OPEN LETTER TO THE GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO
Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott, Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore, and all Members of Provincial Parliament:
On behalf of millions of fitness club members in Ontario, The Fitness Industry Council of Canada Ontario Coalition is imploring The Government of Ontario to include indoor fitness facilities in Step 2 of the Roadmap to Reopen strategy.
Since June 2020, when we were allowed to be open, Ontario FIC member fitness businesses hosted more than 15 million workouts. To date, none of the FIC member clubs have been notified by Public Health that they were a source of community transmission.
Based on roadmap criterion of vaccination rate and improved public health and health care indicators, there is no reason that gyms cannot reopen safely in Step 2 at 25% capacity, the same as non-essential retail.
Through 15 months of lockdowns and restrictions on the fitness industry, we have reached a critical point for many Ontarians. Reported mental health issues are at an all-time high, 4 out of 10 people have gained weight during the pandemic, and 40+% of Canadians who previously had a fitness program have simply stopped working out. It is not unreasonable to expect that our healthcare system will be inundated with a wave of health issues in the coming years.
It has never been more important to ensure that millions of Ontarians have the opportunities they need to rebuild their physical and mental health. Gyms are an integral part of the healthcare solution. Regular exercise helps people to rehabilitate from injuries, manage chronic mental health issues, and improve overall well-being.
At this point, fitness facilities are in serious financial trouble. Despite being eligible for wage and rent subsidies from the federal government, and relaunch grants from The Government of Ontario, the average fitness facility is still losing between $15-25K per month and has incurred an average of $150-200K in additional debt. The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) indicates 25% of facilities may close as a result of the pandemic, and unfortunately we are now seeing many gym closures across Canada.
On top of the ongoing economic difficulties, fitness facilities need time to ramp up their operations and staffing since so much has changed. All businesses will be moving to a new hybrid business model and the impact on revenues is completely unknown. Every single day matters. We need certainty on when we can expect to reopen and what the protocols will be.
We are standing by – ready to support Ontarian’s mental and physical health, ready to support the provincial economy, ready to support our communities, and ready to support the healthcare system. But we must be open for business to do so.
In health and partnership, we request inclusion in Step 2 and a response to this letter.
The Fitness Industry Council of Canada Ontario Coalition
Head of Fitness Industry Council of Canada Ontario Coalition