Councillors urge province to allow golf, tennis

Sixteen Ottawa city councillors have signed a letter urging the province to allow outdoor recreational activities like pickleball, golf and tennis under Ontario's stay-at-home order.

16 of Ottawa's 23 councillors sign letter asking Ontario to loosen stay-at-home order

A sign at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club on April 17, 2021, tells people the course is closed. The province introduced stricter COVID-19 rules declaring golf courses off-limits earlier this month. Now, city councillors are urging the province to reverse that. (Olivier Plante/Radio-Canada)

Several Ottawa city councillors are urging the province to allow outdoor recreational activities like golf, tennis and pickleball under the stay-at-home order.

Sixteen of the city's 23 councillors penned the letter, dated April 28. In it, they say the province has removed "the few remaining safe ways that people can be active outdoors, in a physically distanced way."

Coun. Diane Deans shared the letter to reporters in an email, adding that it was sent to Premier Doug Ford on Wednesday.

Since April 17, Ontarians have been forbidden from playing baseball, soccer, tennis, golf, basketball, frisbee golf and pickleball outdoors at facilities designated for these sports. The measure is needed to slow the spread of COVID-19 during the record-breaking third wave of the pandemic, the province said.

The province also closed playgrounds, play structures and other recreational equipment, but rescinded that particular restriction the next day.

"Activities such as golf, tennis and pickleball all lend themselves to physical distancing," reads the letter.

The signatories say they agree with the need for a stay-at-home order and appreciate the province has a challenging job, but want "fair, reasonable, and evidence-based measures."

"We feel that the benefits [to people's] physical and mental health and well-being of reopening outdoor recreational activities far outweigh the risks," reads the letter.

An outdoor basketball net in Kanata earlier this month. Using it risks a fine under Ontario's stay-at-home order. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

In an email to CBC on April 21, Ottawa Public Health said it supports the province's measures to shut down outdoor activities which may cause people to gather during a stay-at-home order, especially as COVID-19 variants are spreading.

"Prior to the closure of golf courses, we received reports of golf courses mixing households to maximize 4 players per tee time and crowding around the flag areas, which increases the risk of transmission," it said.

The councillors who signed the letter say they believe golf courses in the Ottawa area have "gone to great lengths" to ensure safety of guests by removing rakes from sand pits and requiring golfers to stay in their vehicles until tee time.

"In addition to these measures, golf courses could encourage people from the same households to play together," states the councillors' letter.

Besides Deans, councillors Eli El-Chantiry, George Darouze, Jan Harder, Matthew Luloff, Mathieu Fleury, Catherine Kitts, Catherine McKenney, Tim Tierney, Riley Brockington, Laura Dudas, Rawlson King, Glen Gower, Theresa Kavanagh, Jeff Leiper and Rick Chiarelli also signed the letter.

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