Mr. Speaker, as many people know, I will be 70 next year, and it has never occurred to me to stop being active. This summer, I parachuted from 13,500 feet with actor Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge. I went from 0 to 250 km/h in no time, and I would do it again.
There is no age limit for being active, and being able to keep moving while growing older is a luxury that everyone should have. Canada's aging population raises important questions about how we can keep people active as long as possible.
That is true for physical activity and family recreation, but it is also true for community involvement, which is difficult if one is not physically healthy enough.
Having a healthy country is the choice of both individuals and society. I am talking about an aging population because that is my personal reality. However, I also have grandchildren, and I recognize that there is a growing childhood obesity epidemic. That said, none of my eight grandchildren are obese. It is a problem of embarrassing proportions; pardon the pun.
Some 20% of children are overweight, and among adults, the figure is over 50%. What will it be in the future? Obesity is hard on the body, the joints, arterial health, the heart and so on.
What will today's kids do when they are my age? Will they even reach my age? That is worrisome, because I know that leading a long, active life is a blessing for each of us as individuals but also for all of us as a society.
I must say that it is not always easy to stay active. Our schedules get busier and busier, work is demanding, and parents often have to work long hours or several jobs to make ends meet. When they go home at the end of the day, they have to take care of the kids, clean the house, make dinner and pay the bills.
They do not have a lot of time left over for physical activity, and that might be why 85% of adults do not engage in the minimum amount of physical activity required for good long-term health. That proportion is 10% higher among young people. That is something we should all be worried about.
For these reasons, I support Bill S-211. I also want to add that it is almost November, a month associated with depression, fatigue and even suicide. Do Canadians know that physical activity can help with that?
It would be good to remind them that adding a little physical activity to their routines will improve their mental health, reduce stress, build self-confidence and improve mood. It is also important to note that regular physical activity boosts energy levels.
Not for nothing did singer Dédé Fortin write the song, Dehors novembre. We live in a northern country, and the onset of winter is hard on people. I think it is a very good idea to remind people of the benefits of physical activity around this time.
In addition to all that, I would like to point out that a preventive approach is good for society as a whole. Heart disease and stroke alone cost Canadians $20.9 billion per year. That much money would buy exactly 350 million pairs of running shoes, which is more than enough to get everyone back in good health.
We can promote physical activity with a preventive approach. The NDP has been calling for that since 2011. To that end, we must make it easier to access federal parks. Here, we have Gatineau Park, which is free and has open access. Such a gem is not available in every region, and access to some parks—such as La Mauricie National Park next to my riding—is becoming more and more expensive. For a low-income family, just getting to a park costs a lot of money for gas. Charging fees to a family might be a deterrent to many.
The NDP thinks that the federal government should work with the provinces and territories to ensure that every child can lay the foundation for an active life by incorporating physical activity in his or her lifestyle.
Beyond access to national parks, we can also make it easier to access fitness centres and sports teams. I believe parents should never have to choose between buying groceries and registering their children for hockey.
Many organizations in Canada recognize the importance of physical activity and believe that the government has a role to play in promoting it to Canadians. That is the position of the Canadian Nurses Association, which has stated that the federal government has a duty to play a leadership role in promoting active living in Canada. The Canadian Cancer Society has said the same thing, namely, that the government is one of the most important forces in influencing active living.
I could go on and on naming organizations that believe the government needs to play a greater role in promoting physical activity, but I think my position is fairly clear.
To sum up, I clearly support Bill S-211 because I recognize the importance of the individual and collective benefits of this. I also recognize that we all stand to gain from a healthy, active life. How could anyone oppose this? This bill is a responsible initiative that will really help Canadians live better lives as young people, be better parents and, one only hopes, stay healthy as they age.
To promote everyone's health, it is imperative to start by making it easier to access our national parks, which really are public treasures. We should also make it easier for people to join fitness centres and sports teams.
We will then have stronger, healthier communities, not to mention the fact that older, retired people will have more to offer their communities for a longer period of time, thereby allowing us to benefit from their experience. As for young people, they will be more active and better prepared for work, but more importantly—and it is important to point this out at this time of the year—people of all ages will be happier. Everyone will be in better shape and therefore in a better mood. This could help prevent frustration.