Politicians are all wet: Keep the pools open

May 31, 2007 – Everybody out of the pool. Don't blame us, says the Board of Education. Not our fault, says the City of Toronto. The buck stops elsewhere, says the province of Ontario. I hate weasels.
The fact is, half a dozen swimming pools in city schools are scheduled to close this year. Yes, they all need maintenance, but they are our facilities, built with our money, used by our kids to learn to swim; used by our neighbours who do laps to keep in shape; used by our old aunties and uncles who splash around in search of relief from arthritis.

Nobody's fault? Can we not quit playing politics and work things out so the six pools can stay open? Do it for Kaytek. He's one of the many school kids who wrote letters to the Minister of Education, trying to convince Kathleen Wynne to support the 25-metre pool in the Keele St. Public School. Here's Kaytek's letter, in full:

"I am writing to ask you to keep the Keele pool open. I am 8 years old and I love to swim. It's fun to make up new strokes and splashing during free time. If we don't learn to swim we will drown. Please help the swimming pool.   Yours truly,   Kaytek"
 
Who at the school board, who from city hall, and who in Queen's Park can look this kid in the eye and tell him his pool has got to close because we can't get our act together?  When she was still on the school board, Wynne moved the following motion: "That the board and the city continue to work together to persuade the provincial government to provide the funding of swimming pools in schools." Has she now the wit to accept the merits of her own argument?

There was a meeting of parents and swimmers at the school the other night. I don't need to tell you what was said. If you breathe deeply, you can smell the chlorine of their outrage. Yes, the province took its lumps. The province is probably at fault, since it took control of a whole raft of board assets ten years ago, while simultaneously depriving the board of the ability to raise money through taxes.

The city picked up some of the operating costs for school pools, but now the city is crying poor and is fighting its own battles with the province over who should pay for what. I don't give a damn who's to blame. Shame on everyone.  Prior to the meeting, a woman named Susanne stood on the school's playing field; a former track athlete, she was teaching her daughter Lara how to run sprints. Lara, who is 7 and who swims in the pool once a week said, "Swimming is fun. It promotes a healthy lifestyle." She dashed off. Smart kid.

Over there, a couple of boys were playing basketball on an outdoor court. Guled, 14 years old, had worked up a healthy sweat driving the lane. He said, "I want to use the pool tonight. It's a place where I can cool down. It's important to me. There's outdoor pools, but they don't open until late June."  What's he supposed to do? Jump in the lake? Swim in the Humber River? Guled's pal Delton said, "Things like this keep the youths out of trouble. If you're swimming, you're not gangbanging. We need more places like this. You have to help your inner communities." Delton, Guled, Lara, Kaytek: our kids; smarter than the mayor, smarter than the chair of the board of education, smarter than the ruling party at Queen's Park. Keep the pools open for them.

Joe Fiorito Toronto Star jfiorito@thestar.ca