Toronto Health & Fitness Friday #6

As part of  the new city budget, the cost of hundreds of city-run swimming, skating, dance, athletic programs and other courses are expected to rise by 3 per cent.

And this has all of Toronto’s media & political cognoscenti all atwitter.

Most of these fee increases, argues Councillor Adam Vaughan, will hit the city’s disadvantaged residents hardest. “It’s on the backs of children and seniors and the poorest, most vulnerable people in the city. It’s obscene.”

The budget introduces user fees for previously free adult-recreation programs at community centres in priority neighbourhoods, which will go from $0 to $68 for the average nine-week program — though residents living below the poverty line will still get into the programs free under a different city subsidy.

Councillor Shelley Carroll accused right-leaning councillors of being hypocritical, given their criticisms of the former administration: “They called a press conference and added (fee hikes) to the tax increase to make sure people called them ‘taxes’. So, if I wanted to use their rhetoric: This isn’t a 0-percent tax increase anymore, is it? If you’re a regular recreation user, it just turned into 3 percent.”

Deputy mayor Doug Holyday said he’s not happy with the fee hikes, but they may be inevitable. “We’re trying to not put additional costs on taxpayers, but it may take a year or two or three to get things under control. We’re playing the hand we were dealt.”

And maybe that’s the problem.

Assuming that we have to play the hand we were dealt.

Our current handful of cards tells us that Torontonians have five options for getting fit:

  1. Save some money and do it themselves – i.e. buy a pair of running shoes and go for a jog
  2. Spend a pile of money and join a corporate health club
  3. Spend less money and train with one of the city’s smaller fitness service providers
  4. Sign up for a membership at one of the many Community Recreation Centres around the city, or
  5. Train with yours truly

But, what if we “borrowed” some ideas from around the world and created a sixth option which:

  • Provided fitness training on par or better than any other service provider in the city
  • Cost less than the city run facilities
  • Worked with community food activists like The Stop to better integrate exercise & nutrition
  • Made use of the knowledge & experience of local politicians, businesses and community groups
  • Had a huge number of locations in residential neighborhoods
  • Provided counselling services (nutrition, lifestyle, etc) for the same low price
  • Moved quickly to create new custom workouts to suit the needs of participants
  • Made money for the fitness trainers instead of the health club management (true story – the last big gym I worked at billed me out at $140 per session – I was paid $40)
  • Allowed friends/family/social groups to organize private small group sessions
  • And made a profit for the city

This is the plan that I am currently working on.

At this point, I won’t be going into details. Everything is at the idea stage and I am busy trying to establish relationships with the movers & shakers in Toronto who can help me get this thing off the ground.

If you want to help, you can email me or pass this article on to your city councillor or the Mayor and tell them you want a better option for getting fit in Toronto.

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And in case you need more info on the new fee increases.

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