Canadian Tire & Y pools aid

YMCA, Canadian Tire join school pools fight
Community groups willing to aid former mayor Crombie in finding a solution before end of June deadline

The Globe and Mail May 14, 2008  JAMES RUSK With a report from Unnati Gandhi

Community organizations, including the Central YMCA and the Canadian Tire Foundation, are signing on to the effort to save school swimming pools, former Toronto mayor David Crombie said yesterday.

"It has been quite a reaction. People want to get involved," said Mr. Crombie, the Mr. Fix-It to whom the Toronto District School Board turned in late April to try to work out a deal that would keep its pools open.

The board plans to drain 23 of its 39 school pools at the end of June if Mr. Crombie cannot work out a long-term solution to the chronic lack of funding that has led to repeated threats to close them in recent years.

Mr. Crombie said there are many groups in the community with an interest in the pools but who have felt left out by the politicking among the province, city and school board.

Tomorrow night, he will hold a meeting of 50 or so people to discuss both how the community might maintain the pools for the long term and how to bridge the gap between the threat of immediate closing.

"It's more of a work meeting than a rally meeting," Mr. Crombie said.

He said that the Canadian Tire Foundation and the

YMCA are two of the groups – along with others he cannot yet name – who are willing to participate in a proposed solution that he can then take to the province, city and school board. Tomorrow's meeting will be held at the Canadian Tire Conference Centre.

He also said that any solution will require "a strong commitment" by government, but this may be easier to get if he can demonstrate that there are private participants lined up.

He also indicated that it may not be possible to keep all the pools, as some may be in schools that the board will close as it rationalizes its facilities over the next few years. Others may be so old and in need of repair that further investment cannot be justified.

Heidi Wilson, who is one of the lead organizers behind recent high-profile public rallies in support of school pools, welcomed what she said would be an "interim funding solution" announcement tomorrow night because it would allow pool closings to be pushed back beyond June.

"[We're] buoyed by the idea that Crombie has come to the table. He's got the relationships, he's got the good intentions, and he's got the experience where he can bring these three bodies of government together. So we're encouraged that if nothing more, he'll buy us more time."