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House of Commons Hansard #168 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was physical.

Topics

Canada's Olympic and Paralympic AthletesOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

[Editor's Note: And Canada's 2002 Olympic athletes having left the Chamber.]

Canada's Olympic and Paralympic AthletesOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Acting Chairman (Mr. Milliken)

There is one other Olympic medalist in the committee who I neglected to mention, the Minister of the Environment, silver medal for rowing at the 1960 Olympic Games.

An informal reception in honour of the athletes hosted by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Secretary of State for Amateur Sport will be held in the reading room, Room 237-C at 3.30 p.m. All hon. members are invited to attend.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services quoted from a document regarding airplane costs. I would like him to table that document.

Points of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I was quoting from my briefing note. I would gladly find the document giving the details of what the hon. member is seeking. I will endeavour to table it by the end of the week if it is available to me.

Dairy Terms ActRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-440, an act respecting the use of dairy terms.

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to be able to introduce this dairy terms act bill today and for my hon. colleague from Provencher to second it.

Dairy terms are popular for labelling food items because of the reputation dairy products have among consumers for quality and nutrition. Consumers looking for a dairy product could unintentionally buy a non-dairy alternative due to the misuse of dairy terms in the label, and that has happened.

On the other hand, for example, consumers who are lactose intolerant and looking for a non-dairy alternative, may mistakenly overlook the necessary substitute product.

Producers can lose market share because of inaccurate or misleading labels.

Consumers are entitled to a properly informed choice in the matter of dairy products and non-dairy alternatives. Each year Canadian dairy producers spend over $75 million on advertising dairy products and promoting the nutritional benefits of dairy products.

I believe this dairy term act would improve the existing federal regulatory structure by providing much needed clarity to the rules surrounding the use of dairy terms and food labels and by forbidding dairy terms to be used in a misleading manner.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise today to present a substantial petition signed by thousands of first nations citizens in the province of Manitoba.

These signators reject the first nations governance initiative as proposed by the minister of Indian affairs and they point out that they suspect it to be nothing more than a thinly veiled effort to diminish or even do away with their treaty rights and inherent rights.

They point out further that the minister's so-called consultation process has been unsatisfactory. They urge all members of parliament to scrap the first nations governance agreement and replace it with something mutually acceptable that would actually address the many pressing and urgent issues facing first nations peoples and communities today.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition signed by residents of my constituency of Burnaby--Douglas as well as elsewhere in British Columbia on the subject of high oil and gas prices.

The petitioners note that energy is a Canadian natural resource but that we have little control over this resource. They point out that the big oil companies, which dominate refining and gasoline sales, are free to set whatever prices they want at the wholesale level at the pumps and that they do not have to justify those prices at all. They raise concerns about Canadian households and businesses that rely on energy and therefore have no alternative but to pay the higher prices.

Therefore the petitioners call upon parliament to urge the government to set up an energy price commission that would hold big oil companies accountable for the energy prices that they charge Canadians.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I present to the House a petition from citizens of Canso and surrounding areas in Guysborough county, including Little Dover and Fox Harbour, who call upon the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to recognize that the denial of fish quota to their Canso plant could result in the closure of the only industry in that town.

They call upon the minister to revisit this decision and to come up with new areas of contribution to the economy so that people like Tanya Fougère, a student, and others in that town will be able to restore some economic vigour to the community. I am very pleased and honoured to table this petition in their names.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Leeds—Grenville Ontario

Liberal

Joe Jordan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the notice delivered to you on Friday past, I rise on a question of privilege. I will begin with the contextual background.

On May 10 of last year, by news release, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage of this House announced the launch of an 18 month study on the state of the Canadian broadcasting system. Prior to this, in a series of letters between the committee chair, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the deputy minister of Canadian Heritage, starting on March 16 of last year and ending on January 22 of this year, the department, under the signature of the deputy minister, agreed to pay for two expert advisers to assist the committee.

A memorandum of understanding between the Department of Canadian Heritage and the House of Commons was signed by the director general of broadcasting policy and innovation and the clerk assistant to the committees directorate settling the amount to be paid at about $75,000 and the term of the agreement being from December 10, 2001 to March 31 of this year. In accordance with the memorandum, the expert advisers entered the standard form contracts of the House.

On February 11 of this year a news release was issued announcing the hiring of these two expert advisers.

On this point I want to be brief. By allowing the department to provide funding for committee advisers, I would suggest that a number of principles have been violated, however innocently, which affect my privilege as a member of the House through the committee operations of which I am a member.

First, there is the principle of comity between parliament and the executive or, in today's words, the relationship between the cabinet and ordinary members of parliament.

Comity, as I understand it, is the deference or courtesy that the House extends to the cabinet and vice versa so each may fulfil its constitutional role without interference or encroachment by each on the other. It is said the separate relationship between the House and the executive is a jealous one which must be studiously and scrupulously protected and guarded.

It is my suggestion that, once again, however innocently, the hiring of advisers using Department of Canadian Heritage funds violates the principle of comity and that jealous relationship between this House, as represented by the committee and the cabinet.

As author and political scientist Donald Savoie noted recently, “Questions of accountability and how public servants relate to their ministers and to Parliament are fundamental issues of governance. When you pull one lever, a whole series of issues, some unforeseen, can surface”.

By providing money to hire these advisers the nature of a House committee has undergone unforeseen consequences in House operations.

Let me suggest a committee using departmental funds ought properly to be called a task force or a joint department/House of Commons study. In funding these advisers there is a clear erosion of the doctrine and practice of passive ministers and their respective departments in the operations and affairs of committees as part of the work of the House. In fact it is a clear encroachment in my opinion on the operations of the House by the department.

If a committee were to accept funding from an industry association or a lobby group to fund expert advice to a committee, the minimum consequence would be public derision and the rejection of any findings, conclusions or recommendations, it being obvious that such advice would not and could not be neutral and objective.

As a committee member I am entitled to advice from sources which are absolutely free from department ties. If the House is too poor or cares not to provide the funding from the inception of a study, let us say so. However this monetary contribution by the department violates my privileges to have advisers who are absolutely free from the executive in every respect, direct or indirect, to any ties to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and that department. I suggest that no written memoranda of operations or understanding can change that fundamental principle.

The second point I wish to make involves the written mandate for the expert advisers as part of the standard contract of this place and appended as schedule 1 to the contract.

The final paragraph states:

The Contractor shall not comment in public on the Committee's deliberations relating to the broadcasting study...However, the foregoing does not prohibit the experts from writing or speaking on broadcasting issues generally, such as would be the case in the normal conduct of their professional duties.

That agreement was signed on February 18 of this year. On April 11, less than a week ago, one of the two special advisers, professor David Taras, was quoted on page A3 of the Calgary Herald . In that article, which was titled “Who will be voted off the Hill next?”, he referred to certain members of the House, his analogy being to the television program Survivor . It is impossible to construe any of his comments as related to communications, as set out in his contract. It is clearly about party politics and certain specifically named members of the House. An expert adviser cannot offer opinion on the political fate of certain members of this Chamber.

As well, an Internet search turns up about 54 press quotes by the special adviser concerning members of the House and political events, such quotes being made approximately during the last 30 days .

No committee member can expect and receive neutral and objective policy advice from a committee adviser who holds and publicly states opinions on members of this Chamber and affairs directly related and emanating to and from this Chamber.

As a member of the House and a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage I submit that such remarks violate my privileges.

I believe the foregoing raises a prima facie case of privilege. To assist you, Mr. Speaker, I would ask for consent of the House to table the documents and materials which I have referred to and would be prepared to move a motion at the time of your decision should you find a prima facie question of privilege to have been made.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member have consent of the House to table the documents referred to in his argument?

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, as you may be aware, I am the vice chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. I wish to speak to this question of privilege and in support of it, particularly the second part.

Before I do, in fairness to both the committee and the committee chair, it must be noted that the committee chair approached the table of the House and received advice. It was upon this advice that the committee entered into the arrangement that my friend questions. I believe what has happened subsequent to receiving that advice is that events, particularly on the part of one of the advisers, David Taras, have overtaken and indeed we have unintended consequences.

My friend quoted from Donald Savoie who said “Questions of accountability and how public servants relate to their ministers and to parliament are fundamental issues of governance. When you pull one lever, a whole series of issues, some unforeseen, can surface.” Indeed that has happened.

I would like to quote very briefly from a letter I sent to David Taras today. It says:

As an important part of our consideration of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage entering into a contract with you, we raised the issue of the many requests you receive for public commentary on political issues.

There was discussion about an understandable restriction of publicizing your opinion on matters relating to the issues under committee consideration. Additionally, we expressed concern about working with an advisor who made statements that were either intentionally or inadvertently hostile to the goals and objectives of the Canadian Alliance.

We cited the following examples. Would the Liberal committee members feel comfortable with your participation if, hypothetically, you publicly agreed with Warren Kinsella that the Liberal membership sign-up rules are racist? Or if you hypothetically agreed, in print or broadcast that the NDP was a spent force because they had no new ideas since 1960?

Well, here's an example that's not hypothetical.

This is from April 10. The headline by The Canadian Press was “Six Alliance Dissidents Seek Return to Fold”. This is a direct quote from that article. It says:

David Taras of the University of Calgary said the party [Alliance] still must tackle the image of having too few visible minorities, too few women and too few young people.

“The amount of building they still have to do is extraordinary,” he said, adding it is still unclear whether Harper would “be dead on arrival in Ontario” in the next election.”

My letter to David Taras goes on to say:

Your first statement is a simple restatement of [the chair of the national caucus of the Liberals] slamming the Canadian Alliance Party with political spin. We knew we were going to be attacked by our opponents with untruthful statements when Mr. Harper won the leadership. We also knew there would be a pick-up of the Liberal spin by “experts” and “talking heads”.

I say to him that he is one. Later in my letter, I say:

If you were to do some research you might not continue to parrot the Liberal spin. The 'image' of which you speak is grossly inaccurate. That image is perpetuated and strengthened by independent [so-called] 'experts' who don't do their homework...

The point of this correspondence is we would find your participation in our committee work more beneficial if you were to keep your musings about the electoral future of the Canadian Alliance Party out of the public domain.

We wouldn't expect our committee clerks or researchers, who are in the employ of Parliament, to be quoted in the media. [The heritage minister] and elected partisans can keep their spin in the media without the help of consultants who moonlight as political experts.

My point which is in support of the second point of my colleague, my Liberal friend, is that indeed we rather foresaw these consequences but now we have the unintended consequences. If someone from the table here in the Chamber, or the clerk of the committee, or library of parliament officials or any of our experts who served the committee made comments like David Taras made, Mr. Speaker, I would hope you would fire them.

In this instance, because we have entered into this relationship with these so-called experts through the back door, indeed my privileges along with those of my friend and I dare say any other politician in this Chamber, have been breached.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I appreciate the information that has been provided to the House by the hon. member for Sarnia--Lambton and the hon. member for Kootenay-Columbia. The Chair will take this matter under advisement and get back to the House in due course.

I perhaps may ask the hon. member some questions later to clarify certain points that have been raised as I work my way through the arguments that have been presented, and I know they will be able to assist the Chair with answers to those questions should that need arise rather than proceed with that here on the floor of the House.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I really think it would be helpful for you to have all the truth and all the facts as you study this. I would like to appeal again to members on the other side to grant leave for the member to table the document that he wanted to table since it is valid information and should be considered.

PrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

As I indicated, the Chair can ask questions, and I fully intend to do that. I have a feeling that if I ask for certain relevant documents I might get them. I do not anticipate a particular problem and tabling them may be guilding the lily as it were. I am not particularly concerned about it. If I have any difficulty, that will become apparent in the ruling that the Chair gives to the House on this point.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

April 15th, 2002 / 3:35 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Liberalfor the Minister of Canadian Heritage

moved that Bill C-54, an act to promote physical activity and sport, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Simcoe North Ontario

Liberal

Paul Devillers LiberalSecretary of State (Amateur Sport) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Government of Canada it is an honour for me to present to the House the result of the efforts, commitment and co-operation of the sport community throughout our country of various federal departments and agencies, of provincial-territorial governments and of private and public sector organizations that influence the world of sport in Canada.

The proposed bill, an act to promote physical activity and sport that would replace the Fitness and Amateur Sport Act, deals with sport that does much to unite our society.

Physical activity and sport are a tradition in Canada. All of us have, at one time, enjoyed playing hockey with the neighbours, challenging colleagues on a tennis court or cycling through some lesser known parts of the country.

In Canada, physical activity and sport are a family affair. Every parent remembers the first time a daughter skated or a son rode his bicycle. Sport is a passion which is transmitted from one generation to the next and which we can enjoy throughout our lives.

In Canada, we are passionate about physical activity and sport. From coast to coast to coast Canadians celebrated the success of our athletes at the winter Olympics and Paralympics in Salt Lake City. They celebrated again today as parliament officially honoured our medalists.

Our national memory is full of sports heroes whose achievements and victories have inspired our dreams. Maurice Richard, Mark Tewkesbury, Myriam Bédard, Elvis Stojko and Sylvie Fréchette are only some of our country's idols who have made their mark in sport in Canada and have gone down in history. Within my riding of Simcoe North, we are especially proud of the accomplishments of Brian Orser.

In Canada, physical activity and sport also prepare for life. Each morning, thousands of young girls and boys get up with one purpose in mind: to give the best of themselves in the pool, on the soccer field or on the ski slopes.

In practicing their sports, they learn about discipline, team spirit and the quest for excellence. They learn about the importance of health and balance. Sport and physical activity prevent delinquency and crime, form thousands of volunteers from coast to coast to coast, and bring together Canadians from all walks of life by eliminating barriers and differences.

Far more than a past time, sport and physical activity are tools for living a full life in Canada. Close to 10 million Canadians regularly take part in sport activities. However is that enough? We believe we can do more. We believe we can do much better.

The existing Fitness and Amateur Sport Act dates from 1961. It has become necessary to rethink the role of Canada's sports system in line with the new issues and circumstances. Like many other countries, Canada must amend its legislation to adapt to a new reality and to effectively reflect and strengthen the important role that the Government of Canada plays in fostering, promoting and developing physical activity and sport in Canada.

Starting with the title, very few countries refer to amateur sport in their modernized legislation. This concept is increasingly ambiguous since professional athletes compete in the Olympics and amateur athletes collect fees at some competitions.

Times have changed. Our habits have changed as well and not necessarily for the better. According to a study recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal , obesity among boys increased by 92% between 1981 and 1996. Among girls it increased by 57%.

The Canadian health system estimates that 25% of Canadian children are overweight. It is estimated that young children between 2 and 11 years of age spend on average 19 hours a week in front of the TV set. From 1992 to 1998, the sports participation rate of young people aged 15 and over has decreased, falling from 45% to 34%.

Socio-economic or cultural barriers still prevent some groups in our society from fully developing by participating in sports. I refer to aboriginals, handicapped people, women and visible minorities.

As we can see, physical inactivity is dangerously gaining ground. For public health the impact is disastrous, incurring $2.1 billion per year on direct health care costs. Still worse, physical inactivity is estimated to be a contributing factor to the death of more than 21,000 Canadians every year. We must act now before it is too late. We must act now for tomorrow.

The sports community had expectations and we had to meet them. Two years ago, my predecessor, now the citizenship and immigration minister, launched an extensive consultation process in order to improve the sports experience of all Canadians in partnership with the whole sports community.

Sports associations, athletes, coaches, volunteers and administrators, federal, provincial and territorial governments as well as municipalities, all have taken part in discussions across the country. The consultations led to a national summit held a year ago and finally to a new Canadian sports policy.

The new Canadian sport policy gives expression to the vision shared by all sports stakeholders who participated in the consultations. It defines what we want to accomplish over the next 10 years in the world of sport with clear objectives.

At the same time last year, the Government of Canada recognized the needs of the sport community by providing an additional $10 million over three years to the Sport Canada budget.

Today, proud of all the work we have accomplished thus far, the Government of Canada is proposing another component in our strategy to promote sport activity in our country.

Following the Canadian sports policy that inspired us, on last April 10, I introduced the physical activity and sport legislation. This bill, which rreplaces the Fitness and Amateur Sport Act, enshrines our new sports policy. It provides us with new legislation focused on the participation of every Canadian in sports.

With the new bill we are acting on the initiatives and consultations of the past several years. With the new bill we are moving from words to deeds. The bill officially recognizes that sport is an investment for our society.

To invest in sport is to invest in the health and welfare of Canadians. To invest in sport is to invest in the development of our communities.

This is why a preamble was added to the bill showing that the commitment of the Government of Canada ito physical activity and sport was to be seen as an investment in the betterment of all Canadians and not as an expenditure. Any investment in physical activity and sport contributes to the quality of life and translates into long term health care savings.

Let us not forget that in our country over 378,000 jobs are directly linked to sport. Thousands of men and women work in ski centres, arenas, fitness centres, golf clubs and many more sport establishments. They are our neighbours, our friends, community leaders. Altogether, the sports industry contributes overs $8.9 billion to our country's gross domestic product.

The bill seeks to increase participation in sport by all Canadians whatever their sex, physical or mental capabilities, their age or the colour of their skin. Regularly, week after week throughout the year, we want all our fellow citizens to engage in physical activity.

In pursuit of this objective, governments, associations and sport organizations must talk together. They must better co-ordinate their efforts so that all Canadians have the easiest possible access to the sport facilities in all our communities. This is one of the priorities of the bill. By making our sport infrastructure and resources accessible, we enable our people to practice sport.

The bill also reaffirms another priority of the Government of Canada to continue to support the pursuit of excellence in sport. Our athletes have the talent and capacity to succeed nationally and internationally. The result of the most recent Olympic and Paralympic Games are ample proof of this, but we can better guide their development. We can better co-ordinate our resources. We can improve our programs. We can strengthen the training provided to coaches. We want to encourage others to become partners in our efforts: various levels of governments, sport organizations and especially the private sector.

The bill gives us the means to encourage our business people to help fund development in sport because we must open up to new forms of co-operation. We must devise new ways of working together if we want to achieve our objectives.

More than ever before in Canada sport is everybody's business. We recognize that the task is daunting, but this bill will allow us to meet the challenge. Its modern and up-to-date measures put us at long last on an equal footing with other industrialized countries. Finally, this bill establishes a new organization responding to the sport community's requests.

Over the past decade, Canada's sport system has frequently faced litigation and court cases. Unfortunately the arbitration procedures already in place were limited. A fair effective solution was needed. The bill therefore calls for the creation of the sport dispute resolution centre of Canada.

The centre is an independent organization that will deal in a non-partisan way with any contentious issue related to sport. It will provide fairer access to dispute resolution and might be used as an alternative to litigation.

For the first time ever, the sport community will be able to rely on a national arbitration and mediation service. This centre is a tangible measure, a response tailored to meet the needs of the sport community and the challenges the sporting world is facing today.

This innovative bill is the vision of all who help make Canada a great country for sport. It opens up the future and brings hope. For our children there is the hope of growing up while exploring various sports, the hope of having fun while learning. For young athletes there is the hope of being able to develop their potential to the fullest, of being more successful in their studies, the hope of achieving their dreams.

For our volunteers, there is the hope of broadening their life experience, of learning and growing while contributing their time. For our coaches, there is the hope of getting better, of having a stimulating career and of seeing our athletes succeed.

For all Canadians there is the hope of living an active, healthy life, the hope of enhancing our quality of life and our society's well-being.

This bill is the commitment of the Government of Canada to the future of sport in our country.

It provides a renewed legal framework in keeping with the new reality. It updates our goals and priorities. It reaffirms our values and principles. It reflects the cultural richness and diversity of our country.

I am very proud to submit this bill to the approval of the House for a healthy and sport-loving Canada.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the secretary of state noted, the bill will replace the 1961 Fitness and Amateur Sport Act with the physical activity and sport act. The purpose of the bill is to encourage, promote and develop sport and physical activity. The bill will also serve to strengthen the role the Government of Canada plays with regard to the promotion of physical activity and sport. The bill reinforces the importance of fitness and sport for the well-being of Canadians.

What impressed me is that I am told that 1,000 people from amateur and pro sports were involved in the creation of the bill. These included athletes, coaches and the provincial governments. From the information I received, it would seem that a very thorough job went into the drafting of the bill. Efforts to attain these goals will be made through the co-operation of federal and provincial governments, and private and public sector sport organizations.

In any bill of this type, we always look at what could possibly be unintended consequences. I have some difficulty in coming up with any unintended consequences on the horizon from this bill.

One of the objectives of this legislation is to increase the opportunity for involvement in sport from the amateur to the elite athlete. Hosting of major sporting events and promotion of the importance of physical activity are some of the avenues by which to attain more awareness of the importance of physical activity. Commitment to the importance of sport and physical activity for all Canadians, as the secretary of state has mentioned, has wide-ranging benefits such as a reduction in health care costs, as well as social, economic and cultural benefits.

We see many situations in community organizations and recreational complexes where young people in particular, who otherwise would be engaged in activities which would be at best questionable, are engaged in good, strong physical activity when given the opportunity. I think particularly of the young men in our society who have energy to burn. I was one of them and I needed a constructive place to put it. This is the thrust of the bill and I see it as being very beneficial.

The other thing that impressed me with the bill is that the private sector will be encouraged to contribute to sports financially. We have looked at the advertising for the Olympics. Many corporate sponsors have become involved in the Olympics. Some of the shoulder sports, those sports that are not the focus of attention, certainly do not have the same kind of support as do figure skating or ice hockey. Nonetheless, the fact that the bill goes out of its way to encourage private sector contributions to sports financially is very positive. Groups that are not commonly represented in the sports field will be encouraged.

Drug free sports, ethics in sports and dispute resolutions are the prime objectives in the legislation.

The legislation will establish a non-profit sport dispute resolution centre in Canada. Coming from the Canadian Alliance side, I immediately asked how much it would cost and what the dollars and cents would be. In the department briefing I was told that the budget would be in the range of $1 million a year. From that there will be 10 full time equivalents.

In addition to acting as a collector and distributor of information, what appeals to me in a very big way is the dispute settlement aspect. If we are looking at an additional or new cost of $1 million, how can we justify that? There have been a total of about 40 disputes annually which have been very costly for the government. For example, the anticipated legal costs for Synchro Canada and Synchro Quebec are $50,000 for that one dispute alone. It does not take a lot of $10,000, $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 legal bills to equal $1 million.

The beauty of the dispute resolution centre as far as I am concerned is that we cannot call up the Olympics or the Commonwealth games and say to hold it a minute, we have a dispute here about the athletes we were thinking of sending and we cannot decide who is to go, so how about cancelling the Olympics for a couple of months until we can get this settled? It is not only a case of dollars and cents. There is a very practical issue. When there is a dispute between athletes as to who should be going, when there is a dispute between organizations as to who should be representing them, when there is a dispute perhaps between athletic organizations and coaching organizations, which right now end up at a rate of 40 annually, there is no relatively simple way to be able to clear them.

What I am taking a look at is that speedy dispute resolution and the fact that the bill specifically sets out this dispute organization, so I am looking forward to the dispute centre being able to resolve these issues and then the number of issues that would end up before the courts would really be quite minuscule.

Clause 16 of the bill states:

The directors, other than the executive director, are not entitled to be paid any remuneration, but are entitled to be paid such reasonable travel and other expenses incurred by them in connection with their duties or functions under this Act as may be fixed by the by-laws of the Centre.

Again, I am taking a look at the fact that on the surface, and I am trusting the government on this one, it appears as though we have a cost effective way of using the dollars that are currently being spent to settle disputes. It seems like a way of using those same dollars, perhaps fewer dollars, to set up this sports centre, and furthermore, the directors, other than the executive director, will not be entitled to be paid. We are talking about volunteers.

As well, paragraph 17(1)(i) states as an objective:

the establishment of mediation and arbitration procedures for resolving sport disputes, including a mechanism for determining the manner in which the parties may select an arbitrator or mediator and the language, according to the needs of the parties, in which the parties may be heard and the decision rendered;--

It seems to me that the bill is quite thorough and looks at all the details.

Clause 18, about the chairperson, states:

The Minister, after consulting with the directors, other than the executive director, shall designate one of them as chairperson to hold office during good behaviour for any term of not more than three years. The chairperson may be designated for not more than two consecutive terms and may be removed by the Minister for cause.

Subclause 21(2) states:

The executive director holds office during good behaviour for a term of not more than five years, which term may be renewed for one or more further terms, but may be removed by the Minister for cause.

As I am going through the bill, it seems to me that unless there is something that does not jump off the page I actually have to give the Liberals a compliment. That is a terrible thing for a member of the opposition to do. I am getting frowns from all my colleagues.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

An hon. member

Security, remove this man.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Yes, “security, remove this man”, my Alliance colleague says.

The fact of the matter is that I have always said when the government finally gets around to doing something that is positive and that is good, I will say it is positive and it is good. I am in support of Bill C-54. I will be recommending to my colleagues that we pass this at second reading to go to committee for further consideration.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak today in the House in connection with Bill C-54, an act to promote physical activity and sport.

Initially, this bill appears to be laudable and its objectives desirable. We are in favour of the bill in principle, provided there is no encroachment on the jurisdictional areas of Quebec and the provinces, and provided there is explicit compliance with the Official Languages Act in the preamble of the bill in question.

The Bloc Quebecois shares the view expressed in Bill C-54, that physical activity is important and must be encouraged. It has countless benefits, both medical and social. Everyone is familiar with the saying about a healthy mind in a healthy body. This is a goal that it is legitimate to aim at, and in particular to maintain. That is why we must have the means at our disposal to achieve that goal.

In the preamble to the bill, it is stated that the Government of Canada recognizes that physical activity and sport are integral parts of Canadian culture and society and produce obvious benefits to health and socialization. Those benefits go further than that. There are some very important economic and structural benefits as well.

It is true that these impacts are hard to analyze because some of them are indirect and evaluating them is a complex process. A number of naysayers will be quick to say that physical activity and sport are not cost-effective. Based on what exactly? How can they justify this conclusion solely on the basis of how profitable a stadium for a professional team is? This is so illogical as to be ridiculous. Sport cannot be summed up in terms of profits and dividends.

In fact, we believe the total opposite. The beneficial effects of physical activity and sport are palpable as we all know. It is simple: a person who engages in physical activity or sport will, without a doubt, have an opportunity to significantly decrease his or her health problems. A healthy person takes less sick leave, is more productive, and so on. This ideal scenario will, obviously, not happen all by itself, however. It is therefore very important to set some guideposts for intervention, in order to attain this simplified outcome. This is what seems to come out of an examination of Bill C-54.

There are dual target groups. First of course there is the elite athletes and then there are all the rest of us ordinary folk.

When we look at the general public in terms of participation in physical activity, we still have a lot of work to do. It seems that we will have to review the meaning of participation. Individual interests are so varied that it will be difficult to involve all Canadians and Quebecers in this project to promote physical activity.

There are health problems that are the direct result of decreasing physical activity in North America. We are less and less active. Moreover, we have all noticed that obesity among children is on the rise. It is cause for concern, and we must do something about this situation before it is too late.

I am wondering why that is. The ParticipAction program was known to all Canadians, but this government decided to put an end to it last year.

Now that we know what the objectives are, let us hope that money will be transferred to the Government of Quebec to support Kino-Québec, a program that is still active in that province and the objectives of which are similar to the ones pursued in Bill C-54.

We must also look for the causes of this decrease in physical activity. One would think that television, video games and computer games are the main culprits, but we must look further. It would be too easy to stop there.

Is it because of insufficient access to equipment? Is it because of a lack of equipment? Is it because of a lack of coaches? Let us not forget the lack of information and insufficient media coverage of many disciplines.

It is important then to look at the appropriateness of eliminating the Participaction program. We need this type of program; the fact that Kino-Québec still exists is proof.

I believe that the goals of the bill are commendable, on the condition that practical measures be taken to promote physical activity. I remain somewhat skeptical about this, given that the broadcast for the Paralympic Games was clearly deficient.

In fact, coverage of the Paralympic and Commonwealth Games was minimal, almost non-existent. A whole lot needs to be done to convince sedentary people to do physical activity. It is hard to attract people to physical activity that they have never seen. Because of this, I feel that there must be greater, broad and varied promotion of physical activity.

Take our elite athletes, we have watched them produce extraordinary, breathtaking performances on many occasions. Yet we must not forget that they are only the tip of the iceberg.

We need to stop and think a moment, and try to imagine the number of athletes who trained for years without making it to international competitions.

For each athlete who makes it to the podium, how many are standing in the wings? It is clear that we also have incredible potential.

The recent results at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City have helped us seize the potential of our athletes and coaches, despite the obvious lack of resources for many years. Our athletes' determination is exemplary, as is that of our coaches. We can only imagine what the results would have been if we had the required resources.

The contribution made by Quebec athletes to the Salt Lake City Games was remarkable, even exceptional, frankly. These young athletes demonstrate tremendous talent, but it must not deteriorate because of our lack of support, which they need.

The work required to prepare an olympic athlete is demanding and requires several years of training and concentration. It requires more than wishful thinking. It requires money, lots of money.

Every one of us, at some time or another, has wished to be an olympic athlete. This is a childhood dream that we have all had. Unless this dream has come true, we all hope today that our children will become olympians or paralympians.

But why have we not achieved our goal? Is it because of a lack of money? Is it because of old equipment? Is it because training centres are too far from home?

We all know the values acquired through the practice of sports, win or lose: persistence, discipline, effort, determination and sacrifice.

We all know as well the type of behaviour that is needed to pursue excellence. But we should not forget that excellence is not only getting a medal. Excellence is part in everyday life. That is where another target group comes in, the ordinary citizens.

We were all dreaming of olympic medals when we started in sports. Most of us have turned to other goals in life. But some had the opportunity to pursue their dream of winning and earning medals. And very few of them reached the podium.

Those who did have inspired us. Their performance has been a catalyst for sportsmanship. We thank them for that, and, because of that, we realize now that we should provide the tools needed to reach this goal to the greater number.

Ultimately, there is no difference between sports at the grassroots and excellence in sports. Elite athletes and the general public are closely related. All elite athletes began practising their sport in their backyard and neighborhood. That is why we should keep investing to support athletes, coaches, and officials.

This is why we must continue to improve existing infrastructures and invest in new ones. In short, we must do our utmost to promote the pleasure of competing in the respect of sport values.

Bill C-54 lists a number of objectives. These objectives are a wish list that will hopefully become reality.

The Bloc Quebecois hopes that these objectives will soon become practical measures that will allow our athletes to achieve their goals of excellence, and also measures that will promote public interest for sports and physical activity.

We believe that the government's intention is to promote physical and sports so as to improve the well-being and health of the public. We hope that this initiative will not come too late and that it will not infringe on the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces.

It is clear that there is a generation of athletes and coaches who were sacrificed because of the cuts made to the programs designed to support them.

We all know that an athlete, a coach or an official requires years of training and that such training must be continuous and be financially and structurally supported.

I can imagine the situation in which many athletes and coaches found themselves because of funding cuts. They had to make the hardest decision of their lives: either pursue their olympic dream and get into debt, or give up everything to earn a living and survive.

It was high time that this situation was corrected. The time for studies and committees is over. It is time to make the necessary funds available to athletes, coaches and officials, and also to the public, which is interested in improving its quality of life. Who knows, perhaps this will help a child fulfill his or her dream.

We are pleased to see that the government wants to encourage the Quebec, provincial and territorial governments to promote and develop sports. Let us hope that this will be achieved by making the necessary transfers of money to fulfill this objective and without infringing on the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces.

Under clause 7 of the bill, the minister may enter into contribution agreements with the Quebec and provincial governments. The Bloc Quebecois hopes that the government will set aside any intention to promote Canadian identity under this clause. I should point out that no reference is made to the notion of Canadian identity in this bill. We hope that it will be the same when the time comes to implement this legislation.

For a long time now, the Bloc Quebecois has been asking that athletes, coaches and officials be the main focus of any new policy on sports. Given the wording of this new bill, this seems to be the case. Consequently, we encourage the government to respect this non-political commitment.

Another mission that the heritage minister is assuming is to encourage the private sector to contribute to the development of sports. The Bloc Quebecois hopes that this contribution will also extend to physical activity. I believe there is room for development in this regard. Employers will surely understand their responsibility in promoting the benefits of physical activity.

As far as the private sector's contribution to the development of sports is concerned, we hope that it will be made with the best interests of athletes and coaches in mind, and not for the sole benefit of the private sector.

Much of this bill concerns the establishment of a sports dispute resolution centre. We believe that the establishment of such a centre is important. We believe that it will benefit Canadian sports federations as well as athletes and coaches who are members of these federations.

There have been examples, some of them very recent, where an athlete was severely penalized because the decision concerning a dispute was not made in time for him or her to take part in a competition.

Since the avenues for dispute resolution have so far been limited to common law courts, the delays, which dragged out the proceedings unduly, wore athletes down. We feel that the creation of this centre could greatly reduce delays.

We have also seen cases where a Canadian federation or an athlete has had to spend huge amounts of money because a dispute was being heard in a common law court, with all the attendant costs.

It is therefore to be hoped that the creation of this centre will provide a means of dispute resolution satisfactory to all the parties, the Canadian federations.

We are pleased to note that this not-for-profit centre will operate independently, without any form of interference from the government. We are also pleased to note that the purpose of this centre will be to encourage transparency in procedures and decision making. I would remind those listening that this is something the Bloc Quebecois has called for repeatedly in the House.

We cannot stress enough the need for a decision making process that is independent as well as impartial. As it is for a common law court, judicial independence is paramount. Parties must feel that the courts are free to think and act as they see fit.

The provisions of Bill C-54 appear to confirm this requirement for transparency and independence.

It remains to be seen whether the decisions of the centre's arbitrators or mediators will be final and not subject to appeal. The bylaws will set out the centre's modus operandi.

The Bloc Quebecois feels that, in the interests of fairness to everyone, appeals should be allowed. Right now, the decisions of arbitration boards can be appealed. Why should the approach be different for the centre?

The Bloc Quebecois thinks that the centre should deliver speedy decisions with the right of appeal. We think that this is the way to protect everyone's rights.

Since the parties will have first appeared before an arbitrator or mediator, they will have been in a position to assess the outcome of an appeal. We think that the fact that arbitrators and mediators will come from the sports community augurs well.

We wish to emphasize, however, that the centre's clientele will be limited to the Canadian federations and their members. The jurisdictions of Quebec and of the provinces will therefore not be affected in disputes involving Quebec federations.

We feel that the centre's modus operandi should be based on Quebec's Code of Civil Procedure provisions concerning arbitration by lawyers.

Pursuant to section 382 of Quebec's Code of Civil Procedure, a case is referred to arbitration only when the parties ask for a dispute to be resolved. We believe it would be appropriate to do the same for the center being created through Bill C-54.

We insist that the requirements set out in section 386 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which states that the arbitrators must make their award in writing, be applied.

The 30 day period provided in section 387 of the Code of Civil Procedure should be included in the administrative regulations of the centre, as should the homologation of the award or decision.

As I said previously, it is essential that all decisions be subject to appeal before a regular court of law. This is specified in section 393 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which states “The award, when homologated, may be appealed like any judgment of the Superior Court”.

We cannot understand why the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre should be subject to rules different from those now in force in Quebec, in the area of arbitration.

In fact, the Bloc Quebecois insists that the goals and missions provided for in this bill be achieved in a context of total respect for the jurisdictions of Quebec, the other provinces and the territories. We are adamant about that and will continue to be. It is a fundamental requirement which is self-evident.

We would remind hon. members that the federal government has always recognized Quebec's responsibility as far as recreation and health are concerned. It did so back in 1987 with the National Recreation Statement.

Some of the provisions of Bill C-54 could be implemented in a way that would be satisfactory to all. One example of this: Clause 5( j j), which refers to bursaries and fellowships. As we are all aware, this is an area of wholly Quebec and provincial jurisdiction.

The Bloc Quebecois therefore recommends the transfer of the funds earmarked for this to the Government of Quebec so that it may apply them via programs already in place. As a result, the duplication and redundancy that generally results from such overlap would be avoided.

In fact, we recommend that all the whereas statements in the preamble reflect this respect of jurisdictions, with a view to avoiding needless and pointless friction between the various levels of government.

It is also essential and vital for this bill to state explicitly that the Official Languages Act must be formally applied, and applied to all of its provisions. This must be stated in the preamble to the bill.

The act must therefore be implemented as part of the regular activities of the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada created by Bill C-54.

We believe that this is an opportunity to set things straight. Certain issues of course affect all of Canada, but there are others that are closely tied to the French fact. Moreover, the Commissioner of Official Languages has reported on this.

We hope that these recommendations will be followed and implemented in the very near future, and that this bill will be the vehicle for dong so. It is very logical for these recommendations to be implemented as soon as possible. Numerous French speaking athletes have been penalized by the lack of respect for the French fact. Another generation must not suffer the same fate.

In fact, the exodus of French speaking athletes is a result of the lack of resources earmarked for sports facilities. Lacking what they need, our athletes have often been forced into exile in the west to perfect their craft. This exodus has a devastating effect on Quebec.

As far as the elite athletes are concerned, some measures have been put into place, but there are still too many shortcomings. This is why young athletes and coaches who have risen to a high level end up going west when their striving for excellence goes beyond what is available to them in Quebec.

During the regional conferences, it was mentioned that we need a plan to correct the situation and train high level athletes and coaches in Quebec, and train them in French, to meet the needs of the French speaking community. Another way to correct this unfair situation is to help with major events so that we have international exposure for the potential that exists in Quebec.

We have all seen that there is a great potential in Quebec, but our help is needed. As a matter of fact, all athletes and coaches now need our help.

Some people are talking about a lost generation, and others of future generations that will not have the time to develop their full potential. Clearly, the training of Olympic and Paralympic athletes takes years. About ten years, actually. Is it too late? It is never too late. If we are to succeed, the Canadian heritage minister and the secretary of state for amateur sport must not hold the athletes back, but give them a free hand so that they can get to the finish line first. We have been holding them back too long. It is about time we did something to help them.

The Canadian heritage minister and the secretary of state for amateur sport should respect the jurisdictions of all levels of government. Instead of consulting, the minister should have discussions on an implementation plan with her counterparts in Quebec and the other provinces and territories, because they are the ones who know best the needs and aspirations of their athletes and coaches.

Through discussions, an agreement could be reached on a shared strategy to be followed and on the specific challenges to each of them, all this while respecting their jurisdictions.

The preamble states that the federal government wishes to encourage cooperation with the Government of Quebec, among the various governments, the physical activity and sport communities and the private sector. It specifies that this encouragement is for the purpose of coordinating their promotion efforts.

Again, we would like to point out that there needs to be more than co-operation; there must be ongoing and sustained discussions in order to succeed. In fact, we believe that the first efforts at coordination must be done between the Government of Quebec and the different levels of government before involving the private sector.

As regards the private sector, the government must ensure that all disciplines of sport be respected. In other words, the private sector must support all events in all disciplines, instead of investing in the careers of a few athletes that have obtained good results. In doing so, our athletes and coaches will get what they deserve in the end, real support, both financial and social.

We understand that this will only produce real results if we conduct a serious and determined review of our philosophy toward our athletes and coaches. We also need to review our attitude toward physical activity.

Another part of the preamble refers to increasing awareness among Canadians of the significant benefits of physical activity and the practice of sport; this must also respect Quebec's jurisdiction and that of the other levels of government. These means involving various departments. I am referring, among others, to the those of health and education.

We wish to reiterate the need for ongoing discussions with counterparts from Quebec, the provinces and territories. As we mentioned earlier, the only way we will be able to raise awareness is if we overcome the current media coverage shortcomings.

This means that there will have to be more diversity in the media coverage. I believe that it is appropriate for the Minister of Canadian Heritage and the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport to intervene in this regard.

Bill C-54 then states the objectives and the related measures to achieve the objectives set out in the preamble. First, it mentions research and studies on physical activity and sport. Our first comment is as follows: we all need to do more.

I hope it is not the intention of the minister and the secretary of state to prolong the process under this bill by ordering studies. The needs are well known. What is required is action.

The bill refers to national and regional conferences. We believe that it is the meetings between the Quebec, provincial and territorial counterparts that will prove most productive.

Clause 5( c ) provides for the recognition of achievement in respect of physical activity and sport by the granting of certificates or other awards of merit. Respecting the French language could be included as a criterion.

Clause 5( g ) provides for the support of projects and programs related to physical activity or sport. We believe that, indeed, there must be significant support, provided such support takes the form of transfers of money to the Quebec, provincial and territorial governments that already have programs for such purposes.

Clause 5( i ) makes reference to training. It must be pointed out that training comes under Quebec's jurisdiction. In order to avoid any interference, the federal government will have to give the related moneys to Quebec and the provinces. The same goes for clause 5( j ).

Based on the wording of clause 5( n ), it is obvious to us that it is through the transfer of funds to Quebec, the provinces and the territories that this objective will be successfully achieved.

We hope that the government will not try to do indirectly what it cannot do directly by using clause 6.

We think it is essential that this government respect the rights and interests of all athletes and coaches by defining specific criteria for financial assistance.

In short, I encourage the government to reach these objectives, but it must do so in the respect of everyone's rights. In order to do so, it will have to establish a permanent dialogue with Quebec, the provinces and the territories.

More importantly, we will have to change our attitude toward physical activity and see it as something beneficial, instead of a chore. This means that the government will have to ensure that all Canadians and Quebecers have access to sports facilities.

It goes without saying that there are issues much more important than sports in the world. However, we may be able to reduce animosity between individuals by making it easier for them to have access to activities that promote exchanges and co-operation.

As I said earlier, the values inherent in sport and physical activity are noble ones. The finest example is that of the Olympic Games, which bring together people from around the world with the goal of universal participation. This should be our goal.

Attaining it will require media coverage of all activities and sports, including, of course, the Paralympics.

The notion of profits must be set aside and equipment and coaches made available. Volunteer participation in these areas must be encouraged and recognized. Naturally, programs and projects must be decentralized. A community base for activities and sports must be built.

We must go back to fundamentals. We must encourage our children to play outside, to play in the backyard and in the neighbourhood. We must provide real support for our athletes, coaches and officials. The entire elite must be encouraged.

They must be given the financial and structural tools to attain their goal, whether or not it includes a medal.

We must applaud the efforts of our youth at school, in the gym, at the arena. We must applaud the efforts of the not so young who encourage our children. They too must be recognized, and not forgotten as they too often are.

In short, athletes, coaches, officials, our future athletes and our future coaches, must once again be a key consideration in these objectives and this policy on sport.

As I said earlier, the Bloc Quebecois supports the principles of this bill, provided, of course, that certain amendments are made regarding respect for the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces in the fields of recreation, training, education and health, and that there is specific reference in the preamble to Bill C-54 to systematic enforcement of the Official Languages Act.

Athletes, coaches, officials, the young and the not so young have repeatedly shown us that they have courage and pride. It is now up to us to show them that our hearts are in the right place.