outdoor amenities ontario

Toronto is officially asking Doug Ford for permission to reopen outdoor amenities

As rumours swirl of the Ontario government's plan to extend current stay-at-home orders for at least two more weeks, the City of Toronto is calling upon the province to throw us a bone in the form of permission to play golf, tennis, basketball and other outdoor sports.

A whole host of outdoor recreational amenities were closed across Ontario when the latest provincewide shutdown order came into effect on April 8, more than a month ago.

Basketball courts, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, lawn bowling greens, disk golf courses, skate parks, picnic tables and all types of outdoor fitness equipment remain prohibited under the Reopening Ontario Act and, despite much opposition, it doesn't seem likely that the province will be lifting these restrictions on its own.

So, in an effort to help residents remain healthy as summer approaches, Toronto's Board of Health is now officially calling upon the provincial government to reopen outdoor recreation amenities "in a manner that ensures access to the outdoors alongside rigorous safety measures."

Members of the board voted unanimously on Monday in favour of a motion to request that Premier Doug Ford and his ministers reverse the ban on outdoor recreational activities in Ontario.

"People need ways to get outside and enjoy the outdoors safely. Today the Board of Health called on the Ontario Government to re-open outdoor recreation amenities that are closed under Provincial order," wrote the board's chair, Councillor Joe Cressy, on Twitter following the vote.

When asked about the motion during a press conference at City Hall Monday afternoon, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said she is "convinced that warm weather and the outdoors can be allies in reducing the spread of COVID-19."

While she declined to speculate on whether or not she could issue a Section 22 order overriding the province's rules, de Villa did express support for the Board of Health's request.

"We are interested in continuing to collaborate with our partners, including those at the province, around how we support people in their ability to get outside and to take advantage of warmer weather, given that it is coming," said de Villa.

"And we know that outdoor activities are certainly safer, far less risky in terms of COVID-19 spread and transmission compared to, say, indoor activities."

Whatever the Ford government says in response to the city's request, it has become increasingly clear that many people in Toronto will flout the restrictions regardless. By allowing the legal use of amenities such as tennis courts, it stands to reason that the city could better regulate such activity.

"We are in the midst of a pandemic and what we don't want to do is see people crowding or gathering in large groups," said de Villa of the ban's proposed reversal.

"But it's my sense that there is a way to try to support people in the ability to enjoy the outdoors, to enjoy the warm weather while it's here, all too briefly."

Lead photo by

Howard Yang


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