A Constituents’ Guide to Park People’s Parks Platform

septembre 7, 2022
Park People

With municipal elections coming up this year in many provinces across Canada, we all have an opportunity to speak up about parks as critical social, health, and environmental infrastructure in our cities.

Get involved in advocating for parks.

Below are key facts you can share with candidates to centre equity, resilience, and engagement in city parks.

Check out our Toronto Parks as Core Urban Infrastructure to read up on our policy solutions. Thank you for caring about your community and your parks!

We need to invest more money in parks operations

Credit: Women from the Jamestown community plant native flowers in an outdoor children’s learning centre in Toronto

  • The issue: 90% of cities say insufficient operating budgets are a challenge. The average amount of money spent by cities per person on park operations has remained relatively flat over the past four years at approximately $57 per person.
  • Why it’s important: It’s critical to continue to invest in park operations like maintenance as city populations grow, inflation increases, and demands on parks grow with new and expanded use. Without this, small repairs grow into larger costly renovations and our parks fail to meet basic needs like all-season washroom access and working drinking fountains.
  • What to ask your candidates: Do they support increased funding for parks? Voters want to see more investment; 87% of residents of Canadian cities said they support more public funding for parks. It’s time to fund our parks like the critical social, health, and environmental infrastructure they are.
  • Further reading:

We need to address inequitable access to green spaces and their benefits

Credit: Bonnyville Ravine Toronto, Joel Rodriges

  • The issue: Research shows that access to quality green spaces in Canadian cities is uneven, with wealthier, often whiter neighbourhoods greener than neighbourhoods with higher proportions of lower income and racialized residents.
  • Why it’s important: Access to high-quality green spaces provides a host of benefits including stress reduction, physical activity, social connection, heat relief, and more. Ensuring equitable access should be the cornerstone of any park system.
  • What to ask your candidates: Do they support equitable development of city parks to close the gap between those who have access to high-quality green spaces and those who don’t? Cities need to implement equity-based park planning tools that take into account more than just development growth when deciding where to create new parks and redevelop older ones. These tools should look at income, race/ethnicity, housing type, age, and other socioeconomic factors.
  • Further reading:

We need to redesign our parks in the face of climate change impacts

Credit: Sea Level Rise Sign in Vancouver, Chad Townsend

  • The issue: Extreme weather caused by climate change is impacting our parks through flooding, droughts, and storm damage. 93% of cities said addressing climate change and extreme weather damage was a challenge.
  • Why it’s important: Parks can be planned as key pieces of climate adaptation and mitigation infrastructure in cities where they help cool the air and soak up excess rainwater.
  • What to ask your candidates: Do they support ensuring all parks are planned with climate resilience in mind? Cities need climate strategies with policies for parks that include standardizing climate resilience park design for all park projects, such as tree canopy coverage goals, native plant use, and rainwater capture and reuse. Just over two-thirds of cities have an approved climate change plan that includes actions for parks–an increase over last year.
  • Further reading:

We need to change colonial approaches to managing parks

Credit: Vancouver Strathcona Park, Mash Salehomoum

  • The issue: The history and present of city parks is built upon the dispossession of land from Indigenous Peoples, the erasure of place names and cultural sites, and policies and practices that are disconnected from Indigenous land stewardship.
  • Why it’s important: Truth and reconciliation require us to reckon with past and current practices of erasure and violence as well as commit to actions that foster new approaches to park governance, stewardship, and management in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples.
  • What to ask your candidates: Do they support more Indigenous representation in parks, including park governance and management? New projects across the country offer examples of a path forward to begin the work of decolonizing city parks. City residents are also on board; Nearly 60% said they want to see Indigenous place names restored and 68% support more Indigenous representation through art, native plant gardens, and signage.
  • Further reading:

We need a human-centred approach to park encampments

Credit: Bench with centre bars to prevent lying down in Winchester Park, Toronto, Cara Chellew

  • The issue: Parks departments are unprepared to address rising rates of park encampments with an equity-informed approach, leading to violent encampment evictions. In responding to houselessness, 76% of parks departments said they use bylaw enforcement and 66% use design strategies aimed at crime prevention, while only 10% engage directly with unhoused communities.
  • Why it’s important: There is no easy answer to park encampments, but there are alternatives to violent encampment evictions. Cities have an obligation to people sheltering in parks as outlined in the UN National Protocol for Encampments in Canada.
  • What to ask your candidates: Do they support a park encampment strategy that centres on the experiences of those currently living in our parks? 62% of city residents who noticed park encampment(s) said the encampment had not negatively impacted their use of parks, pointing to the openness of park goers to share space with unhoused neighbours.
  • Further reading:

We need to remove barriers to community programming and engagement

Credit: InTO The Ravines Champions Celebration, Earl Bales Park 

  • The issue: Just 22% of city residents feel like they currently have a voice in influencing decision-making about their local park, down from 34% last year.
  • Why it’s important: Parks are best when decisions about their use, design, and programming are informed by the many different kinds of people who use them. If people are experiencing barriers to participation or are feeling like their voice doesn’t matter, it means we are losing out on important perspectives.
  • What to ask your candidates: Do they support deeper engagement with communities that meaningfully engage communities in decision-making and programming? Just over half of cities said the pandemic made them look to more creative methods of engagement (e.g., virtual sessions) and a third of cities said it made them more intentional about reaching out to equity-deserving groups.
  • Further reading:

Parks are not “nice to haves,” but critical social, health, and environmental infrastructure in our cities. They provide natural habitats, spaces for relaxation and leisure, important climate resilience benefits, and a place where we can connect with our communities.

Let’s make sure parks are on the agenda this election. Join us by using this guide and reviewing the policy solutions in our Parks Platform to ensure candidates for mayor and council prioritize actions for more equitable and resilient parks.


Read the Toronto Parks Platform