House of Commons Hansard #208 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.


Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is certainly not for the Chair to anticipate what the mood of the House might be. However in terms of the proposition put forward by the secretary of state with regard to the hon. member for Toronto--Danforth, we might want to deal with that following the intervention of the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough and after we have gone around once. At that time possibly we could deal with the matter as to whether the member for Toronto--Danforth would need more time. Is that agreed?

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members


Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-54. It is always a pleasure to speak to a bill that I agree with. The bill is one that we have been in agreement with from the beginning. We have listened to the witnesses and listened to the amendments that were proposed in committee. We headed off a couple of mistakes within the committee amendment process but in the end we are satisfied that the bill is on the right track. It is not a guarantee of success but it is on the right track of promoting sport and physical fitness.

I recall the old ParticipAction ads that still stay with me to this day. I remember the challenge that the 60 year old Swede was in better shape than the 25 year old Canadian. I was probably about 25 when that ad was run on TV and now that I am closer to 60 than I am 25 it seems to hit home a bit. However, Canadians listened to the old participation type ads that encouraged them to get physically fit.

A good friend from my riding, Doug Grimson, has shown me over the years what value there is in a life of physical fitness, not only because one remains healthier which means fewer visits to the doctor and so on, but what an active lifestyle one can have when one is physically active and fit. For Doug everything is a challenge waiting to be taken on with full vigour. That includes biking 100 miles, running a half marathon, playing squash, tennis, or whatever, it does not matter. Doug is up for it. Last year he wore out both of his knees so doctors had to scope both knees. He was in respite care for about two weeks and then he was right back at it. I am sure he will wear them out again.

Examples like that are encouraging to me and they should be encouraging to all of us who realize the benefits of physical fitness. While it may be enjoyed by people like Doug and many others, lack of physical activity is a growing problem in Canada. We must wrestle with this as a country. As a wealthy western country we increasingly have a problem with inactivity and obesity.

On August 14, 2001, there was an article in the National Post that quoted Dr. Mackie from the British Columbia Medical Association. It stated:

Dismayed by Canada's obese youth, the British Columbia Medical Association will propose today that the federal government restore a full-fledged minister for sports and fitness...Dr. Mackie said a lack of federal support for childhood fitness is to blame for an increase in injury, prolonged recovery times and obesity.

“We're seeing the kids coming into their early teens 20 to 30 pounds overweight. It's terrible, and it's happening right under our eyes,” Dr. Mackie said. “There's a lot of sitting kids who don't do much”.

That call for a full time, full-fledged minister for sports and fitness was a call to arms from the BCMA. I am pleased to see that we are bringing together under one minister all the activities of amateur sport and physical activity. We are taking from different areas, some from health, some from sport, and some from heritage, and bringing them together under one ministry. Here we can do our best as a federal parliament to work with the provinces, health authorities and others to wrestle with a growing problem in Canada.

Obesity rates have tripled in Canada since 1985 to 1998. New research in April indicated that 57% of Canadian young people are so sedentary that they are harming their health. That is over 50% of our kids who are not getting enough physical activity. I would like to blame it all on the kids but 63% of adults were too sedentary to look after their own health. In other words we are not setting a good example and the nation as a whole is suffering for it in our health bills and in our ability to lead as productive and enjoyable lives as we can.

Another Statistics Canada study points out that the participation in sports among Canadians 15 and older dropped from 45% in 1992 to 34% today. That is an incredible drop in participation rates. Doctors are warning again about the number of hours kids sit in front of TVs, and now TVs and computers, and their participation rate in sports has dropped accordingly. The Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute reported in 2000 that the physical activity levels of Canadians increased from 1981 to 1995 but the participation rate has stalled and slipped backwards.

The bill is timely. Canadians understand that we must do something about this. We are a wealthy nation but with that wealth comes responsibility to look after ourselves, to do our part to be physically fit and look after our own health as best we can, and a good part of that has to do with physical activity.

One objective of Bill C-54 is to increase the opportunities for involvement in sports from the amateur to the elite athlete level. The physical activity policy in section 3 of Bill C-54 states:

  1. The objectives of the Government of Canada's policy regarding physical activity are:

(a) to promote physical activity as a fundamental element of health and well-being;

(b) to encourage all Canadians to improve their health by integrating physical activity into their daily lives; and

(c) to assist in reducing barriers faced by all Canadians that prevent them from being active.

I wish to thank the minister for identifying all Canadians as just that. We want to reduce barriers that impede the ability of Canadians to have productive, full and enjoyable elements of physical activity in their lives. We did not get carried away with any of the political correctness either. We just said all Canadians because that covers everyone. We all need to find ways to be active, to reduce barriers that may be in place whether they are physical, language or cultural barriers. It is in the interests of all Canadians to ensure we are physically active. The minister did a good job of drafting the language in the legislation to ensure that we did not pander to anyone but that we included all Canadians.

It was interesting that some of the witnesses before the committee pointed out that the participation rates for women were less than men in organized sports. The women who testified before the committee said that as long as we addressed this by calling for improvements and reducing barriers for all Canadians we would not have to get gender specific because that would include women and they would be satisfied with the language. The minister and the committee did the right thing by adopting that inclusive language.

The Canadian sports policy is designed to increase participation in the practice of sport, support the pursuit of excellence in sport and build capacity in the Canadian sport system. In order to meet these objectives Bill C-54 would give the minister power to participate in a number of activities, including: arranging for national and regional conferences in respect of physical activity and sport, that would be the leadership role that we would expect the minister to take; working with provincial counterparts and sports organizations from coast to coast; preparing and distributing information related to physical activity and sport; undertaking or supporting any projects or programs related to physical activity and sport; and providing bursaries or fellowships to assist individuals to pursue excellence in pursuit.

As always, the cream will rise to the top, but we must provide ways to skim that cream off and ensure it gets the type of assistance and leadership for Canada to excel. Those elite athletes become role models not just for our youth but for us all. We become inspired. We participate at greater rates when our elite athletes do well in any of the international and national forum.

Some of the most moving moments in the House have been the times we have had the Olympic athletes come in on the floor of the House where we could laud them and give them their due. To see those athletes proudly displaying their medals and showing their eagerness to promote their sport is inspiring. Our congratulations to them is also heartfelt. Those athletes do more than just win medals, they inspire a nation. As we promote excellence, provide bursaries and fellowships to those individuals and coaches I hope the minister will find increased ways to ensure that meritorious athletes get to the top.

We want to encourage the promotion of sport as a tool of individual and social development in Canada and in co-operation with other countries abroad. That should not be underestimated. We take national pride in our traditional sports, whether it be men's or women's hockey, for example, or whether we come home with Olympic medals and world championships. We also take pride when we are part of the community of nations showing the Canadian flag and participating in events from the Commonwealth Games to la Francophonie, to championships large and small around the world.

There is something about that participation in sport between nations that builds rapport and creates opportunities to build into those nations some of our values as well. For example, every year between Christmas and New Year's in Chilliwack for the last 40 or 50 years people come from Seattle and all over the Pacific northwest to come to the peewee jamboree. Sport is a great tool for social and individual development.

We want to encourage, and this important, the private sector to contribute financially to the development of sport. Increasingly we see public-private partnerships in all levels of government activity. Sports will be no different. There is a huge private component to sports. The majority of funding and community effort is at the private sector level and will continue to be so. We do not pretend we will fund it all from this parliament.

On the other hand we want to find ways to laud those private sector partners. They would help us develop sport, increase participation and give us money to ensure that happens at the community level. They are a great partner and we need to ensure that we do what we can to involve them at every level.

Finally, this will encourage and support an alternative dispute resolution centre for sport. This is an important thing. It is not a sidebar but an important part of the bill. The mission of the centre is:

to provide to the sport community

(a) a national alternative dispute resolution service for sports disputes; and

(b) expertise and assistance regarding alternative dispute resolution.

I believe the establishment of this centre is a positive step forward because there are an increasing number of cases to settle on the sports dispute side. Currently there are limited mechanisms to settle disputes and athletes have requested a centre like this, but not just the athletes, certainly the national organizations as well.

When we think of it, athletes often are getting by on a shoestring budget and when there is a dispute with a national body, Sports Canada or a national organization and they feel something has gone awry and they have not been treated fairly, what are they to do? There are examples even in the last year or two of where trying to settle a dispute through the courts might cost an athlete $40,000 or $50,000. They do not have that kind of money and it is time consuming. The courts, while they will settle it, often do not have the expertise in sports dispute settlements like this so they make the best of a bad situation.

This centre, while it will be optional for athletes and organizations to participate in it, will develop expertise and soon, I am sure and would hope, a reputation as the go-to organization to help arbitrate and settle any disputes of a sports nature. I hope and believe that the way it is set up this will happen.

It is perhaps for a good reason that all 12 directors of the centre who will be appointed will work as volunteers. These will be people who have expertise in this area. They will work as volunteers and bring their expertise to bear. They will hire an executive director of their choosing to put together a whole system that will help athletes and organizations across the country.

The bill provides for the establishment of a code of ethics for directors, officers and employees of this centre as well as for arbitrators and mediators who provide dispute settlement services under the auspices of the centre. There has been a lot of talk in this place about the need for a good ethics code and a good ethics package that everyone understands going in. The bill would establish that right from the get-go.

The bill also stipulates that the board of directors shall establish an audit committee to go over the affairs of the centre. It would:

(a) require the Centre to implement and maintain appropriate internal control procedures;

(b) review, evaluate and approve those internal control procedures;

(c) [audit]...the Centre's annual financial statements and report to the Centre before these statements are approved by the board of directors;

(d) meet with the Centre's auditor to discuss the Centre's annual financial statements and the auditor's report; and

(e) meet to discuss the effectiveness of the internal control procedures.

In other words, although these directors may be volunteers, and I am sure they already are busy people, they will have big responsibilities to make sure that the centre acts appropriately.

As well:

The accounts and financial transactions of the Centre shall be audited annually by an independent auditor designated by the board of directors, and a written report of the audit shall be made to that board.

I believe that there are enough control systems in place to make sure that not only will the centre do its work well but it will have a good reporting mechanism that we can all have a look at to make sure that things are going well.

Finally, I have pointed out in committee that there is one thing we are a little unsure of as of yet even though we agree with the mandate that is given in the bill. We agree with the increased role for the minister of physical fitness and sport. He will be running more than 10 kilometres in order to prepare for this new role. However, we do want to make sure that all auspices of sports and physical activity come under his aegis. Right now they are broken into different ministries and often get shortchanged because all bureaucrats and ministers want to hold all these things unto themselves. We end up with the health department demanding control of certain parts and the heritage department others. It is always a problem when conflicting ministries perhaps have the same objectives but there is no one person that can be consulted and held accountable both in the House and in the country.

The minister of sport and physical activity is going to have an increasing amount of accountability for what is going on under his watch. We hope that he will be able to pull those components out of the different ministries and make sure that they come under his control so that we have one go-to guy on the ministry side and that in turn he can get the job done because he will have control of both the purse strings and the programs.

It is a little unclear at this time exactly what the funding levels will be. Again that is something that came out in committee. I am not sure how many dollars are involved for the centre or for the fellowships, bursaries and so on that may come forward from this. We will look forward to the upcoming budgets to see exactly how that will be done. Of course we want to make sure that it is an adequate amount, but obviously there is a limited amount that can be put to any one program. We want to make sure that there is an adequate amount for this important activity and that if it is taken out of other ministries like health their budgets are decreased while funds are transferred over for sports funding.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate our support for the bill. We think it is on the right track. We do encourage all levels of government to get involved and to stay involved during the consultative process. Part of the mandate of the minister is to meet with provincial counterparts, with everyone from the BCMA to the national sports organizations, which I hope will find a ready listener in the minister. As the centre comes together, I am sure that the minister will be called before committees and the House to make sure it is done properly and athletes and sports organizations are well served.

Is it not ironic that Canadians have to wrestle with this problem of a wealthy nation that loses its ability to stay healthy because it becomes sedentary? We simply have to grapple with this. We could wish it were different, and I wish it were. I saw an article the other day about the need to send kids to what are called fat farms. This is a sad thing. There is so much wealth and so much opportunity in the country to allow people to just sit back and enjoy too many Twinkies that they are ruining their health through inactivity. We have to do what we can here at the federal level to make sure that we turn that around. Our country's population is aging, but the habits established in our youth often affect our health right into our old age.

Again, I do support the bill. I encourage the minister in his work. I think we will find that it is one of those things where he will find broad, all party support for the need for the bill and for the need for the minister to be not just physically active but very active politically in the realm of amateur sport and physical fitness. I wish him well and I do hope that the centre and the activities that are described in the bill are successful in getting Canadians off the couch and into a life of activity.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders



Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the Bloc Quebecois critic for amateur sport, I rise today to address Bill C-54, an act to promote physical activity and sport.

Since the beginning, we have felt that the objectives of this bill are worthwhile and even desirable. We said that we were in favour of the bill in principle, provided there is explicit compliance with the Official Languages Act.

It goes without saying that all Bloc Quebecois members, like all parliamentarians here, feel that physical activity is important and must be promoted through the implementation of practical and feasible measures.

The stakeholders who appeared before the committee spoke about the numerous benefits of physical activity, both from a medical and social point of view. This is a legitimate goal but, more importantly, one that must be maintained once achieved.

The government measures that will result from this bill must be real, immediate, and they must be designed for the general public, without any discrimination at all.

The Bloc Quebecois has insisted since the beginning that the Official Languages Act must be more than respected. Its provisions must be complied with in a real and systematic way.

In the preamble to Bill C-54, it is stated that physical activity and sport are integral parts of Canadian culture and society and produce obvious benefits in terms of health and social development.

We hope that the economic, structural and cultural benefits will be just the roots of the effects of this bill in the very long term. The medical benefits are numerous and significant. People who engage in a physical activity or sport tend to rely less on health care services.

From an economic point of view, there is, in addition to the spinoffs of special and international events, higher productivity for employees who engage in physical activity or sport.

Now that the health, social cohesion and participation objectives have been identified, we must immediately develop specific initiatives to achieve these benefits. We hope that this is what will actually come out of the implementation of the measures included in Bill C-54, considering its stated goals.

We have already mentioned that this bill is aimed at two target groups. First, of course, the elite athletes and then all the rest of us ordinary folk.

On numerous occasions, we have witnessed extraordinary and breathtaking performances by our elite athletes, but now we need to look more closely into their situation.

In 1999 the Bloc Quebecois filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Official Languages, asking her to investigate the problematic situation of francophone athletes. The Commissioner of Official Languages found that the allegations contained in the complaint were founded. The commissioner issued a full report in 2000.

In her report, the Commissioner of Official Languages provided the results of extensive research on the use of French and English in the Canadian sport system. The commissioner came to the conclusion that not only did the selection process for Canadian teams constitute a serious barrier for francophone athletes, but that the problem arose well before even an athlete reached the point of competing to be selected as one of the final team members. This problem has existed for many years, and it is high time we act to ensure that the rights of francophone athletes are respected, and that they receive services and coaching in the language of their choice.

For a long time now, the Bloc Quebecois has been demanding the implementation of the 16 recommendations contained in the official language commissioner's report, two years ago. We are still calling for their immediate implementation, as I mentioned yesterday. In fact, recognition of the problems faced by francophone athletes has been at the heart of the demands we have made both here in the House and in the sub-committee on sport since the beginning.

The official languages commissioner is clear: English and French are far from having equal status in Canadian sport.

With the introduction of Bill C-54, the Bloc Quebecois is entitled to request that the official language commissioner's recommendations be formally implemented and, in particular, that they be explicitly included in the bill.

The Bloc Quebecois therefore calls for legislative recognition of the formal implementation of the Official Languages Act.

How many francophone athletes have trained for years but not made it to international level competitions because of the language barrier?

The answer, unfortunately, is far too many. From the very beginning, the Bloc Quebecois has repeatedly called on the government to respect francophone athletes and trainers, who must master the English language, in addition to their particular sport.

Our request is entirely legitimate. We want to remind the government that 12 of the 16 recommendations were supposed to be implemented by April 1, 2001. None of the 16 recommendations has been implemented, and this is regrettable. Let us hope that all this will change as of today.

Yet these recommendations reflected a reality too blatant too ignore. In her first recommendation, the official languages commissioner asked Sport Canada to review the official languages goals of the sport funding framework.

It is therefore up to Sport Canada to require Canadian sport federations to simply eliminate the barriers facing our francophone athletes.

The commissioner's second recommendation was that Sport Canada systematically monitor implementation of the official languages goals, in a funding context, by April 1, 2001.

The next recommendation was that Treasury Board review its audit methodology in order to ensure control of program compliance.

Next, the commissioner recommended a complete and exhaustive review of the language requirements of positions in the Athlete Assistance Program.

Fifth, she recommended that official languages requirements be met at major games.

Sixth, the official languages commissioner recommended a review of the language requirements of management positions.

The report talked about reviewing the allocation of responsibilities among program officers in order to ensure that client organizations are served in the official language of their choice. It was strongly recommended that Sport Canada work with national sport organizations to ensure that they adopt appropriate policy statements on official languages.

It was also recommended that there be a review of the linguistic capability of the staff of national sport organizations, and that such capability become a Sport Canada requirement.

The commissioner also recommended that Sport Canada review sport organizations' official languages budgets.

Then, it was a matter of studying the feasibility of providing centralized linguistic services such as translation to sport organizations, either through government programs or through a non-governmental organization which could assume this mandate.

The twelfth recommendation addressed working with national sport organizations to identify the first official language of national team coaches by April 1, 2001.

The next recommendation dealt with distribution of technical manuals for coach education in both official languages.

The fourteenth is about ensuring that some members of the coaching group responsible for national teams have a knowledge of both official languages.

The next COL recommendation related to these same requirements for pedagogical material.

Finally, the commissioner felt it was important that medical services be provided in both official languages. We feel it is necessary to repeat all these recommendations because, although the report dates back to the year 2000, it has taken the government more than two years to react.

Although it did introduce a bill in the House of Commons, it took the insistence of the Bloc Quebecois to get respect of both official languages to be entrenched in legislation from now on.

Our athletes and coaches have to perform miracles because of the flagrant lack of resources that has gone on far too long already. We were all proud of their performances at the latest Olympic Games, in Salt Lake City.

Just imagine what the outcome would have been if they had had the appropriate resources. Just imagine what it would have been if francophone athletes and coaches had had decent access to services and to Canadian team selection.

We are all aware of the exceptional performances by Quebec athletes in these games. They must be multi-talented, as they need to have not only mastered their sport discipline, but the English language as well.

This vicious circle absolutely must end. The time is past when francophone athletes and coaches had to accept this. The time for balance is finally here. The authorities have had ample time to react to the official languages commissioner's report. Now is time for action.

The Bloc Quebecois has called for formal respect, entrenched in law, of both official languages, for as long as is necessary. We are pleased with the results we have observed so far. We shall be watching to ensure that implementation in future is real and tangible.

Merely stating that the Official Languages Act applies is not sufficient. This act has been in place for quite some time, and there are still far too many Canadian sports federations that do not yet comply with it.

Another barrier encountered by francophone athletes and coaches is the lack of vision among Canadian broadcasters. Radio-Canada does not meet the needs and expectations of athletes, coaches or amateur sports fans.

Radio-Canada has a shameful record when it comes to broadcasting events related to amateur athlete performances. It is nonexistent. Radio-Canada does not fulfill its obligations toward Quebecers and francophones outside Quebec, and this is unacceptable.

Quebecers and francophones outside Quebec recently experienced this when Radio-Canada decided to end a 50 year tradition and stop broadcasting La Soirée du hockey . Imagine what it must be like for Quebecers and francophones outside Quebec. This decision only worsens an already difficult situation.

The role of Radio-Canada is to promote physical activity and amateur sport, but it would rather turn its back on our athletes and coaches who are, let us acknowledge it, international in calibre. It takes years of work and concentration to train an olympic calibre athlete.

This requires more than wishful thinking. It requires money, lots of money. However, our athletes also need visibility. It is incumbent upon Radio-Canada to carry out its broadcasting duties across Canada, and in particular in Quebec, so that Quebecers can see what is happening and watch their athletes.

It is the government's job to ensure that the crown corporation takes its responsibilities seriously. The media coverage of the Paralympic Games or the Commonwealth Games was minimal, almost nonexistent. It is already a tough sell attracting sedentary viewers to physical activity.

However, it is difficult to attract people's attention to something they are unaware of. If the public is not aware of sport events taking place here, then it should come as no surprise that they are becoming more and more sedentary, and also obese.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that the promotion of physical activity must be increased, varied and more widely broadcast. Is the problem a lack of money? Yes. Decrepit equipment? Yes. Are training centres too far from where athletes live? Yes.

Here we have before us a tool that will help correct these incomprehensible situations. The values that sport and physical activity promote are commendable, even essential.

We are talking about perseverance, discipline, effort, determination and sacrifice. We know the problems. We now have a tool. So let us go forward and rectify what has deserved to be for too long.

Excellence is not limited to medals, we all know that. Through the effective implementation of the objectives of Bill C-54, we will finally be able to reach summits that were becoming increasingly unreachable.

Like you, Mr. Speaker, I have dreamed of an olympic medal. This is how many hopes are born among our young and not so young people. Most of us have given up on this goal, but we can now dream once again and we can finally tell our children that they too can dream about it.

Some were successful in achieving their goals, and they won medals. Yet, very few reach such heights. Only a very select group has reached the podium. These athletes are now our inspiration and we thank them for this. What we have learned from their feats is sportsmanship. We thank them for this also. They have made us realize that we must provide to the new generation of athletes the necessary tools to reach this goal. These tools must be provided to the greatest number of people possible.

As I was saying, there is no difference between sports at the grassroots and sports at the highest level. All elite athletes began practising their sport in their back yard or neighborhood park. This is why we must invest right now to support athletes and coaches. This is also why we must continue to improve the existing infrastructure and invest in new facilities.

So, the government must do its utmost to promote the pleasure of competing and engaging in a physical activity, in keeping with sport values and, of course, in compliance with the Official Languages Act.

We must also redesign our sport values and purposely include members of the public as full-fledged participants. Members of the subcommittee on sport all agreed that we still have a lot to learn about physical activity. We must review our definition of participation and we must do our utmost to promote participation.

Every Canadian knew about ParticipAction, but the program was eliminated by this government last year. The Bloc Quebecois hopes that the federal government will find it appropriate to consult its Quebec counterpart to discuss the benefits of the Kino-Québec program and that it will follow its example.

We also hope that the related moneys will be transferred to the Quebec government to promote Kino-Québec. It is to be noted that the objectives of this Quebec program are similar to those of Bill C-54. It would be appropriate to have consultations and initiate discussions on this issue.

We have all wondered about why people lose interest in physical activity. Some say that television, video games or computer games are the main causes. But we must look further; it would be too easy to stop there. There is a lack of access to facilities. We now have the tool to correct this situation. Therefore, let us move forward and allow general access to sport facilities. This is part of promoting public participation.

Also, there are not enough facilities. Again, let us move forward and correct this shortage. Since 1976, very few new sport facilities have been built in Quebec and the federal government has not been involved at all. We also need more coaches. We must act now to correct this whole situation, and I think we can do so with this bill.

The goals of this bill are commendable, but we should ensure we have specific measures to promote physical activity. For example, we should review what is going on in the media in terms of broadcasting and promotion, because we have all seen that the coverage of the paralympics was clearly deficient, if not totally absent.

Bill C-59 spells out its purpose in several goals. These goals could be nothing but wishful thinking, but we hope they will be achieved quickly.

We think that achieving these goals will help all athletes reach for excellence, and that they will also encourage the public to engage in sports and physical activity.

Clearly, the government's intention is to promote physical activity and sport in order to improve the health and well-being of people. But the government should carefully avoid infringing on the jurisdictions of Quebec, the provinces and the territories.

Athletes and coaches, for a whole generation, have been the victims of drastic cuts in grants and assistance programs.

The Bloc Quebecois hopes this bill signals the end of these cuts and the start of real investment in physical activity and sport.

Training an athlete or a coach takes many years of hard work. This training must be uninterrupted, with financial and structural support. The Bloc Quebecois hopes this bill will provide both forms of support.

We hope that never again will an athlete or a coach have to go through such a situation or face funding cuts. It would be too unfair for an athlete to be faced with the hardest decision of their life: pursue his or her dream and go into debt, or give it up to earn a living and survive.

This should never happen again. As we have said, the time for studies and committees is over. It is time to put the necessary money to work for athletes and coaches, but also for the public, which wants to improve its quality of life.

The Bloc Quebecois wants to encourage the government to put in place as quickly as possible a mechanism for working together with the Government of Quebec and the provincial governments in order to promote and develop sport and physical activity.

We hope that this will be achieved by making the transfers needed to achieve these goals, with care taken not to interfere in the jurisdiction of Quebec, or of the provinces and territories.

Clause 7 of the bill allows the minister to enter into agreements with the Government of Quebec, and the provincial and territorial governments for the payment of contributions in respect of costs incurred. We are confident that the government will drop any intention of promoting the Canadian identity in implementing this clause.

The Bloc Quebecois has long requested that athletes and coaches be the core focus of any policy on sport. This is what we see in the wording of the bill. We therefore encourage the government to respect this apolitical commitment and to pursue this course.

The bill also gives the Minister of Canadian Heritage the mandate to encourage the private sector to contribute to the development of sport. This mandate needs to be expanded to include physical activity. It is up to the government to inform employers about their responsibilities with respect to the promotion of sport and physical activity.

Employers will soon reap the benefits of participation in physical activity. The private sector's contribution to the development of sport will be to put the best interests of athletes and coaches ahead of monetary goals.

Central to the bill is the creation of the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre. The Bloc Quebecois believes that the creation of such a centre is vital.

Obviously, this centre will be good both for Canadian sport federations and for the athletes and coaches who are members of them.

There were instances where an athlete has suffered a harsh and permanent penalty because the decision on the dispute was not made in time for him or her to take part in an important competition.

So far, the avenues for dispute resolution have been limited to common law courts. As we know, delays drag out because of abuse of process, resulting in athletes getting worn down. We believe that the creation of this center will help to greatly reduce delays.

In certain cases, Canadian sport federations or athletes were forced to spend enormous amounts of money because their case was brought before a common law court, with all the legal costs that entails. We hope that the creation of this dispute resolution centre will provide a means of dispute resolution satisfactory to Canadian sport federations and athletes.

We are pleased that this not-for-profit centre will operate at arm's length, without any king of interference from the government. We are also pleased that the purpose of this centre will be to encourage transparency in procedures and decision making. It should be noted that the Bloc Quebecois has called for that on numerous occasions in the House.

We must stress, however, the need for an impartial and independent decision-making process. As in the case of a common law court, judicial independence is essential and of utmost importance.

The parties must be able to see in the centre the appearance of impartiality and independence. In other words, the parties' perception should be that the judicial and extrajudicial proceedings show freedom of action and of thought. The wording of the provisions of Bill C-54 seems to confirm this requirement for transparency and independence.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that the centre must allow for rapid awards, while making appeals possible. In this way, we believe that everyone's rights will be protected. The right of appeal must be upheld.

Since the parties will have appeared before a mediator or an arbitrator first, they will be able to assess whether an appeal is warranted. Moreover, we think the fact that mediators and arbitrators come from the sport community is a good idea.

Only Canadian federations and their members will have access to the centre. By operating in this way, the jurisdictions of Quebec, of the provincesl and of the territories will not be affected. The internal rules will specify the terms and conditions under which the centre will carry out its mission. We favour the possibility of appeal in order to protect the fundamental right of representation before the courts. This is how the arbitration boards in Quebec operate at present.

It would be prudent and advisable to follow the guidelines found in Quebec's code of civil procedure to establish the procedural requirements for the internal management of the centre. In fact, these provisions should have been included in the act.

Under article 382 of the Code of Civil Procedure of Québec, a case is only referred to an arbitrator when the parties request that the dispute be resolved. We believe that the same should apply to the centre being established by Bill C-54.

Since the beginning, the Bloc Quebecois has been recommending that it be up to the athletes to resort to the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre. To respect the fundamental right to turn to the courts, it is essential that we specify that the decision to resort to this alternative is completely voluntary.

We continue to insist on compliance with the provisions of article 386 of the Code of Civil Procedure of Québec, which says that arbitrators must make their award in writing.

The 30 day time limit set out in article 387 of the Code of Civil Procedure of Québec should be included in the centre's bylaws, as well as the award homologation method.

We wish to reiterate the need to make every decision subject to an appeal mecanism before the common law courts. This is what article 393 of the Code of Civil Procedure of Quebec provides for, if that is what the parties want.

This article provides that, when homologated, the award may be appealed like any judgment of the superior court.

We feel obliged to point out that we still insist 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, particularly as far as training and bursaries are concerned. We are adamant about that and will continue to be. It is a fundamental requirement which is self-evident. We were told in committee that Quebec's jurisdictions would be respected.

The preamble states that the federal government wishes to encourage co-operation 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 between the Government of Quebec and the different levels of government before involving the private sector

To ensure that the jurisdictions of all levels of government are respected, instead of undertaking consultations, the Canadian heritage minister, through the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport, should set up issue tables in conjunction with her counterparts in Quebec and the provinces and territories, because they are the ones who know best the needs and aspirations of athletes and coaches.

Through such discussions, the stakeholders could agree on shared strategies to be followed and on the specific challenges, all this while respecting respective jurisdictions.

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. We are therefore asking for this to be continued.

The Bloc Quebecois therefore recommends the transfer of the funds earmarked for this bill to the Government of Quebec.

It will thus be able to apply them via programs already in place. As a result, the duplication and redundancy that generally results from such overlap would be avoided.

It would have been recommendable to have a specific whereas statement in the preamble to confirm 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 complied with in order to ensure that it is formally applied, and that all of its provisions are applied. This is now the case.

Compliance with the act must therefore be ipart of the regular activities of the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada created by Bill C-54.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that this is a good first step. We must then ensure that the bill will indeed be implemented. From now on, the Official Languages Act will be recognized in legislation. It was time that the situation was corrected.

Some of the challenges affect the whole country, given that they are closely related to the francophone reality. The Commissioner of Official Languages stated this in her report, as I mentioned earlier.

We hope that all of her recommendations will be implemented. It is important to follow up on these recommendations to ensure that they really do get implemented in the very near future.

It only makes sense that these recommendations be implemented as soon as possible. Many French speaking athletes have been penalized by the lack of respect for the French fact. Another generation must not suffer the same fate.

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. We have been feeling the effects for much too long.

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.

Athletes who are in exile testified at regional hearings and said 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 Quebec's potential gains international exposure.

The potential is there in Quebec, but it really needs our help. As a matter of fact, all athletes and coaches need our help now. Let us hope that the measures contained in Bill C-54 will adequately address these glaring flaws.

Some people are talking about a lost generation, and others of future generations that will not have time to develop their full potential. Clearly, the training of Olympic and Paralympic athletes takes years—some ten years, actually.

As regards the private sector, the government must ensure that all disciplines of sport are respected, as well as the diversity of physical activities.

The role of the private sector will be to support all events in all disciplines, instead of investing in the careers of a few athletes that have obtained good results. This will ensure that our athletes and coaches will get what they deserve in the end, real support, both financial and structural.

While this bill states a number of objectives, adequate financial resources are necessary to effectively meet needs and follow up on intentions.

In its brief, Sports-Québec indicated that the resources allocated to sport by the federal government were currently not nearly enough and that, unless they were increased, this bill would remain a utopia. We agree with this statement.

In fact, we support the recommendations submitted by Sports-Québec at the national sport summit, held in April 2001, in Ottawa. According to Sports-Québec, the budgets allocated to sport should be increased, with the exception of the moneys for professional sports and the organization of major games.

The proposed budgets are as follows: in 2002, it should have been 0.15% of the government's total budget; 0.2% in 2003; 0.3% in 2005, and 0.5% in 2008. These objectives are very reasonable. All that is needed is the government's will to support these figures, so that the real objectives of the bill can be achieved.

When they appeared before the committee, all the stakeholders shared their concerns about the growing needs of the sport community. Some said that there was no serious commitment on the part of the federal government regarding facilities.

This shortcoming has economic and social consequences on international sport events. The situation is even more critical for winter sports equipment.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that the results will be positive only if we compeltely rethink our philosophy toward athletes and coaches. It is also appropriate to review our attitude toward physical activity.

A whereas in the preamble of Bill C-54 deals with the desire to increase public awareness of the benefits of physical activity and sport.

We want to point out that this must be done only if the jurisdiction of Quebec and the various levels of government is respected. It is obvious that this implies the involvement of several departments, particularly health and education. Once again, the Bloc Quebecois recommends that there be continuing discussions with counterparts from Quebec, the provinces and the territories.

A very important fact is that, to respond to the expectations of this bill, there will have to be increased broadcasting and greater diversity in what is broadcast.

The Bloc Quebecois hopes that a real Department of Sport will be established. We moved an amendment on this. This seemed to receive unanimous support in the sub-committee. Thus, athletes and coaches, as well as the people of Canada and Quebec people, would have had a department with a real portfolio.

Sports-Québec also recommends the establishment of this department. With a real Department of Sports complete with a portfolio, the objectives could probably have been applied at all levels, from the elite down. This would probably encourage widespread promotion of the objectives in a much more effective way than through the federations, which are mainly concerned with fostering excellence.

I know that the time allotted to me is up. I therefore hope that all the necessary funding will be made available so that physical activity and sport are recognized for the benefits they yield.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me as well to speak to Bill C-54, an act to promote physical activity and sport.

As we indicated yesterday when the bill was being discussed, we are in support of the bill, as are all the opposition parties.

At the outset I want to pay tribute to the current minister of amateur sport and the previous minister of amateur sport, both of whom are in the House today, and indeed the member for Toronto--Danforth who chaired the committee and who has contributed a lot to the point that we are at here this afternoon.

I believe that both sport and physical activity, in whatever forms they take, are extremely important. There is a strong connection between sports and physical activity and good health and self-esteem. That applies not only to all of us but to young people in particular.

As an aside, I had the privilege, as the member of parliament for the district, of being at Notre Dame college in Wilcox, Saskatchewan on Saturday where about 65 students were graduating. It was fascinating for me to see the number of students who received both academic and athletic scholarships and bursaries totalling more than $1 million. It is an incredible amount of money. It is a real tradition. However Athol Murray College of Notre Dame is not just a sports factory. Many students received scholarships and bursaries based on their academics.

There is a motto at the school that I think is good for the students and certainly good for everyone who was in attendance. The motto reads as follows:

What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are far less important than what lies within us.

I think that is particularly true for young people.

The proposed legislation is an act to promote physical activity and sport. The bill is intended to replace and update the Fitness and Amateur Sport Act of 1961. It is intended to bring people, organizations and governments together with the goal of encouraging, promoting and developing physical activity and sport in Canada.

The bill would replace the old act which was passed in 1961. It positions physical activity as a critical determinant of health, which is extremely important. It responds to the expectations of the sporting community. It harmonizes with other industrial countries and entrenches the government's objectives related to physical activity and sport, and facilitates alternative dispute resolutions in sport.

The bill recognizes the importance of physical activity, as I have indicated. It increases the awareness of benefits of physical activity by encouraging participation and the co-operation among levels of government, people engaged in physical activity, the sporting community and the private sector.

I think the vast majority of us who compete in the political arena have probably grown up competing in the sporting arenas, as do our children. Unfortunately there are far too many of us who are not as physically active as we should be--

I do want to pause here to say that there are some individuals who would like to participate in sport and are unable to participate in sport because they are not in a financial situation to do that.

I was listening when the minister in his address this morning said that sport is everyone's business. It should be everyone's business but unfortunately there are people who lack the financial resources to participate in an organized sporting activity, and I think that we need to be concerned about that.

I now want to talk a little about the other side of the inactivity that leads to obesity. We are told that at least 13% of Canadians, more than 3 million people, are obese. That is defined as having more than 30% body fat. This number, as discouraging as it is, tripled between the period of 1985 and 1998. It is not only as a result of diet but of a general lack of physical activity. As we all know, this has significant health implications. People carrying too much weight are far more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancers. It is estimated that direct medical costs attributed to obesity in our country are almost $2 billion a year at $1.8 billion.

It is an extremely serious problem and it is important among our young children. The International Journal of Obesity indicates that about 30% of Canadian children fall into that category. That is a rate that is significantly higher than for children the same age in countries like England, Scotland and Spain. Again, the culprits appear to be diet and a lack of exercise and physical activity.

Too often parents, working long hours to make ends meet, have less time for their children than perhaps my parents did or those of my generation. Families today seem to be so harried that they often do not have the time or the energy left to cook meals in the evening and they end up taking the children to a drive-through. Children are more often kept in doors these days because parents consider the streets to be unsafe.

We have far too often become a nation of compulsive television watchers, couch potatoes and computer junkies which has had a negative impact on our health and on the costs and stresses of our health care system. This is something that the royal commission on health looked at very actively in the spring and will continue to do so into the fall.

We support any attempt to encourage and enable people, young and old, in the country to become more active. I acknowledge that the bill moves us in that direction and that is one of the main reasons we support it.

The bill is intended to bring people, organizations and governments together to encourage, promote and develop physical activity and sport. The minister has told us that the bill would position physical activity as a critical determinant of health, and our caucus fully supports the goal. We hope the legislation meets the minister's description of it.

The preamble indicates that sport and physical activity should be forces that bind Canadians together enhancing, among other things, the bilingual reality of Canada. We were pleased to see there were amendments to that effect in the bill as it now stands. We want to do whatever we can to ensure that there is more significance given to language so that it is not just the French Canadian athletes who are forced to learn English in order to participate on a team or in the sporting event at hand.

I want to make a few comments on the sport dispute resolution centre. The athletes have asked for this. There are an increasing number of disputes to be arbitrated. Current mechanisms are limited. As we look at the legislation the centre appears to be at arm's length, meaning that arbitrators and mediators are not employees of the government. The dispute resolution centre would be a not for profit centre. Sports organizations have asked for the centre and I am pleased that the bill does create such an organization. The board of directors would appoint its own executive director. I believe this was also a change that was made as the bill went through the committee process.

While I support the bill, its actions, not its words, will be more important. We recall, and others have alluded to it before, ParticipAction was created in 1971 to promote physical fitness in Canada. It did a fine job over the years of encouraging ordinary Canadians to become more fit. The federal government put up most of the money at first but, as in so many other areas of our lives, it seems to have backed away more recently.

There was federal support of more than $1 million a year in the 1970s, but by the year 2000, when it effectively ceased to exist, ParticipAction was receiving less than $385,000.

In conclusion, we can stand and debate legislation and we can pass legislation, but without the commitment from the government and the resources to support that commitment, we will not succeed in making Canadians fitter and more healthy or have more of them stand on international podiums. I hope that once we pass the bill the government will show its commitment to follow up with real, significant action.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is very good to see you in the Chair. I know what a good sport you are and how often you have been a strong advocate for your teams in Brandon, the Wheat Kings and your national basketball championship team the Bobcats.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak at third reading to this important piece of legislation. Given the heady times and the time constraints that parliament is under, it is encouraging to see a piece of legislation that is so positive and so unanimously endorsed by all parties in a non-partisan way. This is exactly the type of legislation that should give Canadians food for thought and certainly cause them to pause and ponder the very nature of what can happen when this co-operative spirit exists.

The enactment of this legislation will replace the Fitness and Amateur Sport Act, which was enacted in 1961, with modernized legislation that is better adapted to the contemporary realities. That is a very good phrase that encapsulates much of what this bill would do. It would modernize Canada's approach to sport and fitness at a time when the world is moving very quickly and at a time when sports, like business and politics, have become more sophisticated, more complex and more involved. Issues such as those pertaining to doping, equipment, sponsorships and the money that is often involved in the promotion of sport affect many people across the spectrum. All these are encapsulated and touched upon by the provisions of this bill.

The enactment of this legislation also establishes an important element and response to dispute and some of the controversy that sometimes is inevitable in sporting activities. As a former referee, Mr. Speaker, you would be familiar with the occasional dispute that might break out during competition.

The resolution centre will be an independent organization. Its mission is to provide the sports community with a national alternative dispute service for sports disputes. I will speak a bit more about that in my remarks. In particular, it is aimed at offering some independence and greater credibility in getting to the very root of the dispute itself. With infractions, impartiality and all these charges, there has to be a very clear and transparent system that allows all the parties that might be involved, and sometimes it is more than one or two, to have faith and trust in the governing body that will ultimately decide the outcome.

There is also an important element of timeliness when there is international competition. A perfect example that comes to mind was the Moscow Olympics wherein many Canadian and North American athletes were denied that once in a lifetime opportunity to compete internationally.

There are other occasions when people find themselves off a national team or suspended from participating in an event. That might have been their one opportunity in their entire lifetimes to participate at a level and to achieve their highest goal. Therefore, these dispute resolution mechanisms and this centre are critical to the very essence of what this bill seeks to accomplish.

Just looking at some of the overall effort and direction of the bill, the objectives are clearly to promote physical activity as a fundamental element of health and well-being. What more noble purpose than that? Other speakers have mentioned the health implications.

The very essence of cultural diversity is found in the legislation. Specific effort has been made to achieve linguistic duality to promote activity and participation in both official languages and of course the very intrinsic elements of healthy, extended and joyful living on the part of Canadians. Statistics from Health Canada and Statistics Canada clearly indicate that Canada has some distance to go to improve its record and some of the ailments, including obesity, which I think can be deemed fairly a detriment to the health of Canadians

The bill is all about encouraging greater participation, simplicity of participation and doing away with some of the hurdles that might prevent those who given ideal circumstances would come forward.

As a very positive comment, the bill is meant to encourage Canadians themselves to take ownership over their own health issues, to integrate physical activity into their daily lives and to assist in reducing those barriers faced by Canadians that might prevent them from living more active lifestyles.

It is fair to say that huge practical benefits and savings are associated with what the bill specifically is targeting. It is meant to increase participation in the practice of sport and to support the pursuit of excellence at the same time. Clearly there are those who choose to make sport their life's pursuit and greater support, both through resources and encouragement, is essential. However there are also the other very pedestrian benefits of encouraging greater participation in daily activities, as simple as going for a walk, or attending a child's sporting match or activity or making a choice between doing an activity indoors or outdoors. This is all about building and enhancing the very foundation of the Canadian sports system.

As I mentioned earlier, Statistics Canada has shown that increasing numbers of individuals are not participating in traditional sports, which is another acknowledgment that deserves mention. A whole new infrastructure will develop around climbing, kayaking and outdoor winter sports such as snowboarding, which has taken off exponentially in recent years, but there is cost associated with them. Again one of the underlying factors as to the true success and measure of the legislation will be whether that infrastructure develops. I believe the legislation is at least encouraging that.

The elements that I wanted to touch upon personally also deal with the social benefits in particular for young people, where they are encouraged to participate in active sports whether they be the traditional or mainstream sports or more individual type sports, where they make choices in life, their intrinsic values, and where they gain the knowledge and education from those choices.

One gentleman in my riding made a very telling comment to me one time about his son's participation in minor hockey. He described how his son was with a crowd of other youth who were engaging in the use of alcohol and drugs. They were hanging out on street corners. They were headed down a road to trouble. He sat his son down and encouraged him to spend more time on his sports and school. He said to me “I could tell the direction my young fellow was headed. It was either going to be courts or sports”. For many young people in Canada, not just young men, this is a choice. If they put their efforts into a sporting activity, it detracts from the pull and the potential to get into trouble with the law, with drugs and alcohol and other questionable activities.

The choices that young people have to make cannot be overstated. The availability of sports programs in communities encourages them to make the right choice. I know the RCMP in particular has been very active in pursuing sports related programs. There is a terrific program in my community in Nova Scotia that deals with literacy in sports and makes that linkage between the choices that young people make to avoid trouble with the law and the choices that will help them later in life. It also teaches them very fundamental lessons about competition and fair play and about winning and losing and how to cope with both.

These again are very fundamental principles that weave their way through this entire bill.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

An hon. member

And make it affordable.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

The affordability is of course very important, as my colleague from St. John's points out, as well as ensuring, particularly in rural parts of the country, that there is not a disparity as to availability of sports programs. We know that in cities and towns the costs associated with ballparks, diamonds and equipment is ever increasing, particularly as it relates to our national sport of hockey.

The minister, with the approval of the governor in council, may enter into agreements with provinces and territories to provide for the payment of contributions in respect of costs incurred in undertaking programs designed to encourage and promote the development of physical activity or sport. A process would be set up so that we would not over-developing or over-concentrating in some areas of the country at the expense of others.

With the approval of the governor in council, the minister may enter into an agreement or an arrangement with the government of any foreign state to encourage, promote or develop sport. Clear lines are delineated as to the direction the minister might take.

This bill would establish the sports dispute resolution centre of Canada, a not for profit corporation. It would not be an agent of Her Majesty, or a departmental corporation or a crown corporation within the meaning of the Financial Administration Act. It would be a unique body. Some of the amendments which were made yesterday reflected the necessity for independence and for the board of directors to have a larger degree of autonomy and self-control over the centre itself.

This is important and is very much in keeping with the spirit of the bill because it would allow the board of directors to develop a rapport, team work and a sense of belonging in the effort to promote sport in the country and to deal with problems when they arise. There will no doubt be occasions where the dispute resolution mechanism will be called into play on very important issues that could have a significant impact on the direction of a national team, or a national athlete or simply to bring about a resolution of a dispute that is getting in the way of greater participation.

The mission and powers of the centre are about providing the sports community with this national alternative of a dispute resolution service. It is clear to me that this will be a more timely resolution and better than going through a traditional court hearing or going through a alternative mechanism that might involve lengthy submissions and mediation that in many instances could result in a greater injustice because of the delay involved. The expertise and assistance regarding this dispute resolution will no doubt be an important part in its formation. As in most teams, businesses and parties, it is very much about personal commitment and quality of personnel that will determine its success.

With respect to the overall thrust of the bill, the Progressive Conservative Party wholeheartedly supports physical participation in sport. We support legislation that will aid in the pursuit of a healthier live style for Canadians of all ages. It is clear from the language in the bill that it is aimed at encouraging Canadians of all ages, of both sexes and of all cultural origins to feel a part of the sporting community. Clearly the bill encourages that participation.

I talked earlier of the lessons learned. It seems to me that in a team atmosphere with individuals from all sorts of cultural backgrounds and countries of origin working together at a common goal can foster the essential human spirit of betterment that we all seek. Turning our efforts toward the greater purpose is a very healthy reminder.

I have always found that sport is a perfect vehicle to do that. It is a perfect scenario through which young people can learn the very basic values that will help them throughout their life, such as tolerance, inclusion, co-operation and understanding. Young people will also learn how to deal with disappointment and with success and modesty. Parents want to instill in their children all of these lessons in life and they can be fostered in a sporting atmosphere. Let us not forget competition, for competition is one way to bring out our best.

We should turn our efforts toward the sport infrastructure itself as a part of the bill. That brings it back to the resources. It brings it back to the actual dollars that are needed to ensure that the infrastructure is there, such as the ballparks and the hockey arenas. We have to give young people in particular the ability to participate and to have the basic necessary equipment.

I know that in Sherbrooke there was a wonderful venture undertaken by that community to build what they call the Rec-Plex, an outdoor sporting ice surface. The NHL Players' Association was instrumental in ensuring that the project was completed. Al MacInnis, a resident of Port Hood and current NHL hockey superstar, contributed greatly--

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Hardest shot guy.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

With the hardest shot in the league, as I am reminded.

He contributed greatly to his community of Port Hood to build a new rink. There certainly is support out there in the general sporting community. Many athletes, reflecting on their lives and their joys in life, want to give something back to the sport.

There is this natural human cycle of those who benefit from sport wanting to give back to the sport. We see it daily played out in fields and parks across the country where coaches who love their sport want to give something back to the game.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Like politics.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

It can be like politics.

Families should also be a big part of the equation in encouraging their children to participate in physical activity.

I was very taken with quite recent suggestions about tax incentives. I know that is not part of this legislation, but giving Canadians an opportunity to in essence defer the cost of enrolment in a minor hockey program, for example, or to write off some of the expenses associated with figure skating lessons or the cost of equipment in some instances, to have that perhaps included on the income tax form, would again put a built in incentive in place for encouraging a healthy lifestyle, which is very much the spirit of this legislation. It would provide immediate and long term health benefits, and in the short term it is fair to say that physically active lifestyles do help children develop some of the very essential tools they will need as they proceed through life.

The mention of childhood obesity was part of the discussion here today. The figures are somewhat disturbing when one looks at 30% of Canadian children being categorized as overweight and 13% of Canadians overall, a total of three million, who lack the physical activity to be considered in that range of healthy living. That, to me, sets the goal. It indicates that there is more work to be done. This legislation will hopefully put Canada on the right track and put us in the direction we should be headed. A healthy lifestyle in the long run will save the Canadian health care system millions and millions in terms of financial costs alone. Jobs, equipment manufacturing and community pride are other intangible benefits when we look at the long term.

It is a tremendously positive initiative, one that I, on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party, am proud to have played a small part in. I think that on so many levels this legislation builds on a spirit of co-operation. The teamwork displayed at the committee level is consistent with the aims and goals of the bill, which reflects linguistic duality, is inclusive in all terms for all Canadians and should hopefully increase participation in activity throughout Canada. I would end on a note of congratulating the minister for his stewardship in bringing the bill before us today.

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1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member for Halifax West, no, excuse me, St. John's West.

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1:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, both are good hockey towns, with Halifax having one of the best attendance records for junior hockey in the country. With our own Maple Leafs, St. John's has always been a very good hockey town.

However, my question for my colleague relates to comments he made as he was closing his remarks. It has always been my firm belief that we have two choices in relation to social investment in the country. We can invest in our youth in sports and education, which will give us a fit, educated, contributing society, or we can neglect to do so, which we have done for several years, and have to pay on the far end with horrendous health and social costs. I would like the member to comment on that to see if he agrees with my statement.

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1:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that the hon. member makes a very important and succinct point. The investment early on in a child's life, just as the investment in a business or in any sort of health care scenario, will pay huge benefits later on, whereas the neglect can play out over many years.

The particular point I believe he is driving at is the need for that upfront investment. Surely we have seen over the past number of years the costs associated with starving the provinces, for example, in terms of transfers and the investment in social health care. That has come to fruition now in the country and is causing angst everywhere one goes. If we visit hospitals or clinics we see that health care has been neglected and now we are paying a cost for it.

What the legislation hopefully will do is ensure that there is going to be a focused attempt to get the resources into the sporting community and, indirectly, I would suggest, into the health care system by prevention through greater participation. He is right. It is about the short term pain, one might say, because of the investment and taking from other areas to that ensure we have the money in this particular area versus the costs that we will pay later on.

I believe that perhaps nothing helps more to make a country feel not only healthy but unified, proud and patriotic than having a very active lifestyle, successful teams and certainly a community that feels good about itself in terms of its own health and social well-being.

Physical Activity and Sport ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, this bill we will pass today is really a testimony to the political leadership and political character on the Hill. I think that the House, the voters and the people of Canada should know that the genesis of this exercise in taking the amateur sport file out of mothballs and creating a forum for discussion and debate started four and a half years ago, Mr. Speaker, when you were the government whip. You approached me and a number of others and said “let's do something with this file”. I think that the country owes you a lot for initiating that political leadership on this file.

I would also like to acknowledge the former vice-chair of our committee, the former minister of sport for Canada, whose passion, energy and persistence going across the country and re-igniting energy into this file will always be remembered, followed by our new secretary of state from Penetang, Ontario, who comes from a sport community that is broadly known across the country, and of course all the members from all parties. We all came together on this file. We stand here today after 40 years with a new piece of sport legislation.

I want to come at it from a different point of view today. We all support the legislation. There is no debate about that today. We have all listened over the last three years to the challenges that exist in this country around sport. When I think back to some of the witnesses who came in front of our committee, men and women who have devoted their lives to sport, I experienced men and women who did not treat this like a job. For them it was like a vocation.

One of our members said earlier that there are 1,800,000 volunteers in Canada who give their time and their energy toward amateur sport. The fact is that there are almost 1,000 high schools in Canada today where the principals have a difficult time finding teachers who want to coach the school rep team. In our day in high school, the teachers were begging to coach either the school football team or the school volleyball team or whatever it was.

How did it happen that this sport file, which is so important to the value system of our country, and after the great work of Iona Campagnolo, first minister of sport, drifted not just to the back burner but went right off the radar screen?

I would like to say to the House today that all of us were asleep at the switch when it came to sport. From 1990 up until a year ago, every year the fiscal knife just cut and cut at the amateur sport fabric, at the physical activity budgets of the Government of Canada.

For a number of years until a year and a half ago some of our best high performance athletes lived in virtual poverty while they were on the world stage performing for our country. Let us imagine that. Olympic medal winners were trying to live on $700 to $800 a month while representing our country on the world stage. Where were we? We were asleep at the switch when it came to this file.

When we started this journey four and a half years ago some of my friends asked why I was wasting my time on the amateur sport file. They asked if tax reform and the environment were not more important. I was absolutely shocked at the number of educated people in our country, even in and around Ottawa, with no connection to or understanding of the value of sport economically, socially and in terms of its linkage to health care.

After today the biggest challenge will be in front of us. Passing the bill is great. We are all together on the issue. However the bill will not be worth a damn unless the resources are there to make sure its full meaning is exercised. I will talk about this in the context of political leadership. Recommendation 17 of our sport report said:

The Finance Department will create a non-refundable child sport tax credit to encourage parents to register their children in local sport and recreation programs and help alleviate the cost of sport equipment.

The yearly cost would be $64.3 million, or $321 million over five years. I pleaded with the finance department to think of the million children in the country living below the poverty line whose mothers and fathers cannot afford to give them a sport experience.

One of our members talked earlier about how proud we all felt when our Olympians came into the House at the end of February or the first part of March. We were all cheering and shaking their hands. It was the longest ovation I have heard in the Chamber, and so it should be. However we are supposed to be in the Chamber to speak for those in need who do not have a voice.

There are a million kids in Canada today, on our watch, who cannot afford to buy the shoes to play soccer. They cannot afford a hockey stick let alone a full set of equipment. If the bill is to take full force the million children who live below the poverty line should be brought into the mainstream to get the opportunities other kids enjoy.

In response to the hon. member from the Bloc Quebecois, yes, we costed it. Over five years it would be $300 million. That is not an expense. The best surgeons in the department of health came before us and said only 28% of the nation exercises for 30 minutes a day. They said if we could increase that to 38% we would save $5 billion in the health care treasury. Why would we not spend $60 million to $100 million a year or more to save multi-billions in our health care system? If we would not do this, what are we doing here? This is where I challenge the political leadership in the House.

One of the special features of the bill is that it would make physical activity part of the mandate of the minister responsible for sport. I hope the Privy Council Office is listening. Anyone with half a brain should realize that the piece of government machinery that looks after physical activity should be under the direction of the minister responsible for sport. Let us imagine a minister who must go to three different places to run his or her department. As members have mentioned today, another recommendation of our report was that all sport responsibilities be combined.

We have moved the file a long way in the last four and a half years. However the real test of our political will is about to begin. We have listened intently to men and women who have made sport their vocation in life. We have accepted virtually all their recommendations. It has been a unanimous experience. All of us in parliament have come together. We are now at the phase where we must perform and execute. As I said before, a minister can only execute if he has the financial resources to do the job.

There is another facet of sport. Many members today have talked about the job creation numbers involved in sport, whether from sport manufacturing, sport tourism, sport media or the whole industry of professional sport. While we know all about this we do not appreciate the way sport pulls us together as a country. Sport promotes national unity.

During the Salt Lake City games the Olympians had a tremendous galvanizing effect in pulling us together from every region of the country. Such an experience does not have to be at the Olympic level. My first experience at a national event, and the Speaker has had a similar experience, was where we watched our sons participate in a Quebec peewee tournament. Kids were living and playing with each other from every part of the country and the world. Sport pulls people together and melts away divisions. To allow the Department of Finance to take the fiscal knife to the sport file is to be asleep at the switch.

As we head into the fall season and prepare for a new budget the fiscal trajectory of the country has never been better. It is the duty of all of us in the House of Commons to make our voices heard. We must make it known that we want to rebuild and re-establish every facet of the sport file including physical activity, support for our high performance athletes, sport infrastructure, and making sure the volunteer system in our country is properly acknowledged and rewarded.

What if we had to pay for all the hours of the 1,800,000 volunteers a year who give of their time? Who could afford it? We are lucky to have that kind of commitment in a country like ours. When we prepare for the budget we should keep in mind one of our special recommendations, number 18, which would give a $1,000 sport credit to every volunteer in the country who puts in a certain number of hours certified by the local organization. Not only is that a way to acknowledge their work. It is a way to maintain and reinvigorate a volunteer community which has been threatened in the last few years, as we know.

I am happy we have come to the end of phase one of the first sport bill in 40 years. It is well drafted. The minister and his officials must be saluted. However I would issue a challenge to every member in the House: Let us never again allow the fiscal knife to be so ruthless on the sport file. Let us start campaigning vigorously that in the new budget sport will again become a special feature of our country.

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1:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member who spoke and I congratulate you, because the two of you were instrumental in bringing the legislation to the House.

We now have legislation which will receive quick passage because it is a good piece of legislation. Does the hon. member hope, as we do, that it will not simply lie there? Government members could say okay, we have brought in legislation, now we are a great government. Opposition members could say we supported it so we are a great opposition. We cannot let that happen. Once the legislation is in place those of us interested in sport and youth must put pressure on the government to make sure its provisions are enacted so the youth of the country can start benefiting from investment and leadership in sport.

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1:35 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for St. John's West for his question. I have special admiration for the member for St. John's West because he served the committee well and made a tremendous contribution to moving forward this important national exercise on sport.

The member hit the nail on the head. I will be straight up front with everyone in the Chamber today. I said earlier that this is about political leadership. The political leadership in the House comes from many different places. There are ministers responsible for certain facets of this file. The opposition has political leadership on this file.

Between now and February 2003 our particular party will be going through a total policy renewal. I intend to never let a day pass where I test all the leadership in the party as to where it stands on the whole file of amateur sport because I do not think anyone can be a leader in this country unless that individual is passionately committed to this file.

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1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to hear the member talk about the renewal going on in the Liberal Party. I was wondering if perhaps that might include leadership renewal. I am not sure about that.

We have a new finance minister, but in times past he dealt with the previous finance minister. He knows him fairly well and perhaps supports him in certain ways. Does he have the support of those finance ministers? He has been vocal about it, straight up and straightforward. Does he think past and current finance ministers are on his wavelength or is it a battle that must be won within the caucus?

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1:35 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is where it gets interesting. As a government we have been obsessed with the fiscal framework over the last few years. It is no secret to anyone in the House that it has been too far obsessed for my liking but we have a moment now where there is no excuse for us to deal with this file in a financial way.

The previous minister of finance obviously did not share my view or my passion on this file. That is too bad but that is the way it goes around here sometimes. The current Minister of Finance has a few months left. There will be a number of us on this side and that side who will be watching him closely on this file. Members should make no mistake. Any person who purports to be a political leader in the House who ignores the amateur sport file will not have a long run.

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1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, just for clarification he said the finance minister only has a few months left. Could he explain what he means by that?

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1:40 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was not referring to a cabinet shuffle. I was referring to the fact that we only have a few months left before the budget is locked in place.

I am counting on the Canadian Alliance because it has been part of the problem on amateur sport over the last seven years because it has been driving this fiscal knife so deep at times that it does not even know some of the files that it has affected. I am counting on him to be vocal in question period and other places to ensure that amateur sport is re-established as a priority.

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1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for that clarification. No one doubts his passion for this subject. He has been on record through thick and thin.

However he should not mistake the demand made by the Canadian Alliance for fiscal accountability as a lack of support for amateur sport and physical fitness. It is like many other things in this place. It is only when we have our financial house in order that these things become possible at a government level. In fact, government's ever growing voracious appetite for tax dollars should be restricted to leave more money in the hands of the parents who are trying to raise kids and buy the gloves for them to play ball with and so on. A lot of that becomes possible only when governments restrict their demand for tax dollars.

It is not a matter of saying that we will develop a program that buys shin pads for every kid in Canada. It will often come down to a case of saying that we will balance the budget in this place, but we will allow parents and families, the primary caregivers and local communities, to have the funds required to make this possible. If there are infrastructures, programs and a co-ordination that the minister can bring to this effort that will be appreciated and that leadership must come from this House and others.

However, the member should not mistake fiscal responsibility for not caring about sports. Like anything else, if we cannot pay the piper we will not have much of a tune.

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1:40 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

I have a short response, Mr. Speaker. This sort of hazy kind of answer from the Canadian Alliance is not good political leadership. If we put $100 million into physical activity to save $5 billion in the health care system, that to me is good economic policy.

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1:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?