Rethink outside recreation closures, metropolis urges province

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Thunder Bay City Council unanimously called on the provincial government to reconsider closing facilities such as soccer fields, skate parks and golf courses.

THUNDER BAY – The city of Thunder Bay is asking the provincial government to reconsider its recent decision to order outdoor facilities such as soccer fields and gated golf courses.

Mayor Bill Mauro argued at the city council meeting on Monday that the new regulations put in place by the Ford government on Friday did not appear to be following scientific evidence.

“Last year when we came out of spring and went into summer, the outdoor play was the one that was considered safer,” he said. “That medical advice hasn’t changed.”

Friday’s announcement nearly united the province in surprise and opposition, Mauro said, adding that the targeted facilities had important mental health benefits.

“Recovery is clearly and directly linked to mental health and general well-being,” said a memo from the mayor who tabled the resolution. “Many health professionals have given feedback that these new regulations and bans are not helpful in the fight against COVID-19.”

Mauro said there might be a justification for some of the restrictions, but hoped the province would reconsider the sweeping closings announced on Friday.

On that day, an ordinance was passed that indefinitely closed playgrounds, basketball courts, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, golf courses and other outdoor recreational facilities as the government scrambled to respond to the rising case numbers and hospital stays.

The government eased playground restrictions the next day but left the others in place.

The new rules also override skate parks and picnic tables, the city said on Monday.

Coun. Brian Hamilton suggested that this was not a proportional response to the limited risks of outdoor transmission.

“We have to learn to deal with this pandemic in a sustainable and long-term manner,” he said.

A resolution passed unanimously by the city council on Monday instructs the city to stand up for the issue.

“We encourage the province to reconsider the restrictions on outdoor facilities to include those that can be safely done with public health measures,” it said in part.

A copy of the resolution will be sent to Ford, Minister of Health Christine Elliott, local MPPs and Federal Minister of Health and Thunder Bay Superior North MP Patty Hajdu.

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