A bill of more than $850 to play pre-novice hockey

“I can’t do this to him,” says Élyse Fortin, looking at her 12-year-old son, silent and standing next to her.

“It helps him at school, he is more concentrated. I won’t stop it, but I have four children. There’s one who’s 6 years old and wants to be a babysitter, but she’s the one we might have to limit. Are we going to penalize one to make the other play? We’re in there right now. »

Mme Fortin was part of a group of parents met near Parc des Prés, in L’Épiphanie, in Lanaudière, on a rainy Sunday morning in April. Around a box of pickupthese parents told The Press the financial ordeal of which they are prisoners.

These hockey parents will have to assume additional costs if they want to register their children for minor hockey next fall. In their municipality, the total bill will amount to nearly $1,000 next season. An amount high enough to discourage certain families from introducing their young people to hockey.

A town of just over 8,000 inhabitants, L’Épiphanie has very few sports infrastructures on its territory. Thus, residents must go to the neighboring municipality, L’Assomption, to practice most of their organized sporting activities.

As L’Assomption can boast an arena, hockey players from L’Épiphanie, Saint-Sulpice and Charlemagne are obliged to belong to Hockey Mineur CLL, the minor hockey organization of L’Assomption. In exchange, families in these three cities must pay an additional premium, as an exemption, in addition to their usual registration, to be able to benefit from the infrastructure and resources of L’Assomption.

The amount of the additional premium for neighboring towns amounts to $1,082 annually per child. Notwithstanding the age and level of the players. Previously, the City of L’Épiphanie reimbursed families the total of this additional premium. Parents therefore had to pay the approximately $300 for the usual registration.

However, on April 8, the municipality sent its citizens a letter signed by the hand of Pierre Picard, director of the leisure and culture department of L’Épiphanie, to announce that the City would withdraw more than half of its help to families.

“Since 2018, the bill per participant has increased from $550 to $1,082, representing a total of $104,000 in 2023,” we can read in said letter that The Press obtained. The municipalities of Charlemagne, Saint-Sulpice and L’Épiphanie have therefore chosen to modify their user support policy by setting, at a sum of $500, the maximum amount henceforth paid annually for any registration for a sports activity. of ice […]. »

Parents will therefore have to spend approximately $582 out of their pockets to cover the costs of the surcharge, plus the $275 usual registration fees, for a total of approximately $857.

For Marie-Claude Chiasson, a resident of L’Épiphanie who wants to introduce her 6-year-old child to hockey, this bill makes no sense: “Everyone is asked for more. Even though we work and own a house, we try to get our children to play hockey, but that doesn’t mean we’re rich. There are serious questions to ask. »

To these basic costs, we must also add “travel, equipment, gas, hotels, tournaments,” notes Élyse Fortin, mother of a 12-year-old player.

Angry parents

“They say it’s going to save them $104,000 on a balanced budget of $13 million. So it’s a bit like scraping the bottom of the drawer,” recalls Marie-Claude Chiasson.

Karine Paquette and Vincent Fortin, also parents of pre-novice age hockey players, or M7 according to the new names, are outraged by the price asked for their children to learn to skate, but also by the somewhat cavalier manner in which the City imposed them on this new pricing.

“The City does not support us at all by acting like this. It’s as if they were telling themselves that they had done enough of their part,” says M.me Paquette.

“When I saw the letter from the City of L’Épiphanie, I called the City and the lady’s response, very cold indeed, was to say: “The Assumption pays taxes for its arena, so it’s normal that you pay for it,” she continues.

The parents involved are aware and comfortable with the idea of ​​paying an additional premium. After all, they are using the infrastructure of a city in which they do not reside. What bothers them more is being at the mercy of the Town of L’Assomption, which can set the price that suits it and impose it on families from neighboring towns. They cannot help but play for the CLL, the designated regional team. And L’Épiphanie does not seem to want to do more to help its helpless fellow citizens, argues Mr. Fortin.

“It’s the fact that the City did not take the initiative to come and meet us. The City has not been proactive. They told us: “That’s what it is.” Especially since again this year, there is a tax increase. It’s been three years in a row that we’ve had a 10% increase. We’re at the point where we’re even thinking about moving. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. »

The signatory of the letter, Mr. Picard, defends elected officials for having reduced the financial assistance allocated to parents of hockey players to redistribute it to other families. “That’s $110,000 that we put into ice sports. But there we said to ourselves, other parents who do something other than hockey, those who ski, horse ride or fencing, they are not entitled to these things. »

On the fact of having imposed this new rebate without citizen consultation, the director of leisure and culture mentions that it would not have served too much. “If there had been consultation, it would certainly have been unanimous so that we did not touch this. The municipal council made a choice for the entire population. »

A decision that was necessary, he believes, especially since the administration is dependent on the decisions of the neighboring city. “We have no choice,” replies Mr. Picard. We receive a letter from L’Assomption every year, in October, which says what the amount will be and we must take this into account when we prepare the budget. This is not negotiable. It’s expensive. It’s expensive. We understand it well. But I can’t say if it’s exaggerated. »

This is precisely what citizens criticize their decision-makers: “I find it deplorable that the City of L’Épiphanie has done nothing to fight,” says M.me Paquette.

The decision of L’Assomption

The mayor of L’Assomption, Sébastien Nadeau, explains that his administration arrives at a price by dividing what the arena costs annually by the number of users. “This is how we set the surcharge, because other cities do not pay tax on infrastructure and we calculate this difference. »


The mayor of L’Assomption, Sébastien Nadeau

The price of the surcharge has been the same for five years, but Mr. Nadeau insists on the fact that the residents of L’Épiphanie must first attack their elected officials, because it is because of them that the price paid for the extra premium will increase drastically.

We haven’t increased costs in five years. What has increased over the past five years? All. So I think it’s time for parents to pay the right price for the sport they practice. Hockey has its price. Figure skating has its price and I think organizations need to adjust the price.

Sébastien Nadeau, mayor of L’Assomption

Mr. Nadeau therefore judges that the parents of L’Épiphanie made the choice to settle in a municipality without infrastructure and that they must pay accordingly.

“The pressure is currently on us because these cities have chosen not to invest in infrastructure and when citizens choose a city, a living environment, they choose based on the services and they look at how much the services cost. taxes. So it’s normal that there are additional costs to use the infrastructure of other cities. It’s logic. »

However, as mentioned by Mr. Fortin, himself a volunteer in the minor hockey association, if the parents of the hundred or so players from L’Épiphanie decide to withdraw their children due to the costs being too high, the CLL ” will lose a lot of players and volunteers. They are going to have a hard time making complete teams.”

No response from Quebec

Two years ago, the Quebec government brought together a group of experts and consultants to get Hockey Quebec back on track. In the report of the Quebec Committee on the Development of Hockey tabled in 2022, the words “accessibility” and “pleasure” were brought to the fore by Marc Denis, president of the Committee, and Isabelle Charest, minister responsible for Sport, Leisure and Outdoors.

Today, parents forced to pay such a high amount to introduce their children to hockey are questioning the effectiveness of the report.

In the Hockey Quebec report, we talked about accessibility and solutions for cities that are at a loss. I have not seen any concrete action since the report was submitted. I think the solution lies more in large organizations than municipalities.

Marie-Claude Chiasson, resident of L’Épiphanie

Contacted on this subject, Minister Charest refused to grant an interview to The Presseven if “the minister is very sensitive to all the issues of accessibility to the practice of sports and leisure activities”, a member of her cabinet replied to us.

These parents, who also live in the constituency of Prime Minister François Legault, believe that no one feels concerned by the issues they have to face after having questioned members of all decision-making orders. Mme Chiasson tried his luck at the Prime Minister’s office, and his office’s response amounted to “‘keep fighting with the municipalities,’ as if they were dumping this into the municipalities’ backyard.”

Disconcerted, the parents we met spoke seriously about the sad possibility of having to tell their children that they would have to give up the sport they were passionate about.

The Paquette family leans more towards abandonment than the hope of seeing their children flourish: “We are one of the people who bought a house during the pandemic. Plus, my granddaughter will be able to go on board next year, but I’m not going to pay $1,000 per child for them to play hockey. »

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