January 22, 2006 – “It’s clear that the real winner in the federal election campaign-at least when it comes to sport issues-is the Canadian public,” declared Ian Bird, Senior Leader of the Sport Matters Group. “The federal parties’ election commitments have acknowledged what Canadians know to be true: sport enriches our lives, improves our health, strengthens our communities, and showcases Canada at its best.”
Recent polling by The Strategic Counsel for the True Sport Foundation shows that the potential of sport to enhance our health and quality of life is not being realized because of significant barriers. Almost three-quarters of Canadians (71%) cite cost and close to half of Canadians (43%) cite the lack of accessible facilities as barriers that prevent more people from participating in sport.
The Sport Matters Group has called for a comprehensive package of investments in sport and physical activity to address these significant challenges:
Annual funding for sport and physical activity of at least $300 million/year, which represents the equivalent of 1% of the federal health care budget
Substantial long-term investments in sport and recreation facilities and infrastructure through partnerships with the provinces/territories and municipalities
Innovative tax measures to encourage greater participation in sport and new sources of funding from the private sector and the public.
The federal parties have responded in various ways.
The Conservatives have committed to spending a minimum of 1% of total federal health funding on physical activity and sport (about $300 million/year). They have also promised to maintain both the Sport Canada budget for amateur sport of $140 million/year and commitments to the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics, including the Own the Podium strategy. As well, they have announced a tax credit on spending of up to $500/year on registration fees and memberships for programs promoting fitness in children under sixteen, estimated to cost $130 million/year. Lastly, the Tories have pledged $50 million/year for community-based programs targeting youth at risk, which includes sport.
The Liberals emphasize the need for additional facilities and infrastructure for sport and recreation, directing $350 million over 5 years to a new Community, Sport and Recreation Infrastructure Fund, with the intention of obtaining matching dollars from the provinces/territories and municipalities. In addition, the Liberal platform reaffirms existing funding of $140 million/year for amateur sport as well as commitments to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games including the Own the Podium strategy. Lastly, the Liberals have pledged to maintain the Healthy Living Strategy investments of $300 million over 5 years, which includes physical activity. In the Strategy’s first year, $3 million was dedicated to physical activity.
The Green Party takes a broad approach, promising a national standard for daily physical education in schools and implementation of the national goal of a 10% increase in physical activity by 2010, as adopted by all levels of government in 2002. The Party has committed to spend $100 million/year for 5 years to reduce inactivity and obesity, through federal initiatives, school-based physical education, and community programs and facilities. The Party also pledges support for high performance athletes, but has not put a dollar value to this component of their sport policy. To advance sustainable sport and recreation management practices, the Greens will promote the Olympic Movement’s “Agenda 21” initiative.
The New Democratic Party platform does not include any sport-specific initiatives. In a letter to the Sport Matters Group, Party leader Jack Layton specifies that sport and recreation facilities would be included in the NDP pledge to establish a new national public infrastructure agency with substantial federal funding. Likewise, the NDP commitment to increase funding for youth at risk programs by $100 million/year for 4 years includes sport and physical activity.
The platform of the Bloc QuÃ©bÃ©cois reflects the cultural importance of sport in the province of Quebec. The Bloc is calling for separate national teams and the enhanced provision of services for athletes in French. The Bloc pledges increased support for elite athletes, as well as support for the World Anti-Doping Agency. The Bloc proposes to use athletes to promote the benefits of sport and physical activity and to include anti-doping programs in schools and recreation centres. The Bloc platform also emphasizes the need to invest in physical activity, through awareness campaigns and accessible sport facilities. It is important to note that none of these commitments has been costed out.
“What is most encouraging is that our federal parties have connected the dots between sport, physical activity, and health,” says Bird. “With a commitment from the parties to back up their promises with real resources, we can expect significant progress on the landmark federal-provincial/territorial Canadian Sport Policy, including contributions from municipalities across the country. For Canadians, this will mean positive change from playground to podium,” predicted Bird.
The Sport Matters Group is a voluntary group of roughly 90 national and provincial organizations and individuals who have come together to collaborate on issues that affect sport and physical activity in Canada. The Group has actively worked together on the Canadian Sport Policy, the Sport and Physical Activity Act, the Voluntary Sector Initiative, and on increasing the resources available for sport in Canada.
For more info visit www.sportmatters.com