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Councillor looks to form Guelph sports council advocacy group

Dan Gibson to host meeting aimed at establishing a local sports council he believes will provide a unified voice for advocacy at city hall
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It’s time local and youth sports had a unified voice, believes Coun. Dan Gibson, who is working to bring groups together for advocacy at city hall and push for sports tourism initiatives.

“I think there is a huge thirst. The response I’ve received has been tremendous,” Gibson said of interest in establishing a local sports council – something he believes would have an impact on nearly a quarter of the population, given the number of sports organizations in the city.

“It’s a big demographic that needs to have a voice.”

Those groups aren’t without a presence in the city’s sports and recreation-related public engagement efforts, but that presence is fairly siloed, typically dealing with individual issues or requests, and doesn’t carry their collective weight.

Born during the peak of the pandemic, the idea of establishing a sports council has begun to be formalized. Gibson will host a town-hall style meeting for those interested March 23 at city hall from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“Shortly after COVID (arrived), I started discussing it with some of the larger groups … and we just decided to start talking,” he said, noting more formal conversations began to take place after last fall’s municipal election. 

Gibson hopes to see a variety of sports association representatives turn out for the March 23 discussion, as well as members of the general public.

“There is a significant amount of sports tourism (taking place in Guelph),” he said. “It’s a sleeping giant. It’s not talked about but it’s something that is a really big driver in our city and I think it needs to have representation … when city hall is being engaged.”

The idea is not to have a council-appointed advisory committee, as the city does for a variety of subject matters, but rather engage with city officials in a similar way as Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation, Trees for Guelph, Friends of Guelph Public Library and others that provide input to city staff and make delegations to council on issues that impact them.

“We have a lot of advocacy groups in this city and they’re doing good work,” Gibson said. “When it comes to youth, minor sports, a lot of these associations were advocating on their own … almost disjointed advocacy – one group saying this, one group saying that so it’s hard for city hall to decipher where to go and what to do.”

In addition to discussing formation of a sports council, the meeting next week will feature presentations on the South End Community Centre (which has tentative council approval at its new budget of $115.5 million), as well as the city’s parks and recreation master plan which is set for review later this year.

Gibson said he doesn’t want to sit on the sports council’s board, as he wants to avoid the potential optics of political influence, but he’d gladly participate through the council’s creation and selection of a board of directors.

“My role in this is really to get it started … then back up and let it operate,” the councillor said. “I think it needs to be totally independent and it needs to be operating on its own.”


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Richard Vivian

About the Author: Richard Vivian

Richard Vivian is an award-winning journalist and longtime Guelph resident. He joined the GuelphToday team as assistant editor in 2020, largely covering municipal matters and general assignment duties
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