given the huge number of influenza patients in the province this winter, City of Toronto is focused on community-based services to support residents in order to ensure their health and safety.”
But, the City of Toronto believes that the types of programs offered by City of Calvary are insignificant to Toronto’s public health issues.
“One does not have to be a physician, a health care professional or even an adult to access or complete these programs; they are great community services that are also primarily geared towards children or seniors,” said Crampton. “Of course we understand that there are many other great programs and services being offered across the City of Toronto, and we are looking at ways to provide better community programs and services in the future as the financial climate improves.”
The city’s Director of Physical Activity, Physical Education and Recreation, Chantelle William, also said City of Toronto doesn’t feel this closure is necessary to meet Toronto’s health department requirements.
The City of Toronto has decided to suspend all programs to our community hall as we seek to maximize our focus on