Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the motion on preventing obesity. I also wish to commend the hon. member for Burlington, who moved the motion.
I will take a moment to read the motion, so that my constituents can understand the context. It reads:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should continue to: (a) recognize the long-term health risks and costs of obesity in Canada; (b) support, promote and fund organizations and individuals who are involved in the physical well-being of Canadians; and (c) make the reduction of obesity of Canadians a public health priority.
I am very happy to read that, and I will definitely be supporting this motion. However, once again, the Conservatives are bringing forward a motion without any real teeth.
I would like to talk about the meaningful action the NDP has taken on this. The NDP has been working on this for the past 10 years or so. I would like to share some alarming figures I came across in my research on this.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, between 25% and 35% of Canadians are obese. Among children under the age of 17, about 10% are obese. The annual health-related cost is between $4.6 billion and $7.1 billion. I find those figures and this situation very troubling.
I will explain what the NDP has been doing. It all started in 2004, when the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre moved a private member's motion to regulate trans fats in food. The House unanimously adopted the motion. Since then, the government has done nothing tangible with it. It has not proposed any measures.
The hon. member for Vancouver East introduced Bill C-460, An Act respecting the implementation of the Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada.
Roughly three weeks ago, the minister appeared before the Standing Committee on Health. I asked him the same questions. I asked him why Canada still did not have any measures to deal with trans fats. Canada does not have a national sodium reduction strategy.
I have been listening very carefully to all the speeches in the House today. The Conservatives keep talking more about physical activity than about food, which I think is too bad. Physical activity is very important, but what we eat accounts for 80% of our physical health, while exercise accounts for 20%.
This brings me to my story. The reason I wanted to speak to this bill is that I am obese. In fact, I recently found out that I am morbidly obese. The alarming thing is that roughly 75% of all obese children will remain obese for the rest of their lives. They will be obese in adulthood.
By the way, my colleague is not listening to me even though he is here in the House and this is his bill.
According to my calculations, in this House there are 40 or so obese people out of a total of 300 MPs. Despite that, the member who introduced the bill did not even take the time to consult us. I think that is a shame.
The Conservative member for Ottawa—Orléans moved Motion No. 319 to combat childhood obesity, but nothing tangible has been done. For the past hour or so, the Conservatives have been saying that their greatest achievement is the children's fitness tax credit. Parents who spend $500 to register their children for physical activity can receive a $75 tax credit per child.
I want to talk about myself some more. As my colleagues know, I have a weight problem. When I was young, I did not play any team sports. When you are big, you feel bad about yourself. It is not pleasant. Many people are bullied because of their size. When I was young, I was always picked last during gym class. I was not even able to run two kilometres when the teacher asked us to.
The Conservatives say that they are helping youth by encouraging them to get involved in sports. However, there is more to the issue than that.
The parliamentary secretary told us about his father, yet I do not think that the Conservatives really understand the situation.
Nothing in the motion I have here talks about the psychological effects of being obese. There is nothing in the motion about going to speak to youth, motivating them and helping them overcome this problem. There is nothing about giving parents the tools to help their children.
Nutrition is extremely important. It is all well and good to talk about labelling, but nothing is being done to reduce sodium or trans fats. Not everyone at the grocery store reads the little labels to see what is in their food. When I asked the minister about that, she said that we could not coddle people. This is a serious issue right now, and if we do not give those people real help, we will not solve the problem. In Canada today, there are 40% more obese people than there were 30 years ago, and that number is on the rise.
Obviously, I am going to support my colleague's motion, but I would really prefer that the member not introduce it by saying that 25% of people in his riding are obese, so the government is going to do a little something and talk about it without really implementing any practical measures. I would like this motion to go farther.
Unfortunately, all too often, the Conservatives focus on a cure rather than prevention. That is what we have seen from the beginning. Since I have been here, the government has always talked about cures. The Conservatives think that they can talk about obesity and people will miraculously lose 100 pounds. That is the feeling I get from this motion.
I wanted to talk about bullying. I have been an MP for two and a half years and not a week goes by that I do not receive an email from a constituent telling me that I am too fat to be an MP. A few months ago, someone wrote to me and told me that MPs are supposed to be models. That person added that I was about 300 pounds too heavy and that I should resign.
When someone says that to me, I certainly do not say to myself that he is right and that this morning I am going to look at the nutrition labels to keep him happy.
This motion is important. We need to take it extremely seriously. I really hope that, as a result of this motion, the Conservatives will actually implement measures to reduce obesity in our society. This is a problem I have struggled with my whole life. I struggled with it when I was young and I am still struggling with it. There is a reporter here every week talking about what the MPs are wearing. That is another thing. It is a lot more expensive to buy clothing when you are overweight. People do not realize the extent of the problem.
Since I see him every day, I would have been pleased if the member had come to ask me what I thought about his motion, whether it was good, whether it was missing anything, what could be done, and so on. We could have worked together for once.
I will stop there and end by saying that I hope that the Conservatives will not think only about sports, which are important, but also about nutrition, because I do not see them making much progress in that regard. I hope that they will also think about the impact that this has on people's lives. If we do not act now and if the Conservatives fail to make progress in this area, this problem will result in huge health costs and will have a serious impact on the motivation and self-esteem of people struggling with it.