A group of figure skaters participate in a session at the Nepean Sportsplex. Photo credit: Tyler Beauchesne

Ottawa’s municipal voters have indicated that one of the biggest issues for the next mayor to tackle is sports and recreation.

According to a study by Broadbent Institute, 13 per cent of the Ottawa population believes the issue of sports and recreation needs to be addressed. Many issues that need fixing include high enrollment fees, long wait times to register for programs, and the city’s website crashing due to high traffic.

However, candidates in this election have a clear plan to address this area if they get elected.

“What I can share with you is that one of the reasons I am running is that we have a real challenge with getting a lot of families and seniors out there to do sports and recreation,” Pat McGarry, a candidate in College ward, said on the recreation issue.

“We need to get on that as it gives opportunities to the youth to meet people and stay active which is the purpose of these facilities. What I keep hearing is that families and seniors cannot afford these activities and we need to do better as parents should not have to choose which of their children gets to do sports and which don’t.”

On the subject of expensive fees, Bernard Couchman, a mayoral candidate, said: “Since the cost of living is on the rise, I want to reduce the fees so that sports are more affordable. I want to make sure that everyone can have access to our facilities without issue because exercise can help everyone be better both physically and mentally. For sports, registration fees are way too high. I want to cap those fees at five dollars. I want the city to invest in this area and give the money back to you so that the public can participate in playing sports and creating memories. If you get young people involved in sports, they will develop life skills that will help them in the future such as teamwork, accountability, and leadership.”

Mick Mariani, a representative for mayoral candidate Mark Sutcliffe, talked about how Sutcliffe wants to fix the city’s website and how Algonquin College can be used to help out with the recreation issue:

“We have families who will wait until midnight on the city website to reserve their son and daughter and the website will just crash because of this,” Mariani said. “Mark wants to re-haul the website and hire more people to work on it. He has three kids and some of them are doing sports, so this issue is very important to him. Mark was on the board for Algonquin College, and he cares about this place a lot. The ARC is a great resource and Mark wants to use it to help with the issue.”

Amanda Presley, an English public school board candidate in the area of College and Knoxdale-Merivale wards, said that she wants to go back to using schools for public recreation.

“Our schools used to be used as recreation centres prior to COVID,” Presley said. “I would like to see a return to that where we use our schools after-hours for community groups. It would foster a sense of community that I feel we have lost in the last two years. For recreation fees, I would register my kids for swimming and it would be full within two hours. I think having more facilities, as well as more programs, will make it easier for multiple families to use these programs.”

Students also gave their opinions on what the city can do to fix the situation.

“Things need to improve,” said Alex Lara, a student at Algonquin College. “Maybe the city should start by making gyms just like the one here at Algonquin College. For these gyms, we can reduce the price of membership fees so that everyone can have access to them.”