moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, in Canada we are the true north, strong and free, but we can be much better.
In that context, I rise today to present Bill S-211 for third reading, a bill designed to create a national health and fitness day, a bill intended to raise awareness about the need for healthy physical activity in Canada, a bill intended to create a platform upon which all Canadians can move to do better.
The bill is the fruit of six years of work, of collaboration among legislators at all levels of government. This has been the product of a network of coaches, parents, and sports advocates across our great nation.
I am immensely proud of my Canada, a pride that crested during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, a pride that grows each time I walk into this chamber or return to the riding which I call the most beautiful place on earth.
However, as wonderful as our country is, a critical ingredient of our nation's excellence is a commitment to continuous improvement in all that we do. While in Canada we are strong and we are free, we can be much better as a nation than we are today.
We have a healthy nation, but we can do better. The problem drives deep, as its roots are in our culture and wedded to the routines that we have developed in our education, our work, and our play. Canadian cultural patterns reflect an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, fuelled by our growing addiction to the Internet and video screens. We must acknowledge the need to do better in promoting the health and fitness of our people.
The bill would respond to a need that touches the lives of all Canadians and literally shapes the people we are to become in future generations.
We have reached a low point in our history. Statistics Canada reports a continuous decline in sports participation, which, from 1992 to 2005, went from 45% to 28% among Canadians age 15 and older. This is the first generation of Canadians in which children may die at a younger age than their parents. There are less than 7% of young people who are physically active for six hours weekly. Obesity rates have climbed such that a third of people under 18 are overweight or obese, which means that they have 14 times the likelihood of suffering a cardiac event by age 50.
Canadians, such as Whistler's Dennehy family, have become increasingly concerned about a rising incidence of mental health problems in our people. Psychiatrists, counsellors, and others, have a variety of solutions, but all agree that physical activity can improve mental health.
Our government has responded to this need with a variety of measures to improve Canadian health care. Increasingly, our government supports preemptive health measures designed to put the responsibility of healthy living where appropriate, in the hands of individual Canadians, parents, and families, not in the bowels of bureaucracy.
Last month, for instance, our government announced the doubling of the children's fitness tax credit, which, next year, will become a refundable tax credit. While this credit would be a targeted measure to help Canadian families lead healthier lives, this Conservative government has taken numerous other measures: reducing taxes over 150 times, and putting $3,400 more into the pockets of Canadians each year due to tax reductions. These are measures which allow Canadians to invest in healthy physical activity for ourselves and our children.
As we move close to our new year's resolutions, I urge moms and dads across the nation to allocate these funds toward healthy physical activity, to involve their children, and to claim the tax credit.
As we look forward to Canada's 150th anniversary celebration, we, as a nation, have the opportunity to pursue trails to health, to shine a light on individual Canadians, our communities, and to become the fittest nation on earth. One proposal is to celebrate the 150th anniversary with active movement on the Trans Canada Trail.
We have a prosperous nation, but, again, we can do better. The economic consequences of these sad statistics doom our ability to provide adequate health care, unless we take effective and practical steps now. Declining physical activity and increasing obesity have triggered a surge in preventable diseases among Canadians. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that it costs a staggering $7 billion annually to care for persons whose diabetes or cardiovascular disease relate to inactivity.
In addition to direct and indirect health care costs, the quality and productivity of working Canadians would surely improve if our people were healthier and fitter.
In addition to making the lives of Canadians better, there are many economic incentives for us to promote health and fitness for Canadians.
We have a nation of great volunteers, but we can do better. I thank the myriad of volunteers who have helped to bring Bill S-211 this far. Foremost among these are the dynamic duo of Parliament Hill: Pierre Lafontaine, president of Canadian Interuniversity Sport; and Phil Marsh, a senior manager at the Running Room. Seeking to galvanize legislators as role models, for five years, Phil and Pierre have shown up tirelessly on Tuesday mornings to run, and Thursdays to swim, with MPs, senators, and our staff. Pierre and Phil have a simple message: if we parliamentarians can squeeze physical exercise into our busy lives, all Canadians can do the same. It was our great coaches who underlined the key role of local governments in promoting health and fitness.
Other groups and people have rallied, operating as an informal advisory council to ensure that my work is relevant and productive. I thank Trans Canada Trail, ParticipACTION, Sport Matters, PHE Canada, Canadian Parks and Recreation Association, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Movember, Canadian Tire, the Fitness Industry Council of Canada, GoodLife Fitness, Sports Information Resource Centre, Canadian Sport for Life, Canadian Red Cross, Jumpstart, Canada Bikes, and other groups that have selflessly worked with us to get the message out. We are a great country, but to remain the true north strong and free, we have to be healthier and more fit than we are today.
Many volunteers in the riding I represent have also rallied to the cause. I include Rotarians, who promote the Ride for Rescue; Fit Fellas, such as Barrie Chapman and Frank Kurucz; Ashley Wiles, of Sole Girls; Vancouver Whitecaps, former captain Jay DeMerit; and Whistler's Olympic gold medalist, Ashleigh McIvor.
At this point, if members will indulge a personal insight, it has been said that behind every successful man is a surprised woman. There has been no greater supporter of my efforts to promote health and fitness than my wife Donna, a personal trainer herself, and my favourite running partner. In fact, we met when we were running, and we have been running together ever since, in every sense of the word. I am delighted that she is with us today, as Bill S-211 nears the finish line.
While it is seldom done, I would also like to acknowledge the Herculean efforts of my staff, Marilyn McIvor, Jocelyn Hemond, Jessica Faddegon, Stephanie Betzold, Sue McQueen, and others, who have been the secret in organizing Bike Day in Canada, National Lifejacket and Swim Day on the Hill, and other events that have kept national health and fitness day afloat.
We have an active group of legislators, but, again, we can do better. I am honoured to work with my friend, the great initiator of this bill in the senate, Nancy Greene Raine, Canada's female athlete of the 20th century. Revered by Canadians as an articulate champion of fitness on and off the ski slopes, Senator Greene Raine shows up again and again to advocate for the matters that mean the most to British Columbians.
Six years ago, when the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games were becoming a reality, she and I asked the people of my riding what we could do to create a legacy for all Canadians arising from that amazing extravaganza. The question was especially relevant because 70% of the Olympic sites were in the riding that I represent. Constituents told Senator Greene Raine and me that we needed to springboard from the enthusiasm for elite sport into a lasting legacy of health and fitness for all Canadians. Over the last few years, Senator Greene Raine and I have worked hard to involve our colleagues in both Houses on this project. In the course of these efforts, something rare and wonderful has happened. A consensus grew around the House, and members of all parties have consistently shown up to participate in the parliamentary fitness initiative. It is no coincidence that members in both Houses have also voted unanimously for this bill in the past.
I thank the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health, and the Minister of State for Sport for their great support. While the Queen may formally be the first lady of Canada, Laureen Harper is first lady in the hearts of many Canadians. She has also been a consistent supporter of our efforts. Along with the consensus, personal friendships have grown. I applaud the members for Sackville—Eastern Shore, Etobicoke North, and Saanich—Gulf Islands for their efforts in promoting health and fitness for parliamentarians, and, through parliamentarians, to all Canadians. I want to say, as well, how much I appreciate the friendship that has grown among us, regardless of party, in the course of these efforts.
For my colleagues in this House, I continue to invite them to pivot from their very real need to care for their own personal health, to look at themselves as role models in approaching their constituents to get active, and to keep our people strong and free, especially our local mayors and councillors.
The passage of this bill will raise awareness and create a platform for further action. I am grateful that individuals, organizations and legislators across our wonderful land, even before the passage of Bill C-211, have already begun to celebrate national health and fitness day, marked on the first Saturday of June each year.
However, even though our local governments are engaged, we can do better.
The specific goal of the bill is to encourage local governments to proclaim Canada's national health and fitness day and to define the day in some way that increases physical activity among Canadians. It is a blank cultural and civic canvas for all of us to use. Mayors, councillors and other leaders can create an event, such as a free dance class, a swim lesson, or even open the doors of recreational and fitness facilities on a complementary basis. So far, B.C. and the Yukon territory have proclaimed national health and fitness day. I urge the other provinces and territories to follow suit.
More than 156 municipalities across the country have proclaimed the day. Among the very first proclaimers were the municipalities in the riding I represent, West Vancouver, Squamish, Sechelt, Gibsons, Lions Bay, Whistler, Bowen Island, North Vancouver district, Powell River, and the three regional districts in the riding, Sunshine Coast, Squamish-Lillooet, and Powell River.
On May 30, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities added its powerful voice, voting to endorse the movement. Federation president Brad Woodside has encouraged all Federation of Canadian Municipalities' 2,000 members to proclaim the day, 156 Canadian cities strong and free, but we can do better. I look forward to the day when every Canadian town and city has proclaimed national health and fitness day.
As national health and fitness day comes into our nation's laws and traditions, it is a time when we can all focus on doing better in the area of healthy physical activity. I thank the many who have helped make this a reality. In voting for this bill on Wednesday, we in the House of Commons will all have contributed to the creation of an historic turning point, with a positive and lasting change made for our whole country.
Canada is strong and free, the best country in the world, but we can do better. With the enactment of national health and fitness day, I urge each and every one of my fellow Canadians to engage routinely in positive physical activity for themselves, their families, their communities, and their nation.
Yes, we are the true north, strong and free, but we will be even better than we are today. Canada will become the fittest nation on earth.