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Families will have to pay more to play hockey under proposed 2015 budget

The cost of playing hockey in Toronto could go up if the proposed 2015 city budget passes, but Mayor John Tory says that’s not a guarantee.

The proposed 2015 budget calls for a five per cent increase to indoor ice permit fees in addition to a 2.25 per cent increase on general parks and recreation user fees to cover the costs of inflation. That would bring the cost for ice time rental up by 7.25 per cent.

Scott Oakman, the executive director of the Greater Toronto Hockey League, said the proposed hike is worrisome.

“It’s really concerning when you’re talking about increases above inflation,” he said. “We’ve really been given no explanation as to why the increases are happening.”

Oakman said that over the last five years fees have increased 28 per cent and there’s very little to show for it.

“I don’t think anybody could ever justify or explain away an increase in that nature that’s well beyond any inflationary rates,” he said “We’ve not seen any obvious signs that those increases have improved the infrastructure in the city facilities so that’s concerning as well.”

Tory told reporters on Tuesday the five per cent increase is to bring fees in line with others across the region.

“If you’re at the middle of the pack there is some reason to thinking they could be taken up,” he said.

Tory said the current fees don’t fully cover the cost to operate the rinks. But he stressed fee increases are part of a proposed budget that has yet to be approved.

“To me it’s all on the table,” Tory said, adding he is amenable to making changes.

“We are having a six week exercise to examine this budget line by line, category by category and what’s right for the people.”

Coun. Mike Layton empathizes with parents’ concerns about the rising cost of the sport but said it’s a necessity.

“No one wants to increase user fees for programs,” Layton said. “It’s unfortunate that there is an increase in the cost of delivering them… but we want to make sure that we can keep delivering that service while maintaining the city’s policy for user fees.”

He added that the proposed increase will largely affect ice rinks that are in high demand and usually come with higher maintenance costs.

“They’re looking at those that demand the most valuable time at the rinks and trying to make sure that we keep all of the ice time at a reasonable cost, collecting fees where we can to make sure that it reflects that that’s the prime time available on the best rinks in town,” said Layton.

Watch a live stream of the budget committee meetings this week on citynews.ca and 680news.com.

Oakman said that he hopes the increase doesn’t dissuade parents from signing their children up for hockey.

“Ice time is the key component to any hockey program and with increase in ice cost it really puts a strain on a program in a sport that’s already pushing the limits in terms of affordability,” he said. “At the entry level where kids are just playing recreationally I think it’s a very affordable sport still.”

The mayor said, “I’m making sure that what we don’t do is create an obstacle to people being outside, doing healthy things, playing games as opposed to sitting on the couch playing video games.”