Mr. Speaker, as the NDP critic for sport, I am pleased to speak to this Senate bill, which was sponsored by my colleague. The bill seeks to establish a national day to promote health and fitness.
Let me just say first that my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country has done phenomenal work on this issue. As the sports critic for the NDP, it has been a pleasure to work with him on this issue. I am really trying to find a solution to the inactivity that seems to plague our youth.
It was funny. We had meetings. It is actually Sport Matters lobby day on the Hill today. That is appropriate timing, as far as I am concerned. One of its representatives used the word “inertia” in speaking about the need to move forward. I thought the choice of words was appropriate because it is what we are trying to solve here today.
There is still reason to be concerned about this issue. Over the past 40 years, many governments have tried to find solutions to the problem of inactivity. A report issued by the World Health Organization shows that total calorie intake changed only slightly at a time of a sharp increase in obesity.
This makes us think about the risk factors. Video games and cell phones certainly play a role, but blaming these technologies oversimplifies the problem and prevents us from implementing good public policies that will help us to resolve the issue.
Let us talk about the bill that is before us today. It raises an important question. My colleague opposite, who introduced the bill, often says that it is important for parliamentarians to set an example. After all, he, along with the member for Etobicoke North and my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore, has always promoted physical activity among members. It is all well and good to talk about it, but we also have to do it so that we do not look hypocritical.
This is not just about us. It is important to encourage community members. In my work as sport critic, I look at both elite and amateur sports. For example, I look at the Olympics and international sporting events hosted in Canada, such as the figuring skating championships held last year in London, Ontario, and the 2015 Pan Am Games that will be held in Toronto.
The elite sports system is well structured, but there is work to be done at the local level. That is what we like in this bill sponsored by my colleague and Senator Nancy Greene. The NDP strongly believes that we need to work more with the provinces and municipalities to ensure that they have the tools they need not only to promote elite sports but also to encourage average Canadians to use the sports facilities at their disposal. That is one of the reasons why we support this bill.
We cannot deny that accessibility is something an issue. I come from a community in the greater Montreal area, in Chambly—Borduas, on the south shore. People in Chambly are very fortunate. It is a very well-managed city that now has three hockey arenas. These people have access to a lot of facilities, but that is unfortunately not the case everywhere.
I hope that this national day to encourage people to use these municipal facilities will highlight the fact that all parties and stakeholders need to work together to help promote investments and awareness of infrastructure needs.
It is all well and good to encourage people of all ages to participate in sports and live an active life, but if they do not have the tools to live this lifestyle, we will end up back at square one. That is something very important to consider.
What is more, we have looked at a lot in committee. When we study amateur coaching, when we study preparations for the Olympic Games and our athletes, of whom we are so proud, different elements keep coming back, and there is still ongoing debate about what the solutions would be. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I do not think we have yet found the solution. Governments have been looking for solutions for decades.
What I appreciate about the bill is that we are putting forward a day to encourage folks to think about their health and to go out and participate in sports and use the installations that are available in municipalities. I think it allows us a chance to continue the debate. Every time this House votes on a bill to put forward a national day representing issue X, whether it is dealing with awareness of an illness or, in this case, dealing with something more positive, promoting an active lifestyle, the day is important, yes, but we as New Democrats are supporting the bill because it would also allow us to continue a discussion that my colleague has been at the forefront of with different stakeholders that have been involved in promoting this particular issue.
I think the government has tried to put forward different measures to try to solve this issue, such as the children's fitness tax credit and other such measures, but, unfortunately, they have met with varying degrees of success. They have not always been the solutions that have been required, and that is why having this debate is so important.
I mentioned going to the local level and not just looking at league sports, because one thing that comes back often when we study sports issues—in committee in particular, but even when we meet with stakeholders—is that we need to think of sports as a pyramid. Yes, we need to look at that small piece at the top, our lead athletes, of whom we are very proud, as I mentioned. We want to continue promoting them and allowing them to succeed because, contrary to what it may seem like, it is not always a glamorous life. These folks work very hard. They are great role models for the folks at the bottom of that pyramid, the folks a bill like this would help out and push forward in having active lifestyles. We really need to not forget the community level.
That is our challenge. Our Olympians are role models. Our athletes set an example for our kids. It is really important to have the bottom of the pyramid at the provincial and municipal levels, as I said earlier, like the rising tide that lifts all boats.
I think that is really important.
It is important that youth have more than just one day in which to participate. There needs to be a follow-up to that day. I think it is an excellent start, and that is why I am very pleased to be supporting the bill.
To conclude, I would like to come back to the first speeches I made as sport critic two years ago. Active Healthy Kids Canada had published a report that gave Canadian youth a D for their participation in sports. There are kids who are inactive. The report did not point to any causes, but there are many. That report really hit home.
This important issue is also reflected in the work I have done with the Minister of State for Sport; we have a very good working relationship. This is not a partisan issue. When we see those kinds of results in a report, we are all concerned because this is a health issue and it will cost money.
Yesterday, at our Movember reception, Senator Green made an interesting comment when she said that our health care system is, at times, more like a disease management system. We treat diseases, but we also need to think about prevention, and that is where sports can play an incredibly positive role. As legislators, we need to encourage that.
That is why we support the bill, which is sponsored by the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. This bill is a good first step because it establishes a day for raising awareness and encouraging people to participate.
This will allow us to continue this debate, bring forward good public policy, and encourage our communities to have an active lifestyle. We hope the repercussions of maintaining good health will be positive.
Again I want to commend my colleague. We are proud to support this bill, and we hope to pursue this debate in future.