Penny Oleksiak Tweets Opposition to Budget Cuts that Could Close Toronto Pools
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Penny Oleksiak Tweets Opposition to Budget Cuts that Could Close Toronto Pools

Can City Council say no to Canada's favourite Olympian?

The Toronto Public Library has Margaret Atwood. And now, Toronto pools have Penny Oleksiak.

The teenage Olympic champion tweeted her support on Tuesday for the indoor pool at SH Armstrong Community Centre in East York. Oleksiak, who lives in the area, added the hashtag #saveSHpool to her tweet.

SH Armstrong, which is next door to the Duke of Connaught Junior and Senior Public School and serves the Beach neighbourhood in general, is one of many pools that could close following the city budget process.

The 2017 Toronto budget considers the following pool-related service cuts:

  • Close 36 wading pools
  • Close 12 outdoor pools
  • Close 10 indoor TDSB pools

However, the City budget doesn’t say where most of these pool closures would be. They’ve carefully added up the potential savings from closing the pools, so a list must exist. But it’s not public.

This lack of transparency has frustrated parent Mark Richardson, who closely tracks the City’s parks and recreation programming. He has asked the City for a list of potential pool closures (Torontoist also requested the locations today, and will update this article as soon as we get a response) but hasn’t received the answer. Other parents at last night’s East York budget consultation were concerned too, as City News reports.

John Tory told City that these pool closures are merely things to consider in the budget process, and are no sure thing. But not following through on the cuts would mean introducing new revenue tools, or increasing property taxes.

Considering those trade offs is reasonable, but the process should be done with full information, which we don’t have. The fate of SH Armstrong relies on a funding agreement with the Toronto District School Board, but something like wading pools and outdoor pools don’t.

Our budget process should be more open and accessible about the choices we face. It certainly helps when the likes of Penny Oleksiak highlight what those choices mean, but the people of Toronto shouldn’t have to rely on that support either.