The Progressive Mind ? Why is PGs sports and recreational sector …

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Why is PG?s sports and recreational sector getting punched in the gut?

Why is PG?s sports and recreational sector getting punched in the gut?

By Peter Ewart

Monday, November 05, 2012 03:46 AM

By Peter Ewart

One of the remarkable aspects of Prince George has always been its dynamic sports and recreation sector.?Hockey, baseball, soccer, football, track and field, swimming, golf, ice skating, ringette, martial arts, tennis ? The list of activities goes on and on.?All of this is testimony to the enthusiasm of city residents of all ages for healthy and vibrant living.

This sector depends upon literally thousands of volunteers who spend countless hours organizing, supervising, refereeing, fundraising, and all the other tasks that go into staging events and running clubs and organizations – often on a shoestring budget.?Many parents are involved, either as volunteers or spectators, as are youth, seniors, and others.?Coming up in 2015, of course, are the Canada Winter Games, the successful organizing of which will depend heavily on volunteers.

There is no doubt about it.?Those, both young and older, who participate in sports and recreation contribute hugely to the community at large and its social cohesiveness, whether as direct participants, by maintaining their levels of health (and being less of a cost to the health care system), as volunteers in donating their time and labour to make it all happen, or in making the city a more attractive place for employers and employees who are considering relocating or investing here.

So why is it that, in the KPMG final report to the city on the Core Service Review, this vibrant and invaluable sector is getting sucker punched in the gut??What did it do to deserve this treatment?

Take a look at KPMG?s recommendations.?Recreational fee increases, adding up to as high as $1,530,000 for the sector as a whole, including fees for aquatics ($400,000), ice rinks ($930,000), and sports fields & parks ($200,000).?Who will end up paying these jacked up fees??Cash-strapped sports clubs and recreational organizations who have to rent the rinks, fields, buildings and parks.?Kids who want to play sports or go swimming.?Adults who want to keep fit.?The elderly who want to maintain their activity levels.?Indeed, it is ironic that the very volunteers who are already donating their time for free could end up having to dig in their pockets even more to keep their organizations going.?KPMG is also suggesting enhanced ?inclusion subsidies? for low income earners, but the fact remains that fees are going to rise for the majority.

But these jacked up fees of $1,530,000 are not the only way that the sports and recreation sector (and the people of Prince George as a whole) will take a hit.?It also takes one in that KPMG actually recommends selling off another sports facility – the city-owned Pine Valley Golf course ? to land developers.?Of all the city land proposed to be sold off, it is interesting that a parcel of land devoted to sports is the biggest chunk of all (as much as $17 million), none of which (judging by KPMG?s report) would come back to the sports and recreation sector.

In addition, KPMG is also recommending that the Four Seasons Pool be handed over to a third party operator, possibly the YMCA.?What that will mean to future pool fees for youth, adults, seniors and swimming groups, is anyone?s guess.?But experience in some other cities, where similar third party handovers are done, show that fees can go up significantly.

And so it is, according to the wisdom of the KPMG consultants – most of whom were flown in from Toronto and elsewhere, and had little knowledge about the city and its traditions ? that the sports and recreation sector of Prince George is to foot the bill for the spending excesses of the current and previous city councils.?This, of course, is the same city council (a couple of councillors excepted) which refuses to examine how the city?s debt was run up in the first place, and especially the role of some the big capital projects of the past. According to the mayor, such an examination of past practice is not part of the Core Review process.

But punching the volunteer-driven sports and recreational sector in the gut is apparently very much part of the process ? the biggest part it appears, when you get down to actual dollars and cents.

The public meeting at 6pm on Tuesday, November 13 (sponsored by I Heart PG, CUPE, Stand Up for the North Committee, and Faculty Association of CNC) is an opportunity for those concerned about sports and recreation in the city to come out and have their voices heard.?Everyone who would like to will be given a two minute slot to speak their mind on KPMG?s final report.?This is important, as city council, in the days and weeks ahead, will be making decisions on which portions of the report it will adopt.

Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia.?He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca

Why is PG?s sports and recreational sector getting punched in the gut?.

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Source: http://www.theprogressivemind.info/?p=95105

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