After a late May heat wave when only 60 per cent of Toronto's public water fountains were operational, Mayor John Tory says he plans to introduce a council motion next week to see park amenities up and running sooner after winter.
Tory said in a news release his motion will make sure "existing seasonal facilities are accessible as soon as possible to park users following the winter."
But why aren't all these amenities operational now?
That's the question driving another motion going to council next week brought by two councillors, Coun. Josh Matlow (Toronto-St. Paul's) and Coun. Mike Layton (University-Rosedale), calling for the city's parks and recreation manager to report to an upcoming meeting of the city's infrastructure and environment committee.
Their motion asks what the standard and actual average opening dates for seasonal facilities are, what the costs of opening the facilities are, and why the city doesn't open all the facilities earlier.
"For many, the lack of a bathroom equates to a lack of access," that motion reads. "Although it is already late in the season, this information is necessary to act on so this is never repeated."
The lack of publicly accessible bathrooms has been a recurring issue throughout the pandemic, as many of the privately-owned washrooms people rely on when out in public closed as a result of successive lockdowns.
Faced with its first pandemic winter, the city announced in November 2020 that it would more than double the number of park washrooms accessible that winter, from 64 to 143. In addition to winterizing some pre-existing washrooms, the city said it would also put portable toilets in 51 other prominent locations.
However, Layton failed in his attempt during the 2021 budget negotiations to redirect funds to winterize 15 public washrooms at a cost of roughly $50,000 to $70,000 per unit. Tory helped vote it down.
Tory's current motion will be supported by Coun. Jennifer McKelvie (Scarborough-Rouge Park), who is the chair of the city's infrastructure and environment committee.
"To fully realize the benefits of our parks, we must ensure any seasonal amenities, like fountains and washrooms, are open and available as early in the year as possible," McKelvie said in a news release.
The motion would also involve the city cutting grass more frequently, as well as earlier trash pickup, according to the release.