National Health and Fitness Day Act

An Act to establish a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment designates the first Saturday in June in each and every year as “National Health and Fitness Day”.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Dec. 10, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Oct. 29, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2014 / 11:05 a.m.
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John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, in Canada we are the true north, strong and free, but we can be much better.

In that context, I rise today to present Bill S-211 for third reading, a bill designed to create a national health and fitness day, a bill intended to raise awareness about the need for healthy physical activity in Canada, a bill intended to create a platform upon which all Canadians can move to do better.

The bill is the fruit of six years of work, of collaboration among legislators at all levels of government. This has been the product of a network of coaches, parents, and sports advocates across our great nation.

I am immensely proud of my Canada, a pride that crested during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, a pride that grows each time I walk into this chamber or return to the riding which I call the most beautiful place on earth.

However, as wonderful as our country is, a critical ingredient of our nation's excellence is a commitment to continuous improvement in all that we do. While in Canada we are strong and we are free, we can be much better as a nation than we are today.

We have a healthy nation, but we can do better. The problem drives deep, as its roots are in our culture and wedded to the routines that we have developed in our education, our work, and our play. Canadian cultural patterns reflect an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, fuelled by our growing addiction to the Internet and video screens. We must acknowledge the need to do better in promoting the health and fitness of our people.

The bill would respond to a need that touches the lives of all Canadians and literally shapes the people we are to become in future generations.

We have reached a low point in our history. Statistics Canada reports a continuous decline in sports participation, which, from 1992 to 2005, went from 45% to 28% among Canadians age 15 and older. This is the first generation of Canadians in which children may die at a younger age than their parents. There are less than 7% of young people who are physically active for six hours weekly. Obesity rates have climbed such that a third of people under 18 are overweight or obese, which means that they have 14 times the likelihood of suffering a cardiac event by age 50.

Canadians, such as Whistler's Dennehy family, have become increasingly concerned about a rising incidence of mental health problems in our people. Psychiatrists, counsellors, and others, have a variety of solutions, but all agree that physical activity can improve mental health.

Our government has responded to this need with a variety of measures to improve Canadian health care. Increasingly, our government supports preemptive health measures designed to put the responsibility of healthy living where appropriate, in the hands of individual Canadians, parents, and families, not in the bowels of bureaucracy.

Last month, for instance, our government announced the doubling of the children's fitness tax credit, which, next year, will become a refundable tax credit. While this credit would be a targeted measure to help Canadian families lead healthier lives, this Conservative government has taken numerous other measures: reducing taxes over 150 times, and putting $3,400 more into the pockets of Canadians each year due to tax reductions. These are measures which allow Canadians to invest in healthy physical activity for ourselves and our children.

As we move close to our new year's resolutions, I urge moms and dads across the nation to allocate these funds toward healthy physical activity, to involve their children, and to claim the tax credit.

As we look forward to Canada's 150th anniversary celebration, we, as a nation, have the opportunity to pursue trails to health, to shine a light on individual Canadians, our communities, and to become the fittest nation on earth. One proposal is to celebrate the 150th anniversary with active movement on the Trans Canada Trail.

We have a prosperous nation, but, again, we can do better. The economic consequences of these sad statistics doom our ability to provide adequate health care, unless we take effective and practical steps now. Declining physical activity and increasing obesity have triggered a surge in preventable diseases among Canadians. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that it costs a staggering $7 billion annually to care for persons whose diabetes or cardiovascular disease relate to inactivity.

In addition to direct and indirect health care costs, the quality and productivity of working Canadians would surely improve if our people were healthier and fitter.

In addition to making the lives of Canadians better, there are many economic incentives for us to promote health and fitness for Canadians.

We have a nation of great volunteers, but we can do better. I thank the myriad of volunteers who have helped to bring Bill S-211 this far. Foremost among these are the dynamic duo of Parliament Hill: Pierre Lafontaine, president of Canadian Interuniversity Sport; and Phil Marsh, a senior manager at the Running Room. Seeking to galvanize legislators as role models, for five years, Phil and Pierre have shown up tirelessly on Tuesday mornings to run, and Thursdays to swim, with MPs, senators, and our staff. Pierre and Phil have a simple message: if we parliamentarians can squeeze physical exercise into our busy lives, all Canadians can do the same. It was our great coaches who underlined the key role of local governments in promoting health and fitness.

Other groups and people have rallied, operating as an informal advisory council to ensure that my work is relevant and productive. I thank Trans Canada Trail, ParticipACTION, Sport Matters, PHE Canada, Canadian Parks and Recreation Association, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Movember, Canadian Tire, the Fitness Industry Council of Canada, GoodLife Fitness, Sports Information Resource Centre, Canadian Sport for Life, Canadian Red Cross, Jumpstart, Canada Bikes, and other groups that have selflessly worked with us to get the message out. We are a great country, but to remain the true north strong and free, we have to be healthier and more fit than we are today.

Many volunteers in the riding I represent have also rallied to the cause. I include Rotarians, who promote the Ride for Rescue; Fit Fellas, such as Barrie Chapman and Frank Kurucz; Ashley Wiles, of Sole Girls; Vancouver Whitecaps, former captain Jay DeMerit; and Whistler's Olympic gold medalist, Ashleigh McIvor.

At this point, if members will indulge a personal insight, it has been said that behind every successful man is a surprised woman. There has been no greater supporter of my efforts to promote health and fitness than my wife Donna, a personal trainer herself, and my favourite running partner. In fact, we met when we were running, and we have been running together ever since, in every sense of the word. I am delighted that she is with us today, as Bill S-211 nears the finish line.

While it is seldom done, I would also like to acknowledge the Herculean efforts of my staff, Marilyn McIvor, Jocelyn Hemond, Jessica Faddegon, Stephanie Betzold, Sue McQueen, and others, who have been the secret in organizing Bike Day in Canada, National Lifejacket and Swim Day on the Hill, and other events that have kept national health and fitness day afloat.

We have an active group of legislators, but, again, we can do better. I am honoured to work with my friend, the great initiator of this bill in the senate, Nancy Greene Raine, Canada's female athlete of the 20th century. Revered by Canadians as an articulate champion of fitness on and off the ski slopes, Senator Greene Raine shows up again and again to advocate for the matters that mean the most to British Columbians.

Six years ago, when the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games were becoming a reality, she and I asked the people of my riding what we could do to create a legacy for all Canadians arising from that amazing extravaganza. The question was especially relevant because 70% of the Olympic sites were in the riding that I represent. Constituents told Senator Greene Raine and me that we needed to springboard from the enthusiasm for elite sport into a lasting legacy of health and fitness for all Canadians. Over the last few years, Senator Greene Raine and I have worked hard to involve our colleagues in both Houses on this project. In the course of these efforts, something rare and wonderful has happened. A consensus grew around the House, and members of all parties have consistently shown up to participate in the parliamentary fitness initiative. It is no coincidence that members in both Houses have also voted unanimously for this bill in the past.

I thank the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health, and the Minister of State for Sport for their great support. While the Queen may formally be the first lady of Canada, Laureen Harper is first lady in the hearts of many Canadians. She has also been a consistent supporter of our efforts. Along with the consensus, personal friendships have grown. I applaud the members for Sackville—Eastern Shore, Etobicoke North, and Saanich—Gulf Islands for their efforts in promoting health and fitness for parliamentarians, and, through parliamentarians, to all Canadians. I want to say, as well, how much I appreciate the friendship that has grown among us, regardless of party, in the course of these efforts.

For my colleagues in this House, I continue to invite them to pivot from their very real need to care for their own personal health, to look at themselves as role models in approaching their constituents to get active, and to keep our people strong and free, especially our local mayors and councillors.

The passage of this bill will raise awareness and create a platform for further action. I am grateful that individuals, organizations and legislators across our wonderful land, even before the passage of Bill C-211, have already begun to celebrate national health and fitness day, marked on the first Saturday of June each year.

However, even though our local governments are engaged, we can do better.

The specific goal of the bill is to encourage local governments to proclaim Canada's national health and fitness day and to define the day in some way that increases physical activity among Canadians. It is a blank cultural and civic canvas for all of us to use. Mayors, councillors and other leaders can create an event, such as a free dance class, a swim lesson, or even open the doors of recreational and fitness facilities on a complementary basis. So far, B.C. and the Yukon territory have proclaimed national health and fitness day. I urge the other provinces and territories to follow suit.

More than 156 municipalities across the country have proclaimed the day. Among the very first proclaimers were the municipalities in the riding I represent, West Vancouver, Squamish, Sechelt, Gibsons, Lions Bay, Whistler, Bowen Island, North Vancouver district, Powell River, and the three regional districts in the riding, Sunshine Coast, Squamish-Lillooet, and Powell River.

On May 30, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities added its powerful voice, voting to endorse the movement. Federation president Brad Woodside has encouraged all Federation of Canadian Municipalities' 2,000 members to proclaim the day, 156 Canadian cities strong and free, but we can do better. I look forward to the day when every Canadian town and city has proclaimed national health and fitness day.

As national health and fitness day comes into our nation's laws and traditions, it is a time when we can all focus on doing better in the area of healthy physical activity. I thank the many who have helped make this a reality. In voting for this bill on Wednesday, we in the House of Commons will all have contributed to the creation of an historic turning point, with a positive and lasting change made for our whole country.

Canada is strong and free, the best country in the world, but we can do better. With the enactment of national health and fitness day, I urge each and every one of my fellow Canadians to engage routinely in positive physical activity for themselves, their families, their communities, and their nation.

Yes, we are the true north, strong and free, but we will be even better than we are today. Canada will become the fittest nation on earth.

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2014 / 11:15 a.m.
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Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is very significant for us to recognize the importance of fitness. My understanding, in looking at the legislation, is that it would be the first Saturday in the month of June.

The member made reference to 150-plus communities today that recognize some form of proclamation for national fitness. Could he provide some feedback as to whether the one territory, the province and municipalities are all centred around that first Saturday in June?

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2014 / 11:15 a.m.
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John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

It would be the first Saturday in June, and more than 150 communities have already established this day even before it has been recognized by the House. British Columbia and the Yukon have both proclaimed a health and fitness day.

It is very easy for my colleague and other MPs to take a look at this proposal, which is now on my website.

Members may also borrow documents in order to encourage other mayors and city councillors in every Canadian town, city and community to make a similar proclamation.

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2014 / 11:15 a.m.
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Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech. I am a bit concerned about the claims he has made for the fitness tax credits. In this day and age, certainly in my riding, a lot of constituents simply cannot afford to put their kids in sports programs. The leagues, while run very efficiently by volunteers, are expensive. The government has proposed to put pennies in the pockets of people who actually need dollars in order to put their kids in sports programs and reap all the benefits.

I worry about a bill of this nature. The member has talked of extravaganza and tax credits that, frankly, are not meaningful to a large proportion of Canadians. If we are serious about getting kids engaged in sports for all the great health and social reasons that flow from that, why is the government not doing something more meaningful to put real dollars back into the pockets of people these days who do not have them so their kids can participate?

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2014 / 11:20 a.m.
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John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I noticed the member for Beaches—East York was listening attentively. I appreciate that and his support with respect to previous votes on this bill. He has raised a good question with respect to what the government can do.

The government has brought in a children's fitness tax credit. It has also doubled that fitness tax credit. For the member for Beaches—East York and all Canadians, the good news is that it will become a refundable tax credit next year, which responds directly to the question of those people who are in lower income tax brackets.

However, the purpose of the bill is to encourage Canadians, mayors, councillors and all of us to take responsibility for health and fitness somewhat on our own shoulders. The government is doing its part. We have an enthusiastic Minister of Health and Minister of Finance who have adopted health and fitness incentives in this refundable tax credit.

However, we, as role models in the House, as parents, as coaches and volunteers need to take up the torch and encourage Canada to become the fittest nation on earth. We can do it. We have all the facilities, the lakes, the mountains and the trails. We are about to turn the corner to make us the healthiest and fittest nation on earth.

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2014 / 11:20 a.m.
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Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, on this Monday morning, I am pleased to rise in the House to support this bill, which aims to establish a national health and fitness day for Canadians. This bill is sponsored by the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. I have always wanted to say the name of that riding because it evokes the beauty of the region.

The NDP is supporting this bill, and I support my colleague's initiatives to encourage other members to take action and become more physically fit. Unfortunately, I have not participated in his many initiatives over the years, but I should. I do my part by walking and taking the stairs when I meet with my constituents. Unfortunately, that is all the exercise I am getting right now.

The purpose of the bill is to urge and invite provinces, municipalities and community organizations to organize their own activities to emphasize the importance of healthy lifestyles and to promote health, recreation and sports organizations in their communities. Nobody would be against making it easier for Canadians to participate in healthy physical activity, avoid sedentary lifestyles and prevent chronic diseases, such as obesity. As everyone knows, this is something we have talked about a lot in recent years.

In the past 50 years, Canadians' activity levels have changed a lot. People used to walk to work and school; now they go by car or bus. That has had a tremendous impact on our lifestyles and, of course, our health. In the past, active transportation was much more common, but now people are finding fewer and fewer opportunities to get from point A to point B safely that way. Also, families are living farther and farther from their neighbourhood schools, or they decide to send their children to schools that are farther away, so they depend on cars and buses.

I would like to talk about active transportation. I lived in Ottawa for many years and I used to ride my bicycle to work. Then, in 2004, I lived in Montreal where I also rode my bike to work. I think it has become clear recently that it is getting increasingly difficult to use this mode of transportation. Some people who chose to use active transportation and rode their bikes have died in accidents in Montreal and in many areas in Canada, including Ottawa and Toronto.

Although the bill's aim to create a national health and fitness day is laudable, I think it would be better to encourage people to make physical activity part of their daily lives, and especially to make it safer for people to get around in our cities and municipalities.

Let me use Montreal as an example. Montreal is a big city that has made considerable efforts to become more bike-friendly. However, I must admit that, like in all of our large urban centres, cars still predominate, unfortunately, and therefore it is becoming increasingly difficult for pedestrians, bicycles, cars and trucks to share the road.

More needs to be done. The federal government needs to give our cities and municipalities the means to build cities and municipalities that encourage active transportation, including walking, so that people can get around safely. Instead, however, we continue to accommodate cars more and more. All levels of government—provincial, federal and municipal—are not investing enough in public transit.

People keep building car-centric municipalities and neighbourhoods with no access to nearby services. Neighbourhoods keep being built according to this 1950s model.

The federal government must increase its efforts to work in partnership with the cities and provinces on building cities where there is room for active transportation, where people do not need to have a day of physical activity and where everyone can move around safely every day and be physically active. This especially affects young people because we develop healthy habits and are more physically active when we are young.

If we do not allow our children to get around safely to go to school, to hockey practice or their soccer game, and they have to get to those places by car because we have not provided enough ways to travel safely, then we are missing the boat.

A number of us met the Sport Matters Group, which connects interested members from the world of sport. According to recommendations by the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association, the federal government should include an annual commitment of $925 million over three years, in partnership with the provinces, territories and the municipalities, to invest in an infrastructure program for projects focused on sports, physical activity and recreation.

The federal government must put its money where its mouth is and be an active partner. Talking the talk and creating a national fitness day are not enough. The government must do more to ensure that people engage in physical activity every day and get around safely by foot, by bike, or by other safe means.

In my riding, several very active community groups promote physical activity, not just for fitness, but also as a way for youth to socialize on the basketball court or soccer pitch. It is not just about having a healthy mind in a healthy body, but also about enabling these young people to work together and establish relationships.

I am referring to the Maison des jeunes de LaSalle, an organization that could use some recurrent and stable funding in order to continue implementing its excellent soccer programs for underprivileged youth. These young people attend tournaments and reap the benefits of working together. They have the opportunity to be physically active and also to prove themselves on the pitch. I support the Maison des jeunes de LaSalle.

I would also like to recognize the Académie de tennis du Sud-Ouest de Montréal, which provides opportunities to participate in sports for underprivileged children who do not benefit from sports tax credits because their parents cannot afford to buy a tennis racquet or register them for lessons. The Académie de tennis du Sud-Ouest de Montréal provides these children with the opportunity to take tennis lessons and be physically active.

We do agree with having a national health and fitness day. However, I believe that the federal government should do much more and make sports infrastructure accessible to everyone. Above all, it should ensure that our towns and cities can promote active transportation so that there is an opportunity every day to be active in order to stay healthy.

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2014 / 11:30 a.m.
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Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to this bill. I think it is a wonderful bill. The idea of having a national health and fitness day is noteworthy. I find it progressive, and I believe it is the type of thing it is most appropriate for us to be designating as a day.

Often in the chamber we hear about recognition for a special day of the year for whatever it might be, and it is always encouraging when we do that. I am especially excited about recognizing a national health and fitness day. It is long overdue. I think it will have a positive impact on Canadians. If we handle it right in terms of an overall commitment to the day, it would be a great way for people of all shapes and sizes to engage in a tangible way. This is not about focusing on just one day. It is about using that particular day to heighten awareness among the population as a whole.

In 2005, Paul Martin was the prime minister. There was a committment of $300 million toward the Public Health Agency of Canada. A big part of that was for looking at ways we could try to get people more active in lifestyles that would lead to more participation in indoor and outdoor activities that would improve their overall health.

What we have seen over the last number of years, whether it is the Internet, Nintendo, or the Wii system, is that there is so much out there that takes people inside buildings. They are sitting in front of computer monitors or television screens with joysticks or keyboards. People are spending too much time in front of those monitors and television screens.

There is so much more we could be doing to encourage and promote physical fitness. We need to recognize that there is a substantial cost if we do not start promoting health and fitness. We can talk about additional costs for our health care system because of chronic diseases and obesity. I am not talking about a few million dollars but rather about hundreds of millions of dollars in terms of additional health care costs.

We can also talk about this from an economic point of view in terms of the loss of productivity because of issues surrounding obesity and so forth.

The bill is worth supporting. The Liberal party believes that we need to encourage and support activities in our communities. I will give the House a few examples, but before I do that, I would like to emphasize something that I truly believe takes place virtually in all communities.

We have literally hundreds of millions and up to billions of dollars of capital infrastructure in every region of our country. Is that infrastructure being adequately utilized to encourage and keep our population living longer and healthier? I would argue that the answer is no. There is so much capital infrastructure that is not being well utilized. It could be utilized much better if we provided the support and leadership necessary to capitalize on it.

Let me give a couple of examples. Every morning, in Winnipeg malls, there are groups. I go to the mall in Garden City in Winnipeg's north end or to Polo Park in Winnipeg centre. What we find is that there are seniors, every day, going to the malls, winter and summer, and what they are doing is exercising. They are walking around the malls. This is before the malls even open. It is a wonderful activity.

Every Sunday and Saturday, in gymnasiums in Winnipeg, the Filipino community organizes basketball. The leadership is from the Filipino community. They make sure that there are literally hundreds of games being played every weekend. It was just a week or so ago that I was at Garden City Collegiate, where they had several gyms full of children and adults playing basketball. A handful of volunteers put an immense amount of time into ensuring that there is an activity people can actually enjoy and participate in.

We talk about the importance of coaches and community club volunteers. How do we support them enough so that they are able to have programming and ensure that our facilities are being utilized? I would suggest that we are not doing enough to promote that. There is so much more that we could be doing.

I would like to look at the first Saturday in June. I believe that over 150 communities across Canada have gotten onside with this whole idea of a national health and fitness day. It is great to see it in one province. I am surprised that we have not seen more provinces get on board.

Maybe this piece of legislation would create a much greater sense of public awareness. It has to be more than Ottawa proclaiming a particular day. We have to get the different stakeholders involved, particularly different levels of government and the people who are responsible for capital infrastructure.

The range of activities is significant. We can talk about our beautiful lakes and trails, but let us not forget about organized activities, such as sports or yoga classes or anything else that incorporates any form of physical activity. Whether one is a senior who walks around a mall prior to it opening, or someone who plays tennis, or a youth who plays basketball, or someone doing a great deal of walking, as many of us in the House do, we need to recognize that physical activity is a good, healthy thing for us all to have as a part of our everyday lives.

Whatever government can do to encourage and promote that is a good thing. That is why we support the bill.

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

December 8th, 2014 / 11:40 a.m.
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John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues from Winnipeg North and LaSalle—Émard for their comments.

I would like to to talk about something that my colleague addressed, and that is active transportation, particularly in Quebec. There is a lot of leadership in the area of active transportation in the beautiful province of Quebec. Take for example, Pierre Lavoie, a champion who lost his son but changed his life by becoming an advocate for active lifestyles and active transportation. He created the Grand défi, in which many Quebeckers participate every year. It is a major cycling challenge. I am very proud that the federal government is supporting the Grand défi in its 2014 budget.

The Union des municipalités du Québec has already proclaimed national health and fitness day. Communities such as Chelsea, Quebec, have followed suit. There are people from Quebec in the House who frequently participate in the parliamentary health initiative, for example, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, who is always in the pool early on Thursdays, not just for the sake of his own health but also to set an example for all Canadians.

My colleague from LaSalle—Émard spoke very eloquently about cycling. I am very pleased to say that we will mark Bike Day in Canada, which we established last year, on May 11, 2015. I encourage my colleague, all members of the House and all Canadians to participate in Bike Day events. Last year, nine cities participated. My dream is that one day, every city in the country will take part in Bike Day in Canada.

I enjoy participating in the GranFondo, a challenge that involves biking from Vancouver to Whistler. Several thousand people take this challenge every year. Every year, I also tour my riding by bike, from one community to another, to show that it really is possible to use a bike as a means of active transportation. Eleanor McMahon, from Toronto, champions the idea of leaving space between vehicles and bikes. I commend her for that and I hope that car drivers will be aware of cyclists. However, cyclists also have to be sure to obey the rules of the road.

In conclusion, I must respond to the comments made by the member for LaSalle—Émard.

Our government has put $55 billion over 10 years into infrastructure. That is the biggest infrastructure investment in Canadian history and an opportunity to bring in active transportation. Also, the refundable tax credit does respond in part to the problem of poverty and getting people active.

Again, I thank my colleagues for their very fine questions.

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 21st, 2014 / 5:15 p.m.
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Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, while I realize that having a Chair occupant rise on debate is a little like witnessing a solar eclipse, this is actually the second time I have had the opportunity to speak to this bill. I am delighted to speak on the subject of health and fitness as addressed in Bill S-211, which has been sponsored in the House by my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country and in the Senate by Canada's athlete of the century, Senator Nancy Greene Raine. This bill would establish a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians.

Before I begin my remarks, I would like to reference a couple of paragraphs from the bill itself, because they will explain what this is about and why we are doing it. It says:

Whereas the Parliament of Canada wishes to increase awareness among Canadians of the significant benefits of physical activity and to encourage Canadians to increase their level of physical activity and their participation in recreational sports and fitness activities;... Whereas the Government of Canada wishes to encourage the country’s local governments, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and all Canadians to recognize the first Saturday in June as National Health and Fitness Day and to mark the day with local events and initiatives celebrating and promoting the importance and use of local health, recreational, sports and fitness facilities;

This is an excellent bill, which I am hoping all members in this place will support. It is not a silver bullet, and it is not a panacea that will cure all the physical ailments of Canadians, but it is an important piece of a larger puzzle in terms of encouraging Canadians to be fit and active and to look after their own health and that of their children.

When I spoke for a few minutes about this a few weeks ago, I mentioned that it is a challenge that members of Parliament face. Access to good food and not much time to exercise is a combination that causes many members in this place to struggle with their weight, their health, and their fitness.

I hear some “hear hears” from some of my colleagues.

It is important for all Canadians. We have one body we have to make do with from the time we are children until the end of our lives. There are things we can do. Modern medicine really is filled with miracles in terms of interchangeable parts. However, every time I see something on television from Cuba, and I see one of those old 1950 vintage cars, it always reminds me that those taxi drivers knew that they had a car and were not going to get another one. They had to look after it and learn how to repair it and how to maintain it. The fact was that it was just going to have to do them for a long time. For people, it is the same thing. Whether we are in our 20s, 40s, or 70s, we have one body.

Years ago we thought about health and fitness mostly in the context of living longer. That is still part of it, but most of us have figured out that it is about the quality of the life we enjoy. When we see someone in their golden years who can still ride a bike, go downhill skiing, or do other physical activities, we are reminded that they did not get there by accident. They probably looked after their health over the years. That is why they are still able to be active in those later years.

About a year or so ago, when I turned 50, one of my friends said that I was playing the back nine now. I had not really thought that somehow I was over the hump and that I was teeing off on the 10th hole, but it is probably true. It reminded me that it is important for all of us to mind our health. I have two young children, and I try to remind them of this at the same time.

Obviously, there are all the economic arguments for good health, at a macro level, for our country and society. We all benefit if we all stay in better shape, because it reduces acute health care costs. However, I would suggest that there is a stronger argument than that, and it is the central point I would like to make, which is that it is about quality of life and staying healthy and fit so that we can do the things we all want to do.

This bill today is part of that. It is to encourage other levels of government, such as municipalities, to open facilities, whether they are squash clubs, hockey arenas, or curling clubs, for one day each year so that people who are not familiar with them can go in and try these activities and see if they enjoy them.

It is an opportunity to remind all of us, adults and children, that there is actually an abundance of recreational facilities in many of our communities. Sometimes we go by them many times without ever setting foot inside. Having a day set aside to focus on this would remind Canadians that it is important.

I really want to tip my cap to my colleague, the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, who is a true leader in this area. He leads a group of parliamentarians on Tuesday mornings on a run. He leads another group on Thursday mornings for a swim. He is leading by example. Even though it does not show up in the name of his riding, the area he represents includes the town of Whistler, which was home to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Anyone who has ever visited Whistler will know that recreational activities are pretty much what make that place and are what attract so many people there.

It is not surprising to me that he is the one pushing this. He has been joined by one of our senators, Canada's athlete of the century for the 20th century. They are a perfect set of bookends around this idea. I would really encourage all members not only to support the bill but to actually take to heart the sentiment captured by the bill and get involved themselves and encourage friends, family, and constituents to do the same.

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 21st, 2014 / 5:20 p.m.
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Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, as many people know, I will be 70 next year, and it has never occurred to me to stop being active. This summer, I parachuted from 13,500 feet with actor Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge. I went from 0 to 250 km/h in no time, and I would do it again.

There is no age limit for being active, and being able to keep moving while growing older is a luxury that everyone should have. Canada's aging population raises important questions about how we can keep people active as long as possible.

That is true for physical activity and family recreation, but it is also true for community involvement, which is difficult if one is not physically healthy enough.

Having a healthy country is the choice of both individuals and society. I am talking about an aging population because that is my personal reality. However, I also have grandchildren, and I recognize that there is a growing childhood obesity epidemic. That said, none of my eight grandchildren are obese. It is a problem of embarrassing proportions; pardon the pun.

Some 20% of children are overweight, and among adults, the figure is over 50%. What will it be in the future? Obesity is hard on the body, the joints, arterial health, the heart and so on.

What will today's kids do when they are my age? Will they even reach my age? That is worrisome, because I know that leading a long, active life is a blessing for each of us as individuals but also for all of us as a society.

I must say that it is not always easy to stay active. Our schedules get busier and busier, work is demanding, and parents often have to work long hours or several jobs to make ends meet. When they go home at the end of the day, they have to take care of the kids, clean the house, make dinner and pay the bills.

They do not have a lot of time left over for physical activity, and that might be why 85% of adults do not engage in the minimum amount of physical activity required for good long-term health. That proportion is 10% higher among young people. That is something we should all be worried about.

For these reasons, I support Bill S-211. I also want to add that it is almost November, a month associated with depression, fatigue and even suicide. Do Canadians know that physical activity can help with that?

It would be good to remind them that adding a little physical activity to their routines will improve their mental health, reduce stress, build self-confidence and improve mood. It is also important to note that regular physical activity boosts energy levels.

Not for nothing did singer Dédé Fortin write the song, Dehors novembre. We live in a northern country, and the onset of winter is hard on people. I think it is a very good idea to remind people of the benefits of physical activity around this time.

In addition to all that, I would like to point out that a preventive approach is good for society as a whole. Heart disease and stroke alone cost Canadians $20.9 billion per year. That much money would buy exactly 350 million pairs of running shoes, which is more than enough to get everyone back in good health.

We can promote physical activity with a preventive approach. The NDP has been calling for that since 2011. To that end, we must make it easier to access federal parks. Here, we have Gatineau Park, which is free and has open access. Such a gem is not available in every region, and access to some parks—such as La Mauricie National Park next to my riding—is becoming more and more expensive. For a low-income family, just getting to a park costs a lot of money for gas. Charging fees to a family might be a deterrent to many.

The NDP thinks that the federal government should work with the provinces and territories to ensure that every child can lay the foundation for an active life by incorporating physical activity in his or her lifestyle.

Beyond access to national parks, we can also make it easier to access fitness centres and sports teams. I believe parents should never have to choose between buying groceries and registering their children for hockey.

Many organizations in Canada recognize the importance of physical activity and believe that the government has a role to play in promoting it to Canadians. That is the position of the Canadian Nurses Association, which has stated that the federal government has a duty to play a leadership role in promoting active living in Canada. The Canadian Cancer Society has said the same thing, namely, that the government is one of the most important forces in influencing active living.

I could go on and on naming organizations that believe the government needs to play a greater role in promoting physical activity, but I think my position is fairly clear.

To sum up, I clearly support Bill S-211 because I recognize the importance of the individual and collective benefits of this. I also recognize that we all stand to gain from a healthy, active life. How could anyone oppose this? This bill is a responsible initiative that will really help Canadians live better lives as young people, be better parents and, one only hopes, stay healthy as they age.

To promote everyone's health, it is imperative to start by making it easier to access our national parks, which really are public treasures. We should also make it easier for people to join fitness centres and sports teams.

We will then have stronger, healthier communities, not to mention the fact that older, retired people will have more to offer their communities for a longer period of time, thereby allowing us to benefit from their experience. As for young people, they will be more active and better prepared for work, but more importantly—and it is important to point this out at this time of the year—people of all ages will be happier. Everyone will be in better shape and therefore in a better mood. This could help prevent frustration.

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 21st, 2014 / 5:30 p.m.
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Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, Liberals will be supporting Bill S-211 because it aims to designate the first Saturday in June of each year as national health and fitness day.

We are pleased to support this bill from my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. It is a laudable initiative indeed, even though symbolic. However, I think we need more than just a day and we certainly need to do more as governments to promote healthy, active living at all ages.

I remember my years as a physician when I was very involved with the British Columbia Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association. One of the things we had been trying to do for years, and I am talking about 30 years, was promote one hour of daily quality physical activity in schools, but we could not get that done. Not all provinces have that at the moment.

I heard my colleague say that if one begins as a young person learning to be physically active every single day of one's life, it becomes a lifestyle habit. It becomes like brushing one's teeth, having a snack in the middle of the afternoon, getting homework done, watching TV, all of those other things. It becomes a part of one's routine and one's life. It is easier then to carry that on as one grows and goes through life cycles, so that by the time one becomes a senior, one would continue to have that active physical living.

We know that active living is not only a good thing to incorporate into one's lifestyle, but it is an important part of health promotion and disease prevention. Exercise and active living helps people who have Alzheimer's postpone the disease. If we can start getting people active throughout their lifetime, we may be able to postpone Alzheimer's. If we postpone Alzheimer's for five years, we will literally be seen to have eradicated the disease, mainly because we do not live five years longer every year, and people would not have their ability to remember and function neurologically fail.

We also know that there is a rise in children who will never be as healthy as their parents were, mainly because of type 2 diabetes and obesity. It does not help to have computers, as we all sit here everyday and watch ourselves become slightly addicted to social media and everything else we do with computers. Again, it tends to bring down the level of physical activity in young people.

We also find that eating fast foods, processed foods and a large amount of food that is high in fat and sugar have a tendency to create obesity. We know that increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, and with type 2 diabetes, vision problems, as well as neurological problems later on in life.

Active living will assist people throughout their lives to either prevent or postpone chronic disease and illness, which, to be crass, costs the health care system a great deal of money. Active living will create savings so that we can put money into other things that are necessary to keep us healthy and give us quality of life, such as mental health care or other areas of health promotion and disease prevention.

We can perhaps look at finding a way to assist people who are physically and mentally unable to work and live reasonable quality lives. There are a lot of things we could do with that money we would save the health care system by reducing hospital costs.

At the same time, people will be healthier, work and live longer. We see that seniors today are living and working longer. They will continue to contribute to the tax base, the economy and the productivity of the nation.

The initiative to designate a national health and fitness day has been gaining widespread support for all those reasons. We now have about 150 municipalities across the country that have adopted some form of health and fitness day.

The bill originated in the other place by Senator Nancy Greene Raine, who is an avid supporter of active living. Increased physical activity not only promotes physical health but also mental and emotional health. Again, we find that people who exercise more are less likely to be depressed and less likely to have problems like Alzheimer's.

Over the last decade, the participation rate in physical activity in Canada has actually declined. The majority of Canadian adults and children do not meet the physical activity level guidelines. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, in the period between 1981 and 2007-09, measured obesity roughly doubled in most age groups in the adult and youth categories for both sexes. The data also indicated that approximately one in four, which is 24.3%, Canadian adults age 18 years and over is obese. The combined rate of Canadians who are overweight and obese is 62%.

In 2005, the costs of adult obesity in Canada were estimated at $1.8 billion in direct health care costs and $2.5 billion in indirect costs for a total of $4.3 billion.

Obesity and lack of physical activity increases the risk of developing several chronic diseases, including osteoarthritis. We know it is linked to some types of cancer, though we do not quite know how direct the links are.

The 2009 report estimated that on average an inactive person compared to an active person spends 38 more days in hospital and uses 5.5% more family physician visits, 13% more specialist services, and 12% more nurse visits.

The rate of obesity varies across the country. It is a good thing to dedicate a day across Canada to fitness, and for the federal government to be talking about this since the federal government is responsible for the health and well-being of Canadians regardless of where they live.

What we saw from a recent UBC study is that my home province of B.C. has the lowest obesity rate. That is probably in part because British Columbians tend to engage in more healthy and active lifestyles. It just so happens that we also live in lotus land which offers the best things since sliced bread. The mover of the bill can relate to this, coming from British Columbia himself.

In 2005, the previous Liberal government invested $300 million over five years in the Public Health Agency of Canada for an integrated strategy of healthy living and chronic disease to ensure that Canada had an integrated approach in addressing major chronic diseases and their risk factors. One of the key pillars was promoting health by addressing the conditions that lead to unhealthy eating, physical inactivity and unhealthy weights.

There are many factors that play into the physical activity and healthy living of adults all the way through their life cycle. This is important; this is a start. This is only one of many things we can do. It is one way to remind us, at least once a year, that we should get out there and become active.

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 21st, 2014 / 5:40 p.m.
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Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure tonight to speak to the bill. I think it is one of the most important bills we have had in this Parliament because it affects all of us in a major way.

I have to compliment the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. He has taken a dynamic leadership role in, first of all, making MPs aware of healthy eating and healthy living styles. Parliament Hill is a place where we eat on the run. We eat unhealthy foods because we are so busy. We are on airplanes all the time, and need I say more about airplane food and the inactivity of sitting on an airplane? We have chronic issues there.

Having said that, when I was first introduced to the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, he was starting all these fitness programs around this place. I am possibly the least sports- or fitness-minded person. As a mother, I took my kids to every sport known to man, from hockey to soccer. I was the hockey mum and the soccer mum and did all those kinds of things. My husband is a wonderful athlete and does everything from martial arts to hockey to whatever. That certainly helped him when he got chronic cancer, because today he is in remission, and I credit that to, number one, prayer, and second, his fitness level was fantastic.

When I look at what the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country has done, it has began to turn or reset the channel of even Parliament Hill, the seat of Parliament where we are supposed to be producing laws for all Canadians and being examples for all Canadians.

I had a big challenge personally, because at a very young age my brother drowned and it hit our family very hard, particularly my mum. I was a baby at the time, so I do not remember my older brother, but I remember my mum sitting in a rocking chair and every once in a while she would start to cry. Even when I was a teenager, my dad would say, “Leave mum alone for a while. She just needs this time”. She was remembering the tragic loss of her son and our brother. I have to say it sort of seeded a fear of water in me. I love to look at the water. I love to put my toe in the water. When I was very bold, I would walk into water up to my neck and hope I could still reach the bottom, because I liked the water in way, but I feared it dreadfully.

One day the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country said, “Why do you not come and learn how to swim?” I kept telling him I did not have time, and I really did not have time. I was very busy. However, it was a very healthy thing to do and he is very persistent and very persuasive. I could not believe it. I bought a bathing suit, goggles, and a cap. I looked like something from outer space, and I do not have the greatest figure in the world, so getting me out there just on that basis was a challenge.

Having said that, I started going into the water, and today I am not a bad swimmer. I know how to swim and I have learned how to go under water. The most exciting thing is having my goggles on going under water and seeing all the things that are happening there. I got over my fear of water, but it also got me into physical activity.

The other thing I do on a regular basis is biking. We could be walking down Wellington or O'Connor and there we would see the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country early in the morning on his bike. It never ceases to amaze me how he can bike in extremely cold, windy weather.

I am not that dedicated, but I am dedicated to a charity I started, and I biked for victims of human trafficking. I have done that kind of thing, which motivated me as well.

The member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country has changed the environment around this place through his leadership, and it is an environment of activity that involves people from all parties. It is just amazing. We can get together, no matter what party we belong to, and we can run, bike, or swim, and it is pleasant. It became a three times a week event for me over the summer. I am now down to two times a week, but I do other things.

One of the members said earlier that taking care of our bodies is like taking care of a 1950s car. I wish I were a 1950s car. My car would be a little older than that. Having said that, we have to take care of our bodies and repair them so we will end up living longer.

This awareness that the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country has brought forward is of paramount importance in my own riding. I love the idea of the first Saturday of June being a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians. I love that idea because it would make us all aware. A school will not change our mindset. Parliament will not change our mindset. I have always said that education is our greatest weapon. The more we know about the problems we have, the better off we are. It takes a tremendous toll on our families if we are sedentary and do not take care of our bodies. Not only does it take a tremendous toll on our families, but it also takes a tremendous toll on our lifestyle and our quality of life.

We have heard members talk about the different aspects of the health care system. One-quarter of colon and breast cancers are attributable to Canadians' sedentary lifestyle. Twenty-seven per cent of diabetes in Canada and 30% of chronic heart disease is attributed to inactivity.

It is telling when one in three Canadian children are overweight or obese. It is telling when health care costs due to overweight individuals and inactivity amount to $7 billion a year. We can do something about that. Under the leadership of the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, we have been caught up in the awareness of physical activity.

I have talked to many municipal leaders in my riding about doing something special on that day. There could be free entry into the pool or maybe a special thing for seniors to get them out, like a bike-a-thon. We could do anything on that national health day. Each municipality has the ability to do that.

It says a lot when only 13% of Canadians participate in sports. It says a lot about our need to become aware of the health benefits from activity. It says a lot as well when only 6% of Canadians choose to spend their leisure time in sports.

That would have been me before, but not anymore. When I have some leisure time, I either go for a swim or a bike ride. I take part in some activity. Through this process I not only managed to overcome a fear of the water, which was tremendous, but I now enjoy the lifestyle and the physical activity. Exercise of some sort clears our minds in such a way that we feel better mentally and physically.

I congratulate once again the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country for his tremendous leadership on this issue. I urge members to look for him on the Hill. He will be recognized because he always has a bicycle pin attached to his lapel. I think it is marvellous. He gave me one of those little bicycles and I wear it quite frequently now. I am proud to say that I am a bit of a sports jock now. I could not have said that before.

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 21st, 2014 / 5:50 p.m.
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Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the NDP critic for sport, I am pleased to speak to this Senate bill, which was sponsored by my colleague. The bill seeks to establish a national day to promote health and fitness.

Let me just say first that my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country has done phenomenal work on this issue. As the sports critic for the NDP, it has been a pleasure to work with him on this issue. I am really trying to find a solution to the inactivity that seems to plague our youth.

It was funny. We had meetings. It is actually Sport Matters lobby day on the Hill today. That is appropriate timing, as far as I am concerned. One of its representatives used the word “inertia” in speaking about the need to move forward. I thought the choice of words was appropriate because it is what we are trying to solve here today.

There is still reason to be concerned about this issue. Over the past 40 years, many governments have tried to find solutions to the problem of inactivity. A report issued by the World Health Organization shows that total calorie intake changed only slightly at a time of a sharp increase in obesity.

This makes us think about the risk factors. Video games and cell phones certainly play a role, but blaming these technologies oversimplifies the problem and prevents us from implementing good public policies that will help us to resolve the issue.

Let us talk about the bill that is before us today. It raises an important question. My colleague opposite, who introduced the bill, often says that it is important for parliamentarians to set an example. After all, he, along with the member for Etobicoke North and my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore, has always promoted physical activity among members. It is all well and good to talk about it, but we also have to do it so that we do not look hypocritical.

This is not just about us. It is important to encourage community members. In my work as sport critic, I look at both elite and amateur sports. For example, I look at the Olympics and international sporting events hosted in Canada, such as the figuring skating championships held last year in London, Ontario, and the 2015 Pan Am Games that will be held in Toronto.

The elite sports system is well structured, but there is work to be done at the local level. That is what we like in this bill sponsored by my colleague and Senator Nancy Greene. The NDP strongly believes that we need to work more with the provinces and municipalities to ensure that they have the tools they need not only to promote elite sports but also to encourage average Canadians to use the sports facilities at their disposal. That is one of the reasons why we support this bill.

We cannot deny that accessibility is something an issue. I come from a community in the greater Montreal area, in Chambly—Borduas, on the south shore. People in Chambly are very fortunate. It is a very well-managed city that now has three hockey arenas. These people have access to a lot of facilities, but that is unfortunately not the case everywhere.

I hope that this national day to encourage people to use these municipal facilities will highlight the fact that all parties and stakeholders need to work together to help promote investments and awareness of infrastructure needs.

It is all well and good to encourage people of all ages to participate in sports and live an active life, but if they do not have the tools to live this lifestyle, we will end up back at square one. That is something very important to consider.

What is more, we have looked at a lot in committee. When we study amateur coaching, when we study preparations for the Olympic Games and our athletes, of whom we are so proud, different elements keep coming back, and there is still ongoing debate about what the solutions would be. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I do not think we have yet found the solution. Governments have been looking for solutions for decades.

What I appreciate about the bill is that we are putting forward a day to encourage folks to think about their health and to go out and participate in sports and use the installations that are available in municipalities. I think it allows us a chance to continue the debate. Every time this House votes on a bill to put forward a national day representing issue X, whether it is dealing with awareness of an illness or, in this case, dealing with something more positive, promoting an active lifestyle, the day is important, yes, but we as New Democrats are supporting the bill because it would also allow us to continue a discussion that my colleague has been at the forefront of with different stakeholders that have been involved in promoting this particular issue.

I think the government has tried to put forward different measures to try to solve this issue, such as the children's fitness tax credit and other such measures, but, unfortunately, they have met with varying degrees of success. They have not always been the solutions that have been required, and that is why having this debate is so important.

I mentioned going to the local level and not just looking at league sports, because one thing that comes back often when we study sports issues—in committee in particular, but even when we meet with stakeholders—is that we need to think of sports as a pyramid. Yes, we need to look at that small piece at the top, our lead athletes, of whom we are very proud, as I mentioned. We want to continue promoting them and allowing them to succeed because, contrary to what it may seem like, it is not always a glamorous life. These folks work very hard. They are great role models for the folks at the bottom of that pyramid, the folks a bill like this would help out and push forward in having active lifestyles. We really need to not forget the community level.

That is our challenge. Our Olympians are role models. Our athletes set an example for our kids. It is really important to have the bottom of the pyramid at the provincial and municipal levels, as I said earlier, like the rising tide that lifts all boats.

I think that is really important.

It is important that youth have more than just one day in which to participate. There needs to be a follow-up to that day. I think it is an excellent start, and that is why I am very pleased to be supporting the bill.

To conclude, I would like to come back to the first speeches I made as sport critic two years ago. Active Healthy Kids Canada had published a report that gave Canadian youth a D for their participation in sports. There are kids who are inactive. The report did not point to any causes, but there are many. That report really hit home.

This important issue is also reflected in the work I have done with the Minister of State for Sport; we have a very good working relationship. This is not a partisan issue. When we see those kinds of results in a report, we are all concerned because this is a health issue and it will cost money.

Yesterday, at our Movember reception, Senator Green made an interesting comment when she said that our health care system is, at times, more like a disease management system. We treat diseases, but we also need to think about prevention, and that is where sports can play an incredibly positive role. As legislators, we need to encourage that.

That is why we support the bill, which is sponsored by the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. This bill is a good first step because it establishes a day for raising awareness and encouraging people to participate.

This will allow us to continue this debate, bring forward good public policy, and encourage our communities to have an active lifestyle. We hope the repercussions of maintaining good health will be positive.

Again I want to commend my colleague. We are proud to support this bill, and we hope to pursue this debate in future.

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 21st, 2014 / 6 p.m.
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John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour today to speak to Bill S-211, a bill that will be voted on tomorrow, but also to mark, as my colleagues have marked, a historical moment. How would we know if we were at a historical moment? I suggest there would be a need, there would be a consensus around that need, and a movement to action.

We have heard my colleagues speak about the need, the sedentary behaviour in our culture today, the failing to meet our own physical activity guidelines, the obesity trends that suggest that a third of youth are overweight or obese, a third who now face 14 times the likelihood of a cardiac event by the time they reach 50. These are preventable diseases. We have heard about cardiovascular issues and diabetes. Not only are they preventable but the costs associated with them are phenomenal and growing, $7 billion a year says the Public Health Agency of Canada.

It is tragic when people hurt other people, but it is also tragic when people hurt themselves. We are hurting ourselves with these trends of inactivity and sedentary behaviour, and the fact that less than 7% of our youth get the recommended six hours a week of healthy activity. It is time for change and if we were at a historical moment, there would be a consensus around that time for change.

On Parliament Hill, we have seen MPs and senators from different parties come together to say, yes, we can do better. We can do better and we are doing so through the parliamentary fitness initiative that has been mentioned several times today. MPs and staff gather early on Tuesday mornings for walks or runs or to swim on Thursday mornings with remarkable volunteer coaches like Phil Marsh and Pierre Lafontaine. The unity in the House has been mentioned, how 160 people came together yesterday on Movember, which will be celebrating men's health in the months to come.

We have seen the work with the Senate, which is where the bill originates. Senator Nancy Greene Raine, Canada's female athlete of the 20th century, did a great job of bringing this to the House from the other place. The two chambers of this legislature have worked together. Today, Sport Matters is on Parliament Hill trying to invigorate us parliamentarians to be role models throughout the country, not just in passing legislation but in showing, as the member for Kildonan—St. Paul said, that though not an athlete in her own mind, she can be a role model in improving her own health and fitness by extending herself in physical activity.

We have seen initiatives in the province I come from, British Columbia, such as Rotary Ride for Rescue, which raises money for people who are saved by North Shore Rescue. We have seen Cops for Cancer all around the country, supported by West Vancouver Police Department. The Terry Fox Run is another great example of getting people to run not only in Canada but all over the world, and I am proud to say the Terry Fox Run will resume in Taiwan next month. There is Ride for Refuge, a ride that has been promoted by the member for Kildonan—St. Paul. These are all activities that bring people together in a common cause and help people to understand that it is time for us to get up and move.

In my community, all 12 local governments have proclaimed national health and fitness day, which is really the point of Bill S-211, a bill that suggests that local governments ought to put an emphasis on one day a year, the first Saturday in June, to get their citizens more active. Why one day? It is not as a token, but as a way to get Canadians more active throughout the year.

In the area I represent, Susie Gimse has worked with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which was quick to support national health and fitness day this year. There have been other groups like that, such as the Vancouver Whitecaps former captain Jay DeMerit, and Whistler's Olympic gold medallist, Ashleigh McIvor.

We are at a historical moment because we are about to pass a bill. It is the beginning, not the end. It is the beginning of a nation coming together, working together, promoting healthy physical activity, of Canadians getting more active and encouraging one another to get more active, of deputies in the House approaching their mayors and councillors, and moving our country and our people to become the fittest nation on earth.

National Health and Fitness Day ActPrivate Members' Business

September 29th, 2014 / 11:05 a.m.
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John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

moved that Bill S-211, An Act to establish a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, rarely in the House one discovers unity around an issue that brings together the people of Canada and their representatives rallied in a common cause. Occasionally, a bill to which we speak already has such broad support that it has gained sweeping support from coast to coast to coast, and sometimes in this chamber we witness a powerful unstoppable energy unleashed when Canadians unite in common cause to defeat a national adversary. It is a great honour to rise on one of those occasions today as I sponsor Bill S-211, an act to establish a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians, also known as the national health and fitness day act.

In the remarks that follow, I will outline the health and health care crises that led to this bill and explain how the bill responds to those needs. I will also pay tribute to some champions of health and fitness, and for those who decide to get involved, suggest some practical ways to do so.

We are facing a battle. An implacable adversary is slowly and insidiously killing Canadians and dragging us down as a nation. I say implacable because unlike a human adversary, there is no person or group to target in making the situation better. The adversary is a pattern of behaviour that has progressively undermined Canadians' level of physical fitness. What is it that I am calling our national adversary? Our national adversary is inactivity. It is costing us and it is killing us.

Canada's inactivity problem drives deep. It is rooted in our culture and wedded to the routines we have developed in our schools, our work and our play. The problem relates to the progress we have made in technology which enables us to communicate by computer seated in the comfort of our homes, of our classrooms and our workplaces. Similarly, screen time, whether in front of a TV, computer or smart phone, has taken our kids off playing fields and put them on chairs instead.

Statistics Canada has reported a continuous decline in sports participation which, from 1992 to 2005, went from 45% to 28% among Canadians age 15 and older. That is less than one out of every three Canadian adults who is as active as they should be. Less than 7% of Canadian children and youth meet the guideline of 60 minutes of activity daily six days per week. Among Canadians age 20 and older, two-thirds do not meet the recommended physical activity levels, that is, to be active at least two and a half hours per week to achieve a health benefit. That is only 20 minutes per day to meet the minimum standards for adults and we are not even doing that.

Statistics Canada has delivered more disturbing news. In the period between 1981 and 2009, measured obesity roughly doubled in most age groups for both sexes. Data from 2009 suggests that approximately one in four Canadian adults age 18 years and over is obese. In 2008 the combined overweight and obese proportion was 62.1%. Nearly two out of three adult Canadians is either overweight or obese.

This trend has dramatic implications since children who are overweight are more likely to be overweight as adults. Among other things, studies have shown that adolescents who are overweight have a fourteen-fold increased risk of a heart attack before they turn 50. Excess weight in childhood is increasingly linked to illnesses once seen only in adults, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal blood fats, abnormal blood clotting, and thickening of the arteries.

Psychologically, evidence suggests a positive relationship between physical activity and psychosocial health in employees, including emotional well-being, improved mental health, and reduced depression, anxiety and stress. They have all been associated with regular physical activity as well as reduced symptoms of fatigue, enhanced mood, increased quality of life and life satisfaction.

The support for the bill before us is not related to high-performance athletes, but instead to Canadians who are not necessarily involved in athletics. This is not a sports bill; it is a health and fitness bill.

As I biked to work this morning, I was thinking in fact of those Canadian heroes like Terry Fox and my friend Rick Hansen who have shown the world that participation in physical activity is not just for able-bodied people.

More and more persons with disabilities—I prefer the term “adaptive athletes”—have made the point really clear. Look at Jody Mitic, the Canadian veteran who lost his legs in Afghanistan, who runs marathons anyway and is now campaigning to be an Ottawa city councillor along with Matt Fleury, another great champion of health and fitness.

Initiatives such as Soldier On and Ottawa's Army Run bring out many of our wounded warriors and others, inspiring with the realization that one does not have to be Wayne Gretzky or Nancy Greene Raine to participate and improve one's health through physical activity.

Our declining health and fitness rates are clearly an economic problem, not just a matter of life quality. The Public Health Agency of Canada has concluded that costs of obesity are estimated to be $7 billion. That is the total cost of the obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Members may have heard the quote from Roman times that a healthy mind relates to a healthy body.

In addition to direct and indirect health care costs, the quality and productivity of our work in Canada will improve if our people become healthier, if only by decreasing the number of sick days. Indirect costs of poor health include the value of economic output lost due to illness, injury-related work disability, and premature death.

It has been estimated that, on average, compared to an active person an inactive person spends 38% more days in hospital and uses 5.5% more family physician visits, 13% more specialist services, and 12% more nurse visits.

The bill that I sponsor today, Bill S-211, tackles problems that touch every Canadian in terms of our health, our quality of life, and our economy. The bill aims to increase the health of Canadians by increasing our physical participation rates.

Specifically, supporters wish to encourage local governments, non-government organizations, the private sector, and all Canadians to recognize the first Saturday in June as national health and fitness day, or NHFD, a day marked by local, provincial and national events to promote health and fitness.

The bill makes particular mention of local governments as they own and operate many of our nation's health and fitness facilities. NHFD supporters want to encourage local governments more aggressively to promote the use of such facilities. Furthermore, we encourage cities and towns to mark the day with local events and initiatives celebrating and promoting the importance of using local health, recreational, sports and fitness facilities.

People around the world know that Canada's mountains, oceans, lakes, forests, parks, and wilderness also offer recreation and fitness opportunities, and we ought to benefit from what we share collectively.

The month in which NHFD falls, June, is not only a time of great weather, but is also parks and recreation month, a time in the calendar already set aside to foster heightened appreciation of our outdoor assets.

The bill is an amended version of a private member's bill I introduced in this House previously which had widespread support, but for procedural reasons did not progress. To be clear, NHFD is not a legal holiday; it will not incur costs of lost productivity. In fact, it is not just a day at all. It is about a dramatic change in lifestyle.

On a personal level, my wife Donna and my children Shane, Jake, and Meimei have inspired me to promote the bill. Donna is a personal trainer. My children all earned black belts in tae kwon do at an early age and are dedicated athletes. I am a pretty active person myself, finding that physical activity keeps me healthy, energized, and effective in my public service.

With the privilege of representing West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country in B.C., I can say that constituents in the riding I represent are among the most active in the country. Where I live, people love the outdoors and are concerned about the physical inactivity problem Canada is facing. I personally learned much from the people in my community, who have inspired me to promote health and fitness as a gift they give to the rest of our great country. I bring Bill S-211 forward today in paying special tribute to the wonderful role models for health and fitness who live in the riding I represent.

The bill was tabled appropriately by my friend and everyone's athletic icon, Canada's female athlete of the 20th century, Senator Nancy Greene Raine. Senator Greene Raine, who is here today, Nancy to her millions of fans, is a proud British Columbian and an articulate spokeswoman for all Canadians in many areas of public policy, but in promoting health and fitness no one can surpass her. Demonstrating great leadership, Nancy won unanimous support for Bill S-211 in the Senate.

I also thank the Minister of Health and the Minister of State for Sport, who have gone out of their way to support NHFD at every turn.

I also want to thank my colleagues across the floor. This bill already enjoys a rare element of enthusiastic cross-party support.

Another distinctive aspect of the bill is the fact that it has already been implemented on a broad scale well before it has become law. Over 155 cities and towns across Canada have proclaimed the day, including Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Halifax, Yellowknife and Pond Inlet. I am especially proud that the earliest adopters included the towns and the cities in the riding I represent: West Vancouver, Whistler, Squamish, Sechelt, Gibsons, Lions Bay, Bowen Island, North Van district and Powell River.

Led by Premier Christy Clark and the energetic MLA, Michelle Stilwell, last spring B.C. became the first province to endorse NHFD, followed quickly by Yukon as the first territory.

On May 30, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities passed a resolution at its annual conference encouraging all member municipalities to proclaim the day, and just two weeks ago, the Union of Quebec Municipalities followed suit.

Members would be amazed at the number and influence of non-government organizations that have endorsed the bill and begun to promote its objectives even before it passes. These include: the Canadian Medical Association; Lisa Ashley and the Canadian Nurses Association; Chris Gray and the Heart and Stroke Foundation; Chris Jones and Physical and Health Education Canada; Bob Elliott and Sport Matters Group; Participaction; Debra Gassewitz and the Sports Information Resource Centre; C. J. Noble and Canadian Parks and Recreation; Richard Way and Canadian Sport for Life; Trisha Sarker and the Fitness Industry Council of Canada; Arne Elias of Canada Bikes; Canadian Interuniversity Sport; Rob McClure and the Ottawa Bicycle Club; Trans Canada Trail, championed by Laureen Harper, Paul LaBarge and Deborah Apps; and one of our recent supporters, Movember.

Additionally, I am grateful to private sector organizations for their support: The Running Room, Canadian Tire and Jumpstart, Kunstadt Sports, Glacier Media, Capital Hill Hotel and Suites, Tractivity, and GoodLife Fitness.

Like most good things in life, the bill comes about due to the efforts of a large team of people over many years. The broad public support for NHFD reflects a unity in this House that began in 2008 during the lead-up to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. As a large part of the games was to take part in the riding I represent, I spent much time with people asking what we could do to ensure a lasting positive legacy from the games. While gold medals were a crowning glory, we wanted something that all Canadians could claim as their own on an ongoing basis.

The key tragic event that spurred us on was the untimely death of Tom Hanson, a renowned Canadian Press journalist who died in 2009 while playing pick-up hockey. Tom was a young man, only 41. The Prime Minister took the occasion to remind us that we needed to take care of our health.

I had Mr. Hanson's sad experience in mind along with the Prime Minister's words when I met two great heroes of mine, Pierre Lafontaine and Phil Marsh, who have left an indelible imprint on Canada for their advocacy of health and fitness. Pierre and Phil are the energetic coaches of our parliamentary fitness initiative, which I began in 2009 with the support of the members for Sackville—Eastern Shore and Etobicoke North, each of them from different parties in this House.

When I met Pierre in 2009, he was coach of Canada's national swim team. He continues in his role of promoting national health and fitness now as president of Canadian Interuniversity Sport. Phil Marsh is regional manager of the Running Room in Ottawa, who with his boss, John Stanton, is a major force in promoting fitness for all Canadians. Both Pierre and Phil are great men, generous with their time, who volunteer to coach our MPs and senators in running and swimming, each once a week whenever Parliament is in session.

I have also worked with others to create companion events that have supported NHFD, including Bike Day on the Hill, Bike Day in Canada and National Life Jacket and Swim Day on the Hill.

With all that support and all this national enthusiasm, I have to ask the most important question: will a bill like this make any difference to Canada's battle against inactivity? National health and fitness has far-reaching implications, including physical health, mental illness, life expectancy, school performance, national productivity, economic performance, and health care costs. If we do not change our current patterns, this is the first generation of Canadians who will die at an age younger than our parents. We must change our direction.

Bill S-211 will be Parliament's statement that MPs and senators wish to instill in Canadians an awareness of the significant benefits of physical activity, and to encourage our people to get more active. Supporting NHFD is not the whole solution, but it is part of the solution. I encourage all Canadians to take the field in the battle against inactivity, and to be sure to approach their mayors and councillors if they have not already proclaimed national health and fitness day.

I thank colleagues in this House for their support. I welcome them to join me in the parliamentary fitness initiative, for their own health and to demonstrate their commitment to their constituents. I ask that they support Bill S-211. Canada's health and fitness depends on them.