Letter to the Honourable Catherine McKenna

The Honourable Catherine McKenna
Minister of Infrastructure and Communities
180 Kent Street
Suite 1100
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 0B6

December 16, 2019

Re: Victoria’s Mayor and Council put disabled and vulnerable citizens at risk

Dear Minister

I am writing to you for help.

I am a person living with Multiple Sclerosis, a debilitating progressive auto immune disease for which there is no cure. As a resident of Victoria, I rely on the services the city provides, specifically Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre – our municipal pool and recreation hub. Swimming has been lifesaving for me as I use it to manage my disease. If I don’t swim, my disease will progress, I will be un able to work and will require medication and medical assistance; all of this at a cost to our tax and medical systems.

Many other residents of Victoria who use Crystal Pool are in a similar situation. The facility is the only pool in the Capital Regional District that provides programs to para athletes and people with intellectual disabilities. It is heavily used by local children and seniors. There are also several adult fitness clubs that use the pool. We are all there to be well and manage our health, and by doing so, unburden our medical system.

The Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre has reached end-of-life and needs replacement; the city was made aware of this close to 10 years ago. Mayor and Council have been ineffective at moving plans forward and we are now looking at the very real possibility of having no pool. With all other facilities in the Capital Regional District at or near capacity, thousands will have nowhere to go to manage their health.

About two years ago just 2 weeks prior to the last municipal election the Mayor and Council rescinded the decision to build a new replacement facility adjacent the old centre. Mayor and Council instructed staff to return a $6 million grant and to not apply for an infrastructure grant that could have paid up to 73.3% of the pool and recreation centre replacement costs. Instead, the Mayor and Council will be asking residents to pay +$70 million by way of civic referendum.

By forcing us to referendum the Mayor and Council have killed the future of a pool in Victoria. I am no statistician, but I do know that only 52% of Canadians exercise, and the type of exercise varies – in other words, we aren’t all swimmers. Our number 1 sport Hockey has an uptake of less than 20%. Swimming sees participation rates between 10 and 15%. If we had to go to referendum for all our fitness facilities, we would have none.

In 2015 the economic cost of physical inactivity and excess weight in British Columbia alone was $3.683 billion each year; 1.227 billion direct health costs and 2.454 billion in loss of economic contribution. Inactivity alone costs British Columbia close to 1 billion dollars annually. As Canadian’s we should all be doing what we can to reduce these escalating costs.

Investing in infrastructure that facilitates easy accessible access to physical activity is key to reducing the economic burden of both excess weight and inactivity in Canada. Investing in Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre far less costly than dealing with the future healthcare and societal burden of chronic disease treatment.

Although the fate of the Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre is a municipal matter, health costs are a concern to all levels of government. I am hoping that as Minister of Infrastructure and Communities for Canada, you can provide the Mayor and Council with guidance and help. Those of us who are doing our part to minimize our already burdened healthcare system should not have to suffer or be penalized because of their massive blunder.

Sincerely

Susan Simmons

CC:

  • Mayor Lisa Helps, City of Victoria, 1 Centennial Square, Victoria, BC V8W 1P6
  • Councillor Marianne Alto, City of Victoria, 1 Centennial Square, Victoria, BC V8W 1P6
  • Councillor Sharmarke Dubow, City of Victoria, 1 Centennial Square, Victoria, BC V8W 1P6
  • Councillor Ben Isitt, City of Victoria, 1 Centennial Square, Victoria, BC V8W 1P6
  • Councillor Jeremy Loveday, City of Victoria, 1 Centennial Square, Victoria, BC V8W 1P6
  • Councillor Sarah Potts, City of Victoria, 1 Centennial Square, Victoria, BC V8W 1P6
  • Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe, City of Victoria, 1 Centennial Square, Victoria, BC V8W 1P6
  • Councillor Geoff Young, City of Victoria, 1 Centennial Square, Victoria, BC V8W 1P6
  • Nicole Crescenzi, Reporter, Victoria News, Black Press, 818 Broughton Street, Victoria BC V8W 1E4
  • Alanna Kelly, Journalist, Weekend Anchor, CTV News Vancouver Island, 1420 Broad Street, Victoria, BC V8W 2B1
  • Al Ferraby, Host, CFAX 1070 Radio, 1420 Broad Street, Victoria, BC V8W 2B1
  • Adam Sterling, CFAX 1070 Radio, 1420 Broad Street, Victoria, BC V8W 2B1
  • April Lawrence, Reporter, CHEK News, 780 Kings Road, Victoria BC V8T 5A2
  • Dave Obee, Editor, Publisher, Times Colonist, 2621 Douglas Street, Victoria BC V8T 4M2

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