Remarks on Summer Rec Programs (June 28, 2021)
On June 28, 2021, Council received a report in response to a letter from a member of the public inquiring about summer youth recreation programming for 2021. Council directed administration to resume planning for the programs. Below are my comments from the meeting (check against delivery).
Thank you, Chair.
I am glad that this matter has come before Council tonight and that we are responding to public feedback. However, I do have some concerns about how we got to this point. My chief concern is that the proposed resolution calls for Council to reverse the original decision to cancel the Summer Programs. I do not believe that we made such a decision.
I also do not accept the explanation that by endorsing a budget projection which assumed that we would not be able to offer the programs, that Council provided approval to cancel the programs.
Our budget is a projection or estimate for the year. Our actual programs and direction are based on the advice and reports we receive to implement those assumptions. We have had no discussion or reports on summer rec programs that I am aware of. In my view, it is not sufficient to rely on the budget in this way – especially with no proactive communication to the community about the programs.
I am disappointed that it took a letter from a member of the public to trigger this discussion. In my view, there should have been a report to Council sometime in the spring with options or concerns about the feasibility of the program.
I also want to comment for a moment about why these programs are important to the people I have heard from. Some of these individuals attended the committee meeting last week. While I think there is some relief that we are now seeing a recommendation to get these programs going, members of Council and administration need to realize that this type of programming is important, especially right now with many young people removed from classroom structure.
We have to remember that not everyone has local grandparents, aunts, and uncles who can step in to assist parents. Fewer and fewer people have that support at all. I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that citizens are asking too much or somehow freeloading by expecting services like this to be in place, especially when they see other communities doing it.
A growing number of my calls and messages from constituents are about Community Services, which tells me that our citizens value them. But often, I feel that when there are complaints, they relate to issues where Council is briefed too late to have meaningful options.
As we move forward, I think that this highlights the need for us to create workplans for our executive committees so that there is a schedule for reports on routine or annual activities, and Council knows when to expect them. This is a tool a lot of public boards use and is something that I plan to bring to Administration and Finance for consideration. We need to have systems to provide Council with better foresight into what is coming up on future agendas.
For tonight, I want to green-light these programs, but I will not support the resolution as drafted because there is no Council decision to reverse. The resolution should simply say that Council directs that staff resume the programming as soon as possible. That is my requested amendment.