Government inaction is putting mental health, school sports seasons at risk

Community and high school sports improve mental health as well as physical health, but due to poor planning by the government that keeps gyms locked around the province, many Nova Scotia students and community groups are struggling.

Community and high school sports improve mental health as well as physical health, but due to poor planning by the government that keeps gyms locked around the province, many Nova Scotia students and community groups are struggling.

Two days after announcing a Universal Mental Health Care plan - and three weeks after first raising the gym issue - Progressive Conservatives are renewing their call to the Liberal government to keep school gyms open past 6:00 p.m.

Sporting events, students, coaches, and sporting and senior associations are still waiting to hear a solution.

“The Liberals shouldn’t wait until schools start cancelling sports seasons to get to the table and find a solution,” says Tim Halman, MLA for Dartmouth East and Progressive Conservative Education Critic.

Regional Centres for Education are keeping gyms closed in the evenings because they don’t have enough staff to clean them and maintain their focus on disinfecting classrooms. Last week, Halman sent a letter to Education Minister Zach Churchill requesting that his department explore solutions. The letter also questioned whether the issue of insufficient staffing is a result of school cleaning funds being depleted or an inability to recruit staff.

Still, there has been no reply from Minister Churchill and he was vague on details at yesterday’s press conference.

“We are not dealing with an unsolvable problem, this is just a matter of proper coordination,” says Halman. “If this government doesn't take action, sports and community activities will be needlessly cancelled, contributing to an already difficult year for Nova Scotians.”

There is also a significant mental health component to this issue, says Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston, who recently unveiled his plan to improve mental health care services in Nova Scotia.

“Exercise and socialization are important factors for mental health,” says Houston. “With the lockdown and the continued restrictions, our children need some sense of normalcy to their school year and that includes the opportunity to participate in sporting events.”

Halman notes that the provincial government received $228 million from the federal government to assist with COVID-19 costs. Government refused to provide a list to media on how that money will be spent.

“My ask to the Education Minister is to stop the delays, coordinate with custodians, coaches, students, and all other relevant stakeholders to ensure that our communities don’t miss out on activities this year,” says Halman.