May 20, 2005

A Unified Ministry for Sport?

This sounds like good news for Canadian athletes.

Paul DeVillers was appointed Parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister yesterday. M. DeVillers' assignment is to recommend ways to coordinate all of the different existing federal programs for sport, recreation, and fitness and health.

The current situation is pretty screwed up, for sure. Sport Canada, which administers the federal programs for amateur sport, is a department of Canadian Heritage. That means that the core federal funding for the various national sport federations (NSFs), and the Athlete Assistance Program, is lumped in with Arts and Culture, Citizenship and Identity, and Multiculturalism. (Sport and Multiculturalism each have their own Minister of State under the Minister for Canadian Heritage.)

Although sport clearly does have important cultural aspects, Canadian sport advocates have been trying for years to draw the connection between sport and public health. Frankly, in the current arrangement the Sport Canada budget looks to many like a luxury; easy to cut when times are tough. Sport officials would like to bring the government's active living and physical education programs under the same umbrella as the NSFs and all funding for high-performance athletes.

Integrating these programs together would lead to a unified blueprint for physical activity "from cradle to grave," as they say. If it can make Canadians healthier and more athletic, then it's a winning arrangement for everybody.

As an aside, if you live in Canada you have no doubt heard already, but the Liberal budget — which included increased funding for amateur sport — passed a parliamentary vote on Thursday. That's more good news for the NSFs, especially for summer sports, who now have some level of certainty about their 2005-06 funding.

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