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Mayor Tory says Toronto will 're-examine' if skating rinks, toboggan hills should remain open

Last Updated Jan 15, 2021 at 4:56 pm EDT

Nathan Phillips Square skating rink. Image courtesy Josef Fazio.

John Tory says Toronto will be re-assessing the status of rinks and hills.

There's nothing in the province's regulations forcing rinks and toboggan hills to close.

Despite the slew of questions it has spawned, Premier Doug Ford says the province’s stay-at-home order is crystal clear – unless it’s essential, don’t venture out.

His message was hammered home in the form of a jarring emergency alert on Thursday morning on cellphones, television and radio stations.

The list of what’s “essential” is long, and in some cases it’s open to interpretation. For instance, outdoor exercise is permitted, but it’s a fine line between exercise and recreation.

When it comes to tobogganing or taking a leisurely skate at a city rink, Mayor John Tory realizes the optics could clash with the orders.

Tory told Breakfast Television on Thursday morning that although there’s nothing in the province’s regulations forcing rinks and toboggan hills to close, the City will be re-assessing their status.

“The regulation specifically says that outdoor recreational facilities are entitled to stay open, which skating rinks are, they’ve always been allowed to be open,” Tory said. “And we’ve put in place a series of safety rules that involve making a reservation.”

Tory added that rinks have a capacity cap of 25 skaters to ensure social distancing, and says so far around 400,000 reservations have been made.

But given the new stay-at-home orders, he says officials will be taking a closer look at the issue.

“Now the decision we have to make … is given that the provincial regulations seem to say ‘yes a skating rink can remain open,’ are the rules in place adequate to protect safety?”

“The second will be the optics of people being allowed to go skating when the default position is to say please stay home. Same with tobogganing. These are the discussions we have to have today, but I will tell you the provincial regulation doesn’t call for the closing of skating rinks or tobogganing hills.”

“We have to re-examine that, but if I was guessing – it might default in favour of them staying open … but we will have to have another look at it to make sure it’s safe and consistent with what we are trying to achieve here.”

RELATED: Stay-at-home order now in effect across Ontario

When asked how Toronto police and bylaws officers would be enforcing the stay-at-home orders, Tory said more guidance would be coming later Thursday.

“Our police and bylaw officers use their own discretion to enforce the law,” he stressed. “They don’t take direction from politicians. We will get their strategy sometime today because they just got the regulations last night.”

Tory downplayed fears of a police state situation where citizens are hounded by authorities every time they step outside.

“I don’t think they’re going to be combing the streets looking for anybody walking down the sidewalk and say ‘Aha! Are you going to get a prescriptions or going to pick up food?’ ”

“I think they’re going to be looking for blatant examples of non-compliance.”