City of Toronto refuses to drop “fun police” investigation into elderly euchre players

Author: James Wood 2020/03/04

The fun police are still hot on the case of the elderly euchre players.

Last summer, bureaucrats at Toronto’s parks and rec office turned up the heat on a ring of old folks for playing the popular card game at their local rec centre. When Mayor John Tory found out about it, he called off the “fun police.”

But the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has learned the bureaucrats are still on the case.

The gambling pot in question? The seniors were dealing in at a whopping $1.25 per player.

“At a time when Toronto Mayor John Tory says he needs to raise taxes, stories like this pull the rug out from beneath his feet,” said Jasmine Pickel, Ontario Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“Instead, he should be cutting the fat at city hall, including this recent case of bureaucratic bloat that’s been pestering seniors.”

The story was first detailed by the Toronto Sun, after the seniors told reporters how they were being treated by the city. After an anonymous complaint was called in to the city’s recreation department, the bureaucrats launched a review of the seniors’ card games. While the review was underway, players were forced to drop their usual $1.25 stake in the game to only 25 cents.

The Sun ran the story last summer and that’s when Tory stepped in and ordered the “fun police” to stand down.

Before Tory had managed to put the brakes on, however, the investigation had already roped in the City of Toronto’s Legal Services Department and the provincial Alcohol and Gaming Commission.

Now, according to documents freshly obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the full scale of the work becomes clear, with the initial parks and rec investigation generating at least 186 pages of records.

In one message that was sent in June from Community Recreation Supervisor Cheryle Gillis to a senior citizen, the manager described what they were doing as “against the criminal code.”

“Concerns have been brought forward that older adults have been gambling in our centres,” wrote Gillis in the email.

“Collecting a fee with the expectation to win a pot of money is considered gambling. Removing fees ensures that no gambling is occurring in a public facility. Gambling is a violation under the Criminal Code of Canada. Further, eliminating ‘buy in' charges to establish a pot per program will reduce further financial barriers from participation.”

She said small prizes would be offered in future instead.

Gillis’s message didn’t sit well with the player.

“It is beyond our comprehension that for some 20 odd years, we have been paying our $1.25 for three hours’ worth of enjoyment, and now, all of a sudden, some overzealous bureaucrat dug up some arcane ordinance and made some inane decision to intercede into the lives of the retired older senior population of Scarborough,” wrote the card player. “For what purpose???”

Messages between Gillis and the seniors involved in the games are full of complaints from the flabbergasted players, asking the recreation staff if there were better things they could do with their time.

After the Sun stories first came out, the situation seemed like it was resolved. The mayor called off the busy-body bureaucrats. Seniors were given two options: play as they had before, or play with no need to buy in to games.

But city officials have confirmed to the CTF that the fun police remain on the case, with the parks and rec review still ongoing.

According to Jaclyn Carlisle, a senior communications coordinator with the city, the findings of the $1.25 card game review are now “being summarized.”

“The review has been underway since last summer and access to drop-in programs for older adults continues to be maintained,” said Carlisle, in an emailed statement.

“The previously established entry fee option for games is available for those who wish to participate as well as opportunity for players to participate at no cost pending the results of the review. Again, the city is in the process of summarizing the findings of the review. We’ll have more information to share in the coming months and will be working closely with our stakeholders to keep them informed.”

Translation: old folks can still play their euchre games using money or using no money at all, and that taxpayer-paid city bureaucrats have been meeting, writing and talking about these games for nine months.

Carlisle refused to answer when asked why the city’s work had continued, despite mayor Tory’s statements “calling off the fun police.”

“This is government problem solving at its finest,” said Pickel.

“Something that could have been resolved in an afternoon instead takes months, multiple government departments, and 186 pages worth of emails when the government’s on the case.”

Carlisle refused to tell the CTF when the findings of the rec centre card game review would be released, but we will stay on the case.