Lifeguard, instructor shortage forces city of Ottawa to cut swim times

A lifeguard stand by a pool. (CTV Kitchener)

The city of Ottawa says it has to cancel some public swim times and some swimming lessons because of a shortage of lifeguards and swimming instructors.

In a memo recreation, cultural and facility services manager Dan Chenier said several people who were hired for the summer resigned to pursue other jobs.

“Consequently, the Department will need to reduce some service offerings by cancelling certain public swim times, reducing the swim capacities at public swim sessions, and cancelling approximately 50 learn-to-swim classes,” Chenier wrote.

He said more than 5,000 planned swimming lessons will go ahead this summer and there is enough staff to operate the city’s 55 wading pools at full capacity.

The city had originally anticipated it would have enough staff for the summer but then many of the trained employees left. 

“Despite the high enrollment in lifeguard certification courses, many lifeguards are seeking employment elsewhere, often in other fields,” Chenier wrote.

The National Capital Commission has also said it is facing a shortage of lifeguards.

If you’re registered for a class and it’s cancelled, Chenier said you will receive a phone call and offered a different class, if available. Impacts on individual pools and facilities will be posted on the city’s website.

“We understand this will come as a disappointment to affected clients and we are doing everything we can to continue to run as many programs as possible,” Chenier said. “When more staff become available, supplemental public swim sessions will be scheduled.”

The city is hiring and is asking any interested candidates to apply online

The issue is not unique to Ottawa. The city of Toronto cancelled nearly 200 courses because swim instructors could not be confirmed. In Quebec, there's an estimated shortage of about 200 lifeguards.