‘Public’ facilities not very public accessible

I ran into an acquaintance I had not seen in a while who, knowing how I feel about City council’s priorities and behaviours, felt I would provide a sympathetic ear to his need to vent.

Both he and his wife work and even though they are frugal it is difficult to make ends meet these days – a struggle an ever increasing number of Canadians and Abbotsford citizens share.

The fees the City of Abbotsford charges for the use of its athletic fields has pushed the cost of playing soccer (and other sports) to the level that, while they might be able scrimp enough to pay for one child, paying for two kids is not possible. Leaving, in fairness, none of the kids playing soccer.

I pointed out that council needed as many dollars as possible to pay the multi-million dollar subsidies for council’s ego/vanity projects – the ASEC and Abbotsford’s professional hockey team – and their subsidizing the purchase of a professional hockey team for a group of well connected citizens.

His reply involved several anatomically challenging, if not out and out impossible, suggestions. When he inquired as to how one qualifies for City subsidies to purchase a professional hockey team I had to inform him that since the makeup of the ‘ownership group’ was deemed knowledge to important (to damning?) to let the taxpayers (the people footing the bills for all the multi-million dollar subsidies) know, there was no way to know the relationship between councillors and the Heat ownership.

Sadly he is not the only person I know who has children that cannot participate in sports because of the cost Abbotsford charges to use its fields. Growing numbers of young people are being denied participation in sports activities because their families cannot afford the fees.

Ironic is it not? The airwaves are full of government advertisements about the fact children need 60 minutes of physical activity a day to be healthy and the City of Abbotsford is making it impossible for growing numbers of children to participate in physical exercise.

Personally, I think that a City’s priority should be the participation of young people in sports and activities. If we are going to give multi-million dollars subsidies to sports facilities it should be facilities for the young and other citizens – not for professional athletes and certainly not to subsidize the purchase of a professional hockey team by well connected citizens.

But then I also think that the purpose of public recreation facilities is to provide an affordable place for citizens to exercise. Unlike the current council which uses public facilities as another source of funds to subsidize (to the tune of several millions of dollars per year) a facility for professional athletes to use and to provide multi-million dollars yearly subsidies for the purchase of the professional hockey team.

Council talks about the need for amenities to attract new citizens to Abbotsford and to encourage young people to remain in Abbotsford rather than moving elsewhere. Yet the fee’s council charges for the use of amenities are prohibitive.

There is no difference between having no amenities and having amenities nobody can afford to use or can afford to use only infrequently.

That is why in Abbotsford, in the good old days before this spendthrift council, a monthly or yearly membership for the use of city facilities was the lowest (or among the lowest) in the city.

These days, under this spendthrift council, the prices at city facilities are the highest (or among the highest) and fewer and fewer families and citizens can afford to use city facilities.

I have been, until now, a pass holder and regular user of city pools to swim. I have watched as those I had shared the city facilities with over the years became members of private facilities (as I would have if one of them had an appropriately sized pool) – because membership at a private facilities is many $$$$$ less.

I have lost count of how often I have been told by other citizens and families how extremely limited their ability to use ‘public’ amenities have become because of admission costs.

In other cities, the city facilities ensure the general public access to regular exercise and the private facilities are the haunts of the better off who can afford higher fees.

In Abbotsford it is the private facilities that best ensure the general public’s access to exercise, while the city facilities are the haunts of those who can afford the fees at city facilities.

But then in other cities, city facilities are to serve the needs of citizens and not the need of council to pay for its ego/vanity projects.

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