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Council votes to shut community centres, cancel rec programs

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

It was a tense meeting as Oshawa city council held an emergency meeting where they voted to close all city recreation and culture programs and facilities.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, city council held an emergency meeting on Friday afternoon. Councillors voted to shut down the programs and facilities for three weeks beginning on Friday, March 13.

Facilities closed include Delpark Homes Centre, Northview Community Centre, Donevan Recreation Complex, Harman Park Arena, South Oshawa Community Centre, Children’s Arena, Civic Recreation Complex, Arts Resource Centre and the Tribute Communities Centre.

Public information sessions are cancelled until April 5, including a session on the Fire Master Plan on March 24.

However, a council meeting will continue as planned on March 23, as Ward 1 city councillor Rosemary McConkey pointed out a number of issues would begin to pile up otherwise.
Mayor Dan Carter and chief administrative officer Paul Ralph have also been given additional decision making powers through an emergency management by-law.

City staff will meet on Monday, March 16 to discuss other services, such as Service Oshawa.

However, while the rest of Durham Region’s municipalities had already voted to shut down these programs, not all Oshawa councillors were keen on the idea, with Ward 5 city councillor John Gray voicing his displeasure with the idea.

“I’m really concerned about closing recreation in the City of Oshawa, you’ve got kids off for three weeks, what the heck are they going to do?” he asked.

His Ward 5 regional counterpart, Brian Nicholson, also noted he felt the province’s decision to shutter schools for three weeks was a decision made out of panic, and municipalities have been reacting to that decision.

However, Ward 4 city and regional councillor Rick Kerr pointed out every other municipality in Durham had already voted to do close their doors.

“If we are the only municipality that keeps our recreation facilities open our staff are going to be inundated by people coming from other municipalities,” he said.

Ward 2 city councillor Jane Hurst expressed her desire to vote in favour of the motion. She also expressed her exasperation at how complicated the decision had become, noting it should have been an easy decision.

“I don’t think we have any other choice, I’m looking at this as a war mentality and you’re either in or you’re out,” she said
It came down to a 5-4 vote in favour to shutter the facilities, with Gray, Nicholson, McConkey, and Ward 1 city and regional councillor John Neal voting against.

Kerr, Hurst, Ward 3 city and regional councillor Bob Chapman, who was chairing the meeting, Ward 3’s Bradley Marks, and Ward 4’s Derek Giberson voted in favour.