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

12:10 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Rugby Canada

Graham Brown

And so does Canada.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Yes.

Because in hockey, let's face it, right now what supplants on the level of a World Cup of soccer is really the hockey gold medal. I think that's safe to say. It sounds like rugby could be the same. But what about for soccer now? We're not necessarily at that level, are we?

12:10 p.m.

General Secretary, Canadian Soccer Association

Peter Montopoli

In terms of our best players playing on our men's and women's teams, absolutely 100%. In terms of the competitive level, again, on the women's side, we are second-best in CONCACAF, which is our region of North America, Central America and the Caribbean countries. We're just behind the United States, which has been the number one country for the last 15 years and running. We have competed with them.

On the men's side.... And I'm glad Pierre brought this up, because while swimming, track, and Olympics have a large majority of countries, nobody competes with FIFA. FIFA has 209 countries participating. It's the largest governing body in the world. So we are competing against 208 countries, and to be at the top level is a proposition that's bit more difficult. We are starting our qualification this Friday for the men's World Cup, so we are halfway through the process in terms of qualification—

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Sorry to interrupt, but I don't have a lot of time. When you sit down here by yourself, they don't afford you a lot of time.

I want to talk about the role of professionalism in the sense of the money it brings. Let's face it, the money we put into development associations for hockey simply because of the Canadian hockey team in the Olympics is phenomenal. For soccer it might not be at that level, but for rugby it could be much the same.

Maybe this is a question for Mr. MacAdam. How do you mesh the amount of money that can be brought into the development associations when it comes to hockey, as opposed to something like swimming or maybe something a little more down the line, we'll say—no offence to this sport—fencing or something like that? Obviously they cannot garner the amount of commercial interest that other sports can.

Go ahead.

12:15 p.m.

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

Lane MacAdam

Thank you for your question.

Through the federal funding envelopes there are two yardsticks we use to assess the investments that go into the various national sports that we fund. There are about 55 national federations that are financially supported by the federal government. We have a policy tool called the sport funding and accountability framework, which assesses each sport based on its membership, the pan-Canadian nature of the sport, its international success. So there is a fairly objective tool that differentiates between one sport—

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

That's what I want to get to. It is quite objective. Maybe I can—

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

You're out of time, Mr. Simms. These are seven-minute rounds, and that's seven minutes. That's how it works.

Mr. Armstrong.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank you all for your presentations. I don't quite know where to start, but I think I'll start here.

I was very pleased in the last couple of months to see that Steve Nash has joined our national men's basketball program at an administrative level. I think having him return to Canada and support us and help us out is going to be a great addition to our sport in Canada.

When he was in high school he played rugby, soccer, and basketball, and he played those sports until he graduated high school. There's great pressure on young athletes who show any promise or any talent in any sport to focus on that sport, leaving the other sports. I'm a person who believes that you should try to play as many sports for as long as you can, at least until you start high school. But there is great pressure and competition among coaches and community groups to try to draw the best talent, because many times they're the best athletes in all sports, particularly in smaller communities.

I'm just wondering, Mr. Jones, what are you thoughts on that issue?

12:15 p.m.

Senior Leader, Sport Matters Group

Chris Jones

Interestingly enough, Steve Nash went to the same high school I went to in Victoria, which is Mount Douglas High School, and then went on to another local school, St. Michaels University School.

We've heard Wayne Gretzky say this as well in the past. He believed that you should play multiple sports while you're young and develop a lot of different skill sets. Now there is a whole philosophy around long-term athlete development, which says there are optimum stages and periods when you want to begin to specialize that athlete if they have potential. So I think there is some science now that would suggest there are early specialization sports and later specialization sports.

I guess what you're referring to is the professionalization of children's amateur sport, and there are some regrettable sides to that. We see that in sport. We see that maybe in some hockey arenas at times, where overly enthusiastic parents are getting on the backs of the referees or the players, and that can turn some kids off. So I think there are some issues, and I think the sport policy process has been about educating parents and coaches and volunteers to say that it's about skill acquisition; it's about fun; it's about esprit de corps; it's about a lot of things.

Our general view is that when sport is done properly, it builds social capital, and it enhances the local community. After all, as Peter would know, in an era when so many of us are sitting in front of computer screens on a summer's evening, when parents meet on the sidelines and they sit and they talk, that builds social capital. They meet at pools; they meet at a lot of places. So I think that overall it's a healthy development, but there are those extremes where I think maybe we do specialize a bit too early.

June 5th, 2012 / 12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

I said two days ago, at our last meeting, that in Canada we have mostly volunteer coaches. Primarily when young people are coming up and they join a sport for the first time, it's a volunteer who is coaching them, such as a parent in the organization. We do have training programs for coaches. The volunteer coach is something we have to treasure in Canada.

In the United States, many times it's more professional, and the coaches are paid at least a stipend, whereas in Canada that doesn't happen very often.

You have to have a well-trained and certified volunteer coach. Then you need equipment, and you need a facility. If you have those three things, you can usually develop a pretty good program without a lot of high registration fees. Registration fees are definitely a hurdle to get over to participate at a high level, or just to stay in shape, particularly for children from less prosperous homes.

If you have those three things—the volunteer coach, the facilities, and the equipment—then the registration fees can stay low, and you can broaden that net at the bottom. What all of you have kind of touched on is that it is kind of this inverted pyramid. You want to get that base of people participating as large as possible. Then you focus on elite development as they move up that pyramid.

Having that base as wide as possible is also something the federal, provincial, and municipal governments should be supporting, because that is what's going to save us money in health care costs later on. Have people all start early, and try to open the door to everyone to involve as many as possible. Focus not just on elite development but actually have that bottom of the pyramid as broad as possible.

Am I accurate in saying that you are all in support of that model?

Maybe we'll start with Mr. MacAdam.

12:20 p.m.

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

Lane MacAdam

Yes, I would suggest that you look at the underpinnings of the long-term athlete development models pioneered by the Government of Canada so that each sport has a single song sheet that understands the various aspects of sport development within the sport. Whether it's a late-development sport, such as rowing or cross-country skiing, versus an early-development sport, such as gymnastics, they're all going to look a little different in terms of how you identify athletes, what kinds of skills you provide to the athletes, what kind of training you have, and what kinds of qualifications you need for the coaches at various levels. It all starts there.

There is no question that the Government of Canada is doing some work to ensure that there is cohesion around who does what so that there is no duplication. There's no question that there are certainly gaps. But certainly efforts over the last ten years, during the first phase of the Canadian sport policy process, have been trying to ensure better coordination among levels of government to identify those gaps and ensure that efforts are made to try to close them. And we are trying to make sure that we have qualified coaches training in those facilities and supporting those athletes in those facilities.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Thank you.

I want to ask Mr. Lafontaine one last question.

Australia's system is well respected among sporting communities. The system they have in Australia covers more than one sport. It is not just swimming, but other sports as well. Are they doing a better job, and if they are, how are they doing in casting this broad net and involving more people at a younger age? What are they doing that we're not that we could focus on?

12:20 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Swimming Canada

Pierre Lafontaine

That's a great question.

In the 1976 Olympics, if I remember the numbers well, Australia won only three medals. In 1979 a federal MP stood up in the House and said that it was un-Australian not to be a powerhouse in sport for any Australian. So they built the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, which is where I ended up working for several years. Basically, it became a vision from the top down, and schools embarked on it, and all of a sudden, because of that, so many other things fell into place. A company called Telstra actually would give any of their employees who were volunteers two paid hours out of their 40-hour week to coach little kids soccer or whatever. It became a national vision, and everything else fell into place.

I can tell you that my kids had mandated physical education all the way through high school. I think it is one of the major issues, especially for girls, because often programs are left to choice. A lot of girls don't want to get sweaty in high school, so the habits of fitness for girls are not as good. I think we have to work on that.

I know that education is a provincial program, but I also believe that people will embark on it if the vision is created for a nation.

To go back to the Australian model, another aspect is that they are 20 years ahead of us, and we're eating away at it two years at a time to get closer to them. The key is not to just get closer to them but to get much better than they are. Our coaching education system is the best in the world, but we just don't have enough people to coach the coaches.

I live in Chelsea, just north of here. We have 1,000 kids, out of 7,000 people, who play soccer. We can't find enough coaches and dads and moms. If I happen to drive by the soccer field, they'll lasso me in to coach soccer, and I know nothing about soccer. That's how desperate some of them are, including for hockey. We have to work at building the base.

The other aspect would be to entice universities to have programs in physical education that specialize in coaching, not just in physical education, for example. There are only a few universities in Canada that do that.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Armstrong.

Mr. Dubé.

Now we're into five-minute rounds.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I have a question for Mr. Storgaard about parasports and the Paralympic Games. Over the weekend, in my constituency, I had an opportunity to spend an afternoon with people from the Association des personnes handicapées de la Vallée-du-Richelieu, Richelieu Valley association for the disabled. During that afternoon, they let us try out the equipment used by athletes, such as the hockey sledge. That kind of equipment is fairly difficult to use, as it turns out. It's really very demanding, especially on the upper body. The equipment and the technology are evolving. You talked a bit about that issue when you mentioned wheelchairs, for instance. That's constantly evolving.

That being said, what do you think about maintaining our progress? You talked about certain measures for supporting parasports and their development. Those sports have a lot of positive consequences. Things are constantly changing. We are still not at a point where anyone with a disability can easily participate in activities. What more can be done to keep those fine initiatives going?