Editorial: Free passes not a problem

The City of Nanaimo’s parks and recreation department is again trying to save costs by playing card tricks with rec passes.

The City of Nanaimo’s parks and recreation department is again trying to save costs by playing card tricks with rec passes.

The city recently adjusted its rules regarding its Leisure Economic Access Policy pass, taking away Leap cards from special-needs adults who live at home.

It was exactly a year ago that the department’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission floated the idea of taking away free rec passes from seniors aged 80 and up.

This year’s Leap card clawback is a little different. Special-needs adults who live in group homes can still qualify for financial assistance, so this is more an issue of fairness than anything.

Rec pass rules should be fair, within reason. Of course we’re in favour of seniors’ discounts and children’s prices and student rates. We want our seniors to stay active, we want kids to get off the couch, and we could say the same thing for citizens of any age.

This city has superior recreation facilities that should be accessible and affordable. The Leap program is part of that strategy. It should help the ones who need it most and in many cases, people with special needs fit the criteria exactly. For adults, special needs or not, living with mom and dad doesn’t always mean financial stability, and shouldn’t preclude them from a few free swims at the public pool. The Leap program as a whole offers $300,000 of annual assistance, but that’s an in-kind service being provided, not necessarily dollars out of city coffers.

We do agree that parks and rec should crack down on abuses of financial assistance, if there are any, and we’re all for trying to get departmental budgets under control. These new rules, though, seem unfair, and all for a minimal impact – not so much a Leap forward as a step back.