Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to come to the committee of the whole to discuss the Government of Canada's participation in the organization of the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
As any athlete could confirm, the Olympics are the most important sports competition in the world and provide an opportunity for all participants to show their country and the rest of the world what they are made of.
For Canada, hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games is an excellent opportunity to celebrate and to show the whole world what distinguishes us as Canadians, namely, our diversity and our excellence in sports, athletics and culture.
This week the Vancouver organizing committee for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, VANOC, publicly released in French and in English their business plan for the games operations.
I am pleased to report that we have reviewed it and congratulate VANOC for presenting a balanced budget. Having the plan available to the public enhances transparency and understanding of the challenges and opportunities presented by hosting the winter games.
VANOC commits that these games will be on time and on budget. VANOC's business oriented, no-nonsense approach to the Olympic Games planning is only the first of many Canadian legacies of the 2010 games.
The 2010 winter games will leave lasting economic, sport and social legacies for Canadians, not only in British Columbia, but also right across Canada.
The Government of Canada is working in close collaboration with our partners to ensure this happens. Through a comprehensive multi-party agreement signed in 2002 among key stakeholders of the 2010 winter games, the government has pledged essential support that we are convinced will make these the most successful winter games ever.
I recognize that this is a bold and ambitious goal, but look what we did in 1988. The Olympic experience in Calgary was a resounding success, especially notable for having left lasting legacies.
Today Calgarians and visitors to Calgary enjoy the Canada Olympic Park built by Calgary Olympic Development Association following the Olympics from a portion of its surplus. The association has also provided ongoing funding for Canadian Olympic athletes, which has made a lasting impact on Canadian sport.
The 1988 winter games left a significant social legacy as well. The games relied on an unprecedented number of volunteers and experience that they took back to share with their communities once the games were over.
To stage an equally successful Olympic and Paralympic effort in Vancouver and Whistler requires a high level of organization and a substantial financial commitment from the Government of Canada.
The multi-party agreement I spoke of a moment ago sets out the responsibilities of each of the stakeholders in a manner to meet their objectives of staging an inclusive 2010 winter games delivered on time and on budget that will showcase Canada's accomplishments and innovations to the world and create lasting legacies for Canadians.
Key Government of Canada priorities for the 2010 winter games are enshrined in the agreement. Three priorities in particular are: the promotion of Canada's two official languages, respect for the environmental sustainability, and active participation throughout the Olympic and Paralympic experience of Canada's aboriginal communities.
Mr. Chair, I will take a few minutes to address each of these objectives.
The Senate Committee on Official Languages examined the best ways of promoting Canada's linguistic duality in the context of the 2010 Winter Games.
In fact, the committee believes that the games provide an excellent opportunity to promote our linguistic duality. In its report, the committee made 10 recommendations. It suggested, among other things, providing funding to ensure participation of British Columbia's francophone organizations in the games and to allow equitable access to games programming for all Canadians.
The committee said it was encouraged by the commitment of the games' major partners toward the official languages. The Government of Canada shares this optimism. However, we cannot ignore the fact that we will face some challenges. We want to ensure that both of Canada's official languages are proudly represented at all stages of the 2010 Winter Games, from planning to full operations.
For its part, the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games said it intended to go beyond its linguistic obligations as provided in the multiparty agreement and the Official Languages Act.
The Government of Canada is also committed to ensuring environmental sustainable practices throughout the 2010 winter games are used.