Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour to rise to speak to this motion, which we heard the member say earlier was put forward in honour of Mr. Peterson, the member's father.
Certainly, it is an honour to be here and to put forward motions and bills as private members, and also to vote on all the legislation discussed and eventually voted on in this House.
This is a motion that has a particular significance to me. The necessity for young people to be healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually is all tied into what we are discussing in terms of youth fitness today.
I know members cannot tell now, but once upon a time I was very active. I am sure members have not noticed that I have pulled back a little on that, but I played quite a lot of hockey, soccer, basketball and everything else. The lessons I learned playing those sports I bring with me today. Those lessons are used day in, day out in our caucuses, right here in the House of Commons, in our families and in our communities. The lessons I learned through the sports my parents chose to put me into have forever changed my life.
Even when I maybe accidentally hit a member from Toronto at a hockey game, I remember my coaches telling me not to do that, to play within the rules and to not go to the penalty box. However, all jokes aside, there is a real need to continue to bring this issue forward, so I commend the member for doing just that.
It is often an oversight. We think when our children are at school they are at recess and in gym class so are constantly active. We know through the stats that the reality is that our children are less active today and not eating as healthy as we perhaps did growing up. The results of that can have a profound effect over the lifetimes of those children.
As we move forward on this, I think about what we could have done differently in this House to deal with this subject. I do not think this is a partisan subject, and I do not say that to push any partisanship. However, eliminating the tax credit for youth fitness was something that certainly did not help the situation in terms of encouraging fitness among young people. A tax credit is not the be-all and end-all. It is not the only answer, but it is one of the tools we have in our tool belt to encourage fitness among young people.
As we look at mental health and community building, a lot of those relationships come to be through sports and fitness, whether gymnastics or all of these different types of things. We all get behind our local teams and athletes in the communities we live in. Whether they are Olympians, Paralympians, professional or amateur players, we all want to get behind those young people. We all want our young people to have the opportunity to be those individuals.
When I look back over the years, I think of the number of organizations and people who invested in enabling me to play those sports and get involved in fitness. Places like the Rotary Place sports program allows children from impoverished families to participate, despite the clear barriers in terms of the financial capability of the family. The Canadian Tire program allows kids to play, kids whose families would never be able to afford the hockey equipment and the $500 plus a year to play hockey. I think of the different organizations that collect equipment for all kinds of sports to allow children to get involved.
The individuals running the different charities and service organizations are doing so much to encourage youth fitness across the country. It happens in every one of our ridings and every community within our ridings. We need to do more.
I recognize the budget included some funding for female participation in sports. I love that, respect that and want that to continue. However, that is not good enough. The reality is that obesity, mental health and these types of issues do not know one's gender or racial background. It is absolutely across the board.
As parliamentarians, we need to ensure we do everything we can to encourage this. Yes, it is about motions, bills, studies and ensuring we have background information in place, However, more than anything, it is about being leaders in our communities and ensuring that where funding is required, where there can be an effective and efficient use of tax dollars, those funds are placed there.
We know this is an effective use of tax dollars because it reduces the burden on our health care system. We know that when young people are healthy and develop healthy habits, they will take those habits throughout their lives, which is a net benefit to our health care system. It keeps people healthy, both mentally and physically.
We also know that youth who develop skills and talent within fitness or sports can help open a lot of doors for young people, perhaps through scholarships at universities and colleges, allowing individuals who cannot afford to enter programs to do so. That is more so in the United States than in Canada, but they are still available. These doors are opened up through fitness, sports and the participation of young people in healthy activities.
I said earlier that no one could tell I played sports anymore. It is true that once someone is no longer good at sports, the right place to go is to the sideline to coach, and I have done just that. There are a lot of coaches in this room or relatives of members who have coached. As we look at what we can do and who we need to reach out to in order to ensure this study goes in the right direction, we need to ensure we take in the opinions and on-the-ground experiences of coaches. It could be dance, gymnastics, hockey, track and field, whatever it is. It could be tag, for goodness sake, or dodge ball, one of my favourites. Those individuals see the development of young people day in and day out. We need to ensure we grab the information they have within their minds, the tracking they have done and bring it out.
Three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a beautiful part of our country, British Columbia. One of the stops I made was at a small gymnastics gym. It was really interesting. I asked myself why I was going into this gym and what possible reason the staff in my office wanted me to stop at a random gym in Victoria. I learned something there that was world-changing, quite frankly. There was a young man there who developed an app to track youth fitness. This app is now being taken on by the Government of China to help track the fitness of its young people within its education system. China has opened 13 fitness gyms for non-competitive sports. It has expanded to Japan and is opening a third one in Canada.
By the end of 2019, they will have data on 1.2 million children from around the world. They will be able to compare the fitness of children in North America to the fitness of children in Asia and Europe, and find out where they are better or worse, where strength is up, where cardiovascular is up, and be able to develop programs around that.
I hope coming out of this study we will see our young entrepreneurs be able to change the world. This particular young man is 23 years of age. We can propel them, and take what they know, that intellectual property, and apply it, not in China's education system, but here in Ontario and across the country for provincial governments to ensure that we do a better job going forward.
I would like to close by thanking the member for bringing this motion forward, and I certainly hope to see what comes out of this study.