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Rally to save pool funding set for Sunday at noon

Paula Fletcher addresses council's Executive Committee 170207 -SCREEN CAPTURE

Paula Fletcher addresses council’s Executive Committee 170207 -SCREEN CAPTURE

\ by Gary Webb-Proctor \

Residents of the area around the SH Armstrong Community Centre, that includes a swimming pool for which Toronto council’s executive committee voted to cut funding in the 2017 budget, have scheduled a rally on Sunday to marshal support for an expected battle at the full council meeting on Wednesday.

The gathering at the centre at 56 Woodfield Road, which begins at noon, appears to have been organized by members of a Facebook group dedicated to seeing the funding continue along with local representatives on council and the school board.

As reported earlier this week, Toronto City Council’s Executive Committee, including Mayor John Tory, on Tuesday voted 8-4 against a motion from Ward 32 Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon that would have restored the $85,000 item to the proposed budget.  The money represents what the city pays to the Toronto District School Board, which owns and operates the pool associated with its Duke of Connaught Public School, in order to run community programming out of it.

Council meets Wednesday Feb. 15 to vote on the final budget so in order to restore the funding an amendment to that effect would have to be accepted and passed by the full body.

Although Mayor Tory had indicated in a January tweet to East York student and historic Olympic multiple-gold medal-winning swimmer Penny Oleksiak that he would try to find a way to save the pool’s funding, he voted against Ms. McMahon’s motion without comment on Tuesday.

“Mayor tweeted he would support pool to Penny Oleksiak. Got lots of media attention and applause. Today he broke that promise,” tweeted Ward 15 Toronto District School Board trustee Jennifer Story, whose ward is adjacent to the area, in response to East York Chronicle‘s request for a comment after the vote.

Jennifer Story -STAFF

Jennifer Story -STAFF

Along with McMahon and Ward 29 Councillor Paula Fletcher, who made two speeches to the committee urging retention of the funding, Ms. Story has been a staunch critic of the move, saying it will impact adversely on area residents.

Ms. Fletcher told the committee Tuesday that pulling the funding for the community presents a significant risk that the pool would be closed.

Tory subsequently seemed to suggest, in an “open letter” to Ms. Oleksiak on Thursday, that those who fear the pool will close may be crying wolf.

Feb 12 rally to save pool“When we removed programming from 11 other TDSB pools in the past, the school board has always kept the pools open,” he wrote.

However Story, who in a tweeted response Thursday accused the mayor of “playing political football with our shared use pools,” notes that the board entered into an agreement with the city when it built the pool “understanding that we were agreeing to shared use, that we were agreeing on maintaining the pools as hubs.”

While last year TDSB found “one-time funding” for pools at which the city cut its subsidy last year, there is no guarantee that can happen with Connaught, Story says.

Even if the Connaught pool were to close, Tory suggested in his letter, “parents will not have far to go” for their kids to learn to swim, citing “three nearby facilities within 3 kilometres.”

The distance from the pool to Don Valley Parkway is 2.71 km, while it is just over 3 km to Woodbine Avenue and 2.7 km north from the pool to Mortimer Avenue.  In each instance there are several transit stops along the routes, suggesting it would be unlikely that parents with children, let alone those with mobility issues, would be able to comfortably walk such a distance.

Plaque at Duke of Connaught pool -J. STORY

Plaque at Duke of Connaught pool -J. STORY

Ms. Fletcher had noted that the pool and community center, which were built onto an extension to the Duke of Connaught school with city money, forms a “community hub” of great importance to local residents of the Greenwood/Queen area where it is located and will become even more important once a new 70-resident shelter opens nearby on Leslie St. later this year.

“Sad that mayor is pulling plug on City of Toronto Community Centre pool,” Fletcher commented in a tweet yesterday, while Story posted a photo of a plaque installed at the pool when it was build which clearly proclaims, “This pool was built by the taxpayers of the City of Toronto and is operated for them by the Toronto Board of Education,” as the forerunner to TDSB was known prior to amalgamation.

Fletcher has already received support for maintaining the funding from other local councillors and from the board of directors of Applegrove Community Complex a social service organization whose offices are in another part of the community centre.

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