Capital Region: L.I.F.E. Flourishes in Recreation Facilities

For nearly 15 years, the fee-subsidy program entitled Leisure Involvement For Everyone (L.I.F.E) has reduced barriers to leisure activities and recreation programs for low-income families and individuals throughout the Capital Region District (CRD). While many fee-subsidy programs like this have been implemented elsewhere, this program is especially unique because it crosses municipal boundaries; all thirteen local governments within the CRD are involved in operating this program across fourteen parks and recreation facilities. The L.I.F.E. program serves as an effective mechanism to coordinate and collectively promote affordable and accessible recreation services common to the CRD.

Partnerships & Stakeholders

Greater Victoria Inter-Municipal Recreation Managers Committee includes representatives from:

  • Saanich Parks and Recreation
  • Esquimalt Recreation
  • Recreation Oak Bay
  • City of Victoria
  • Peninsula Recreation
  • Westshore Parks and Recreation
  • SEAPARC Leisure Complex

Each of the thirteen municipalities in the CRD participate in the L.I.F.E. program:

Summary of the Process

In 1998, several municipalities had their own Leisure Access Programs, but these fee-subsidy programs were individualized for each municipality, therefore applicants had to enroll in the program that corresponded with their municipal boundary. Since applicants could only use the pass at the designated recreation centre within the municipality they applied to, this meant the pass was non-transferable to other recreation centres. This made it difficult for people to navigate the services and to access recreation and leisure activities that would help them achieve a healthier lifestyle. It was recognized that residents look beyond local government borders for recreation opportunities, so a mechanism was needed to more effectively coordinate affordable and accessible recreation services common to the CRD.

To address these challenges, staff from recreation departments and municipalities across the CRD were brought together to form the Greater Victoria Inter-Municipal Recreation Managers Committee in 2000. This unique collective approach fostered a strong regional connection so committee members could work together towards a shared goal and minimize the potential for duplicating efforts. The committee agreed that equitable distribution of funding was more important than equal distribution, meaning that the municipalities that had the highest demand for fee-subsidy programs were given a larger portion of funding than those who did not have as high of a need.

“When we sit as a regional group we get a chance to understand each other better and we make decisions about what is best for the region instead of what’s best for our own municipalities, particularly around an issue like access.” ~ Sandy Clarke, Manager of Recreation, West Shore Recreation

The original mandate of the committee was  to initiate a common recreation fee subsidy program in the region for low-income residents, now known as the L.I.F.E program. Key considerations included: providing a subsidized access pass, discounts to leisure programs, establishing an appropriate cost, ensuring that the pass was transferable to other recreation centres, and protecting client’s integrity. Research was conducted to understand what the program model would look like, and programs such as Edmonton’s Leisure Access Program were examined to identify viable options.

The committee came to a collective agreement that the L.I.F.E. Program would offer two opportunities: an annual access pass that would provide 52 admissions (one admission per week) that could be used at any of the 14 recreation facilities within the region, and a discount option that would ensure savings on registration for recreation programs or classes. The discount option is tailored to each of the municipalities and may be offered as either a percent discount (e.g. 50% off), or a credit (e.g. $70/adult). Also, knowing that program participants may not apply for the pass if it was not discrete, the access pass closely resembles the look of the traditional access passes.

After reaching this decision, each recreation manager presented to their mayor and council in each of the municipalities, and the idea was approved, acknowledged and launched in 2000 as a regional program. Since implementing the L.I.F.E. program in 2000, numerous families and individuals have taken part; approximately 10,000 L.I.F.E. passes were issued in 2013 alone. There has been an increasing need for more affordable programs in the CRD, and this strong collective partnership has helped to generate new program ideas that prioritize affordability and access to services, while also stimulating partnerships with other entities, such as Coast Capital Savings and Jumpstart.

Key Outcomes & Impacts

This collective partnership has helped to minimize duplication of programs.

Partnership with Coast Capital Savings has resulted in sponsorship of free swimming and skating events at each of the recreation centres throughout the region, while Jumpstart has helped to provide additional funding for children 4-18 years to participate in recreation programs.

The Greater Victoria Inter-Municipal Recreation Managers Committee continues to meet monthly to discuss programs that fit into the regional model such as the Regional May Pass, which allows access to 15 centres for a discounted cost of $25 for the month, and the Regional Recreation Annual Pass, which gives patrons access to all regional recreation facilities at a more affordable cost of $475.

For more information, please contact:

Sandy Clarke
Manager of Recreation
West Shore Recreation
T: 250-474-8655

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