A Halifax wrestling legend and army veteran wants the government to ease up its stranglehold on government facilities and let former soldiers exercise at military gyms.

Al Zinck co-founded the Eastern Sports Association wrestling circuit in the late 1960s and 1970s, and is a Korean War veteran who served three years during that conflict. He signed up for service at the start of the war and came home with some hearing loss due to tank- and gunfire.

Now in his golden years, Zinck exercises four to five times a week at the Saint Mary’s University gym, but says he’d much rather be exercising at CFB Halifax. So far, the costs to join the base’s Stadacona Gym have been prohibitive.

“It’s going to cost me $450 to $465 because they consider me a civilian,” he told CTV Atlantic on Thursday.

He believes veterans should get access to military exercise facilities as a lifelong perk, saying it’s a small gesture that wouldn’t cost the military much, but would help veterans stay healthy well into their retirement. He wrote a letter to that effect to Defence Minister Peter MacKay -- a Nova Scotia MP -- in September and heard back last week.

MacKay wrote that the Department of National Defence charges fees to former soldiers to help cover various costs, including extended gym hours, but said the military’s Director General Personnel and Family Support Services is reviewing the policy. Although facilities are mainly for the benefit of serving members, the expected changes will “recognize the contributions of our veterans and elevate their status” in the membership hierarchy, MacKay’s letter stated.

On Friday, MacKay’s communications director Jay Paxton declined to comment on the issue, suggesting CTV News contact the Department of Veterans Affairs. That department did not immediately return CTV’s requests.

The New Democratic Party’s veteran’s affairs critic, Peter Stoffer, is all for the idea, saying it’s unlikely the country’s approximately 100,000 aging World War II and Korean war veterans will suddenly swarm the workout rooms.

Stoffer told CTV Atlantic that there about 600,000 retired Canadian veterans in total.

“I understand what government is trying to do in terms of cost recovery, but when it comes to veterans and RCMP veterans, I honestly think that the Canadian government should be able to absorb that,” he said.