Evidence of meeting #35 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was sport.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

12:25 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer / Secretary General, Canadian Paralympic Committee

Henry Storgaard

Thank you for that question.

As a matter of fact, in Quebec, at the University of Sherbrooke, we have researchers and research facilities helping to develop equipment for Paralympic athletes or athletes with disabilities. We're working very diligently, not only at the University of Sherbrooke but also with different universities across the country, on research and innovation that allows athletes with disabilities to participate, and to participate at optimum levels.

It is very challenging. I don't know if anybody here has tried to get into one of the sledges used in playing sledge hockey. It's very low to the ice. It's not easy. It's challenging. And we have wheelchair rugby. As well, these are like chariots from Roman times. A tremendous amount of innovation and research is going on.

In terms of what else we can do, it really depends on financial resources in terms of focusing on that, and obviously working with more universities, more research organizations to help these people. We've seen a good example. Athlete Oscar Pistorius from South Africa is a blade runner. He has two large blades. He's a double amputee. He's now trying to qualify for the Olympics. I think he has one event left over the next couple of weeks to see if he can be the first double amputee to do that.

I think it has great benefit. All the wheelchairs being built will benefit the general public and society.

I'm not sure if you're aware, but four million Canadians have physical disabilities.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

As my time is limited, I have to interrupt you. I am sorry.

That being said, I think that innovation is a key aspect. You mentioned the price of a wheelchair. So we see that disabled people face some financial barriers, especially for the reasons you mentioned, such as social isolation. Unfortunately, that means some of them have to live with lower incomes. Are there any initiatives to encourage participation in sports, so as to make it more affordable?

12:30 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer / Secretary General, Canadian Paralympic Committee

Henry Storgaard

That chair was an example of someone competing at the top of the elite sport at the world-class level. We are working with suppliers across the country, with corporate sponsors, and with government support, to help with the accessibility to further equipment for children in schools, community centres. That's going on right now. These are much more affordable for an average family in terms of access.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Dubé.

Ms. Grewal, go ahead.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Thank you, Chair.

Welcome, and thank you for your time and your presentation as well.

I think I can speak for everyone present when I say how proud I was of our Canadian athletes during the Vancouver Winter Olympics. As a B.C. MP, I found it particularly satisfying to witness so close at hand our athletes showing to the world that we are home to many of the world's top athletes.

Historically, we know that Canada cannot expect to take in such a large medal haul during the summer games. Still, I know that our athletes will make us proud.

My question concerns Own the Podium. This important program is helping to build a world-class national sport system, one that will help Canadian athletes succeed at the highest level. To your knowledge, how is the Own the Podium program assisting our athletes, and will it make a difference to the results we see this summer in London? Any one of you can answer that.

12:30 p.m.

Director, Sport Excellence, Sport Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage

Lane MacAdam

The Government of Canada is a proud and founding partner in the Own the Podium initiative, which began, as you point out, in the lead-up to the Vancouver games. It has recently been incorporated as a national non-profit corporation, so there's a strong commitment to ensure its continuity.

The Government of Canada is the largest funding provider of the resources Own the Podium makes recommendations against. About 85% of the funding that Own the Podium recommends is actually from the tax base. I know colleagues around the table could speak to the important impact that those funding envelopes have provided in the preparations for both Vancouver and London. The Government of Canada sees that this is an important initiative to continue, based on the very successful track record we have so far, and we're optimistic that we'll achieve our goals in London as well.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

How many Paralympic athletes will Canada send to the Paralympic Games in London?

12:30 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer / Secretary General, Canadian Paralympic Committee

Henry Storgaard

We will proudly send 150 athletes to London.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

I see.

As noted in the Department of Canadian Heritage's report on plans and priorities for 2012–13, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee, in collaboration with the Own the Podium initiative and Sports Canada, are aiming for a top 12 finish in total medals at the 2012 Olympic Games and a top eight finish in gold medals at the Paralympic Games. How confident are you that Canada will reach these goals?

12:30 p.m.

Director, Sport Excellence, Sport Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage

Lane MacAdam

As I mentioned, the trajectory on the summer side is certainly improving. Our medal tallies, from Sydney, from Athens, from Beijing, are all on an upswing. We are optimistic that the recent additional investment in summer sport will pay dividends. As you mentioned, the top 12 is the target. That will probably require 20 to 25 medals on the Olympics side. It's difficult to say exactly. On the Paralympics side, we're probably looking at 35 to 45 medals. Again, depending on the distribution of medals from other countries, a top eight finish is ambitious but achievable.

The Paralympic side—and Henry can comment on this too—is becoming much more competitive. Canada was an early entrant into the Paralympic sport world, but more countries are investing more, and there's much more competition for those scarce medals. It certainly won't be easy for us in London, but we believe our athletes are well prepared to take that challenge on.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Have preparations for these Paralympic Games been different from those of earlier games?

12:35 p.m.

Director, Sport Excellence, Sport Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage

Lane MacAdam

Henry, maybe you can jump in here.

I think the investment in the athletes and programs, the coaching, the training competition, the sports science and medicine—all these things are at an all-time high. There is more sophistication in the planning and preparation for these athletes. As I mentioned earlier, we had one athlete win 10% of our medals in Beijing. She has now retired. Unfortunately, the depth of field in some of these Paralympic events is not as great as it might be in able-bodied sports.

I know that's a challenge Henry and his colleagues are working on, to try to encourage as many young Canadians as would be interested in participating in Paralympic sport across both winter and summer games, but it is certainly a challenge. Some of these athletes come to the sport quite late in life, through tragic accidents or through coming back from war-torn areas, etc. So it's a little more difficult to have that pipeline of athletes to supply our future national teams, but we're feeling quite confident that we're very prepared for London.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mrs. Grewal.

Ms. Sitsabaiesan.

June 5th, 2012 / 12:35 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to all of you for joining us today.

Last week the British high commissioner was here talking about the London games, and the key underpinning he talked about was the importance of the legacy and what the games mean beyond the games. I guess my question is to Mr. MacAdam, or whoever else would like to add.

What is it that we're doing to prepare for that legacy? What is that legacy? This of course is addressing the Pan Am Games, because I know they're being hosted in Toronto. They are on a smaller scale than the Olympics would be, but still important to communities like mine in Scarborough. What are we doing to build that legacy? What is our legacy going to be? Are we focusing on building in our communities and investing in our local communities around where the games are to be held? For instance, we spoke earlier and you mentioned the pool that's being built in Scarborough. It's great. What are we doing to build the communities or invest in the communities around the Pan Am Games?

12:35 p.m.

Director, Sport Excellence, Sport Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage

Lane MacAdam

Thank you for your question.

Certainly the Pan Am Games are an exciting opportunity for Canada to continue its strong tradition of hosting major multi-sport events. Certainly we've seen the impact that legacies will have. You will know that in our winter programs a lot of the athletes who succeeded in Vancouver trained on the facilities we built 22 years ago in Calgary. Through some foresight of early planners then, there were legacy funds put in place to ensure that those facilities would continue to operate and not be a burden and not become white elephants afterwards.

We've certainly learned from that. We've certainly learned from other major events, whether it's the Victoria Commonwealth Games or the games in Vancouver, where there are legacy funds in place. About $400 million of public investment are going into creating facilities for the games at all levels. There are the three key legacy facilities that are being planned by the Government of Canada that include the Scarborough swimming and aquatic centre, the velodrome in Milton, and an athletic facility at York University. There is also a plan in place to ensure that there is a robust legacy fund in place that will actually serve to help with the programming and operating costs of those facilities post-games.

I would also like to point out that we don't have the luxury in Canada of having these dedicated facilities only for high-performance sport. They must serve other purposes. So the aquatic centre in Scarborough is a perfect example where it will serve a growing community need in the area that is growing by leaps and bounds in terms of population. It will also serve the growing university community.

The combination of local, university, and high-performance use will make this facility very vibrant in the community and hopefully will allow swimmers of all ages to train alongside national heroes but also ensure that those learn-to-swim programs for moms and tots are also made available.