Madam Speaker, I am rising in the House today to support the motion of the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans. Motion M-319 seeks to find solutions to a serious problem: childhood obesity. The NDP strongly supports this initiative. Obesity rates are skyrocketing and are having a serious impact on the health of Canadian families and on our health care system.
The hon. member has four main points. First, he suggests that the government continue its dialogue with the provinces, territories, health stakeholders, industry and Canadians to promote and maintain healthy weight for children and youth. In short, he is proposing that we continue to talk about childhood obesity.
Second, he recommends that the government encourage discussions to address the factors that lead to obesity, such as social and physical environments, physical activity, as well as the promotion of and access to nutritious food. Once again, he is suggesting that we talk some more.
Third, he recommends that the government encourage individuals and organizations to commit to participating in the promotion of a healthy weight, but he does not suggest any concrete ways of doing this.
Lastly, the motion urges the government to consider the framework for action entitled “Curbing Childhood Obesity” that resulted from the endorsement of the Declaration on Prevention and Promotion by the federal, provincial and territorial health ministers. It calls on all stakeholders to take action to address obesity, particularly in children, promote physical activity and make healthy food choices.
The motion would help increase awareness of this issue among Canadians and would create a dialogue with a view to addressing obesity rates in Canada. This objective is important, but the NDP thinks that we must go further than that.
Furthermore, the NDP has always called for regulations on trans fats in foods, in order to reduce the impact that poor food choices can have on childhood obesity.
In 2004, my colleague from Winnipeg Centre moved a private member's motion to regulate trans fat content in foods. The motion was adopted unanimously, but since then, the government has not followed up with any action. My colleague also introduced Bill C-303, which would limit trans fatty acids. The government has not taken any action since then.
It is critical that we take swift and early action to curb childhood obesity. An obese child is 20% more likely to struggle with weight problems in adulthood. Obese teens are an alarming 80% more likely, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. These numbers are extremely disturbing.
Healthy lifestyle habits must be acquired early on because they are not innate. The best example is enjoyment of physical activity. A child who has active parents and who is encouraged to participate in sports at school will be more likely to maintain those good habits throughout his lifetime.
With all of that in mind, I am worried about how little physical activity kids get in school.
Meaningful steps should be taken to make our environments more conducive to physical activity, to curtail marketing of foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt, and to increase the availability of nutritious foods at reasonable prices.
Childhood obesity affects physical health as well as a child's emotional health and social life. Children with poor self-esteem can be in for a lifelong struggle. We all know how some kids bully others who are different, which can have serious short- and long-term repercussions.
That is why I support my colleague's motion. However, we must go further by calling for meaningful action as soon as possible.
Several reports have made clear recommendations. In 2007, the Standing Committee on Health examined the issue of childhood obesity. I was surprised to see that the recommendations made by that committee were not included in Motion M-319. For instance, in its report entitled “Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids”, the committee recommends that the federal government establish clear targets to reduce the rate of childhood obesity, suggesting a 2% reduction by 2020.
The report also suggests that the government should present an annual report to Parliament on overall efforts to attain healthy weights for children and on the results achieved. These recommendations were based on evidence from experts in the field, but the member for Ottawa—Orléans chose not to follow their advice.
The provinces have shown that it is possible to take action and really reduce childhood obesity rates. In Alberta, for instance, a program called “Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It!” has really helped reduce children's body mass index and body fat percentages. It has also improved their eating habits, increased their physical activity and improved their confidence and self-esteem.
Nova Scotia has also taken measures to eliminate childhood obesity by establishing a food and nutrition policy for the province's public schools that teaches the students to make healthy food choices and only allows food service in schools that meet specific nutrition criteria.
In Quebec, the organization “Québec en Forme” is working to promote the adoption and maintenance of healthy eating habits and a physically active lifestyle for Quebec youth from birth to 17 as essential elements of their full development and educational success. To do this, Québec en Forme is present throughout Quebec, to support communities and organizations that promote projects that establish all the necessary conditions to make it fun and easy for young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to move more and eat better on a daily basis.
It is time for the Conservative government to follow the provinces' example and show some leadership. With national standards, such as the Standing Committee on Health report called for, obesity rates could drop across Canada. The motion also calls for dialogue with the industry, but so far the government just bows to industry on matters of health, allowing unhealthy processed foods to go unregulated.
Therefore, I will be supporting the hon. member's initiative, and I hope that the government will follow up with real action soon. It is not enough to talk about the rising rate of childhood obesity; we must do something about it. The time has come. I call on the rest of the Conservative caucus to follow the example of the member for Ottawa—Orléans and address this important issue by introducing a bill that will turn words into action.