Lifeguards are set to return to Toronto beaches this weekend and city officials say that the staffing shortages that resulted in the hours of operations being scaled back at some locations in 2022 have been mostly addressed.

Last year Toronto had to reduce the hours of supervision at Hanlan’s Point and Ward’s Island beaches for most of June as it worked to recruit additional lifeguards.

It also had to scale back the number of spots in its “Learn To Swim” programs.

But one year later the city is in a “much better position,” says Toronto’s Director of Community Recreation Howie Dayton.

“This year we are in a much better position than we were last year. We have increased our learn to swim program by over 50 per cent above what we were offering in 2022, we are staffing up our beaches with a higher retention rate this year than last year and all our outdoor pools and wading pools are scheduled to open without any concern for staffing challenges that might affect service levels,” Dayton told CP24 on Friday morning. “So we really are in a much better position with a higher retention rate than we have had during the pandemic and we feel confident that other initiatives, like providing existing staff with certification opportunities in aquatics, have also helped.”

Lifeguards will be on duty at nine Toronto beaches starting tomorrow, with the hours of supervision in designated swim areas going from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., seven days a week.

Lifeguard supervision at Gibraltar Point on the Toronto Islands, meanwhile, won’t begin until July 1.

Speaking with CP24, Dayton said that a pay increase awarded to aquatics staff last summer was helpful in addressing the staffing shortages faced by the city.

He said that he is also hopeful that a regulatory change announced by the province on Friday, which will allow for lifeguards as young as 15, will help ensure the staffing shortages that arose in 2022 don’t resurface.

“We are going to be looking at how our policies and hiring practices can shift to accommodate the lowering of the age and it will certainly go a long way to helping with the recruitment issues we have been facing,” he said.

The City of Toronto employs more than 2,000 aquatics staff to work at beaches, swimming pools and wading pools.

Ten of its outdoor swimming pools will open on a reduced schedule on June 7 while the rest will open on June 24.

Wading pools don’t open until June 30.

For a full list of Toronto’s Blue Flag beaches follow this link.