Is there a fair deal for poor people to get access to leisure passes at Vancouver community centres?
Question: Why was there an increase in the amount people on welfare pay for community centre gym memberships in Vancouver? They used to get free passes with a Leisure Access card and now it’s $24 a month.
Answer: Well, I’m told, there was no such increase, unless you’re talking about some period a long, long time ago. I’ve checked the newspaper database back to 1987 and don’t see any stories that make a reference to hiking fees for low-income people to rec centres — something that surely would have been reported on.
What park board chair Sarah Blyth does say, though, is that the access passes are only given out by some community centres, not all of them. She says community centres can opt in or out of having the leisure access pass. (I find that confusing, as the park board’s website directs people to all community centres for it.)
Sarah thinks perhaps you went to a centre that doesn’t offer the full leisure access pass. Apparently there are nine that do. No one was able to come up with the list of which nine, but they’re in the low-income communities, so we can probably make an educated guess.
That’s something she’s hoping to rectify, with a motion in the fall to look at how to improve the pass system. It has a few strange anomalies. (One that I know of: When my son, earning $15,000 a year and well within the income ceiling, he was denied, apparently because he lived in a house where other people made more money and so wasn’t eligible.) “It’s definitely something that is worth taking a look at, how we can improve it.”
As well, park board manager Malcolm Bromley is in the middle of negotiating a joint operating agreement to try to standardize certain services across all community centres, which sometimes charge wildly varying fees for the same kind of class or service.
However, she says nothing has been changed and that the pass has never provided totally free access to everything.
The leisure access pass, according to, again, the handy park board website, says that pass holders get free access to all swimming and skating, plus free skate rentals. However, they have to pass half price for everything else: golf, swim lessons, fitness centres, the train ride, and so on. (More details, including income cut-offs, here.)
I also got this information from Joyce Courtney, in media relations at the park board:
In 2011, 12,378 leisure access passes (LAC) were given out for a total of $280,745 in discounts, an increase in discount value of 39% since 2009. LAC need is concentrated in a few communities; currently, nine complexes account for 99% of LAC usage. The Park Board and community centres’ representatives (Association Presidents Group) are in discussions to extend the program and standardize the discounts given to pass holders.
That’s all, folks. I’d be interested in hearing if others have had troubles with the leisure access pass.