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

12:05 p.m.

Senior Leader, Sport Matters Group

Chris Jones

That's a good question. I think I have two responses. First, there is now a movement that's gaining attraction and a foothold in Canada, and that's the Canadian sport for life movement. It is attempting to teach parents and coaches about the sort of natural progression of a young athlete who in the first year should have a focus on fun, participation, and structured kind of play, and then over time to impart certain technical skills.

I think, though, the issue all governments need to grapple with at some point is the fact that in our school system there aren't enough qualified physical educators teaching sports. What we have are generalists. English and science teachers are teaching sport and physical activity to kids. I think the legacy of that—and we have heard this from various national sport organizations—is we have national sports organizations teaching 18-year-olds remedial athletic skills such as jumping, throwing, catching, that kind of stuff. That's because there's been a failure in the system lower down in the school system. I know that's not a federal jurisdiction, but I think that is an issue we're going to need to grapple with over time.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Lafontaine, you talked about a tax credit for volunteers who coach, and I think that's a worthwhile suggestion. To come back to what I wanted to point out earlier, that kind of support is very important. Community support begins there and continues until athletes reach your level.

Could you tell us more about that? It's an interesting idea that would help us maintain our Olympic Games success.

12:05 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Swimming Canada

Pierre Lafontaine

There are several points in all that. First, recognizing volunteers is very important. In 2004, the Howard government, in Australia, said that Canada and the United States had conducted studies that pointed to a major obesity problem. They said that Australia had the same problem. Within three weeks, that government invested an additional $100 million in after-school programs. In the first year, those programs had an impact on 180,000 young people. Eighty-five per cent of young people had never been involved in organized sports before that. They found a way to make it work in schools.

For all of us, we started in grade school. That's where we played soccer in the gym and so on.

That's one of the key points. The relationship between national and provincial federations is very important. It's not just a matter of having an Olympic program and all that. As Mr. Jones pointed out, we have to have a well-planned program. That way, when a four-year-old child starts playing soccer, what they learn from their coach will be in line with what major athletes do. Those aspects are all interrelated.

The Coaching Association of Canada works very hard on reassessing the coaching program and making it much more adapted to today's technology, so that people from Gander, Newfoundland, or Fort St. John, British Columbia, can have access to coaching courses just as easily as people living in Toronto or in Montreal.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you.

Mr. Simms, for seven minutes.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you.

I'm going to follow from that line of questioning. I want to talk about something that was said in the presentation. I think Mr. Lafontaine mentioned it—owning in the municipalities—and also Mr. Jones. I've always thought, yes, the municipalities should also own their athletes and should be proud to take credit for what they've done.

For example, back in the late sixties there was a massive infrastructure program around the centennial celebrations, the 100-year celebrations, which I'm sure you're familiar with.

12:10 p.m.

A voice

[Inaudible--Editor].

June 5th, 2012 / 12:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

Yes, exactly. There were a lot of arenas built—hockey arenas especially.

One of the hockey players involved in a stadium in a town called Bonavista was Michael Ryder. You talk about paying dividends.... They built this stadium many years ago, and just last year the Stanley Cup was paraded through that particular stadium. So it pays back in a way that's quite profound. Also, I think that when it comes to the Alex Baumanns of the world and the Victor Davises of the world, it also pays off in the local pools.

You brought up the rink program, which I think is something we should give serious consideration to resurrecting on a grander scale, because I do believe that the dividends are tremendous. So what you do is you have the municipalities in charge of their recreation, but with help about the infrastructure, because the smallest of the communities have a hard time leveraging this money to help to create.... Now, obviously not every community is going to have a 50-metre pool, but they can certainly have a pretty good soccer pitch, or they can have a pool where people can learn the basics and go from there to get them through college and maybe into the Olympics.

I was wondering about this. Do you think the smaller municipalities are crying for this once more?

12:10 p.m.

Senior Leader, Sport Matters Group

Chris Jones

I think it's our sense that it was an extremely popular initiative that had a lot of mayors in the queue and a lot of projects that were funded, and yet it probably only scratched the surface. In the depths, it is still in the order of about $15 billion. In some cases it's extremely pronounced because of demographic shifts and the arrival of new Canadians and so on.

One thing I think we saw in the Canadian sport policy process is that we now need to rationalize our resources so that maybe we create what are called multi-sport complexes, rather like the Germans do, where you're going to put a number of facilities together in one place. You might have a rugby training pitch, an arena, and an indoor synthetic field. If an athlete shows an aptitude at a certain age and the coaches decide that maybe that kid could do another sport, you could easily move him, because the coaches would be there—the athletic trainers—and I think that particular model has some virtues we need to look at.

As to the program, I think it has a lot of merit, and when circumstances permit, we should look at re-authorizing it.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

So creating these plays with the flexibility and with the infrastructure that allows flexibility within the smaller communities--I totally agree.

I want to jump topics now and get to rugby. Pardon my ignorance on the sport of rugby, but is there a professional league on a grander scale that we participate in as Canadian athletes?

12:10 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Rugby Canada

Graham Brown

There is professional rugby around the world, but not in North America, so the majority of our particular men's national team players do play over in the U.K.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

Okay. Now, can we expect to see these athletes in the Olympics, the top players in the world...?

12:10 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Rugby Canada

Graham Brown

Yes. All of our athletes who go overseas to play all come back when we ask them to play for Canada. There's no problem.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

Okay. The professional athletes certainly are into the Olympics for rugby.

12:10 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Rugby Canada

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

All right. So New Zealand stands a good chance of getting a medal, or South Africa, these nations—