Mr. Speaker, while I realize that having a Chair occupant rise on debate is a little like witnessing a solar eclipse, this is actually the second time I have had the opportunity to speak to this bill. I am delighted to speak on the subject of health and fitness as addressed in Bill S-211, which has been sponsored in the House by my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country and in the Senate by Canada's athlete of the century, Senator Nancy Greene Raine. This bill would establish a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians.
Before I begin my remarks, I would like to reference a couple of paragraphs from the bill itself, because they will explain what this is about and why we are doing it. It says:
Whereas the Parliament of Canada wishes to increase awareness among Canadians of the significant benefits of physical activity and to encourage Canadians to increase their level of physical activity and their participation in recreational sports and fitness activities;... Whereas the Government of Canada wishes to encourage the country’s local governments, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and all Canadians to recognize the first Saturday in June as National Health and Fitness Day and to mark the day with local events and initiatives celebrating and promoting the importance and use of local health, recreational, sports and fitness facilities;
This is an excellent bill, which I am hoping all members in this place will support. It is not a silver bullet, and it is not a panacea that will cure all the physical ailments of Canadians, but it is an important piece of a larger puzzle in terms of encouraging Canadians to be fit and active and to look after their own health and that of their children.
When I spoke for a few minutes about this a few weeks ago, I mentioned that it is a challenge that members of Parliament face. Access to good food and not much time to exercise is a combination that causes many members in this place to struggle with their weight, their health, and their fitness.
I hear some “hear hears” from some of my colleagues.
It is important for all Canadians. We have one body we have to make do with from the time we are children until the end of our lives. There are things we can do. Modern medicine really is filled with miracles in terms of interchangeable parts. However, every time I see something on television from Cuba, and I see one of those old 1950 vintage cars, it always reminds me that those taxi drivers knew that they had a car and were not going to get another one. They had to look after it and learn how to repair it and how to maintain it. The fact was that it was just going to have to do them for a long time. For people, it is the same thing. Whether we are in our 20s, 40s, or 70s, we have one body.
Years ago we thought about health and fitness mostly in the context of living longer. That is still part of it, but most of us have figured out that it is about the quality of the life we enjoy. When we see someone in their golden years who can still ride a bike, go downhill skiing, or do other physical activities, we are reminded that they did not get there by accident. They probably looked after their health over the years. That is why they are still able to be active in those later years.
About a year or so ago, when I turned 50, one of my friends said that I was playing the back nine now. I had not really thought that somehow I was over the hump and that I was teeing off on the 10th hole, but it is probably true. It reminded me that it is important for all of us to mind our health. I have two young children, and I try to remind them of this at the same time.
Obviously, there are all the economic arguments for good health, at a macro level, for our country and society. We all benefit if we all stay in better shape, because it reduces acute health care costs. However, I would suggest that there is a stronger argument than that, and it is the central point I would like to make, which is that it is about quality of life and staying healthy and fit so that we can do the things we all want to do.
This bill today is part of that. It is to encourage other levels of government, such as municipalities, to open facilities, whether they are squash clubs, hockey arenas, or curling clubs, for one day each year so that people who are not familiar with them can go in and try these activities and see if they enjoy them.
It is an opportunity to remind all of us, adults and children, that there is actually an abundance of recreational facilities in many of our communities. Sometimes we go by them many times without ever setting foot inside. Having a day set aside to focus on this would remind Canadians that it is important.
I really want to tip my cap to my colleague, the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, who is a true leader in this area. He leads a group of parliamentarians on Tuesday mornings on a run. He leads another group on Thursday mornings for a swim. He is leading by example. Even though it does not show up in the name of his riding, the area he represents includes the town of Whistler, which was home to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Anyone who has ever visited Whistler will know that recreational activities are pretty much what make that place and are what attract so many people there.
It is not surprising to me that he is the one pushing this. He has been joined by one of our senators, Canada's athlete of the century for the 20th century. They are a perfect set of bookends around this idea. I would really encourage all members not only to support the bill but to actually take to heart the sentiment captured by the bill and get involved themselves and encourage friends, family, and constituents to do the same.