January 21, 2006

How To Vote

Now, I would never suggest that anybody should cast their vote in the Canadian federal election on the basis of a party's policies on amateur sport. Not when our entire society is on the verge of being wiped out by the question of whether a man can or cannot legally get married to another man.

But in case those more important issues haven't helped you make up your mind, let's talk about the various federal parties and the promises they've made about amateur sport. Before I start I want to give credit once again to local sports columnist Chris Cochrane who covered this in his column earlier in the week. Cochrane does a great job covering local sports at all levels, and often has something insightful to say. No doubt he will be scooped up by a real newspaper soon, but in the meantime I will enjoy his column while I can.

But I digress. An organization called the Sport Matters Group sent out a summary press release on Thursday that summarizes the federal parties' plans for amateur sport.

The Sport Matters Group have called on the federal government to make a larger financial investment in sport, including:

  • Annual funding of $300M a year for sport and physical activity, which represents the equivalent of 1% of the federal health care budget;
  • Long-term investment in sport and recreation facilities and infrastructure; and
  • Innovative tax measures to encourage participation and private sector investment

The press release summarizes the response of the Conservatives, the Liberals, the Green Party, the New Democrats, and the Bloc Québécois. In that order, too, and although there is no explicit endorsement of any of the parties, it is clear that this is meant to indicate which party has come closest to matching the Sport Matters Group's wish list.

Since this is a press release, I'll assume that I'm allowed to quote from it as extensively as I please:

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 Québécois 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.

So now you're informed. And depending on your perspective on this issue, I think that there's really something for everyone here. Well, unless you think that the government shouldn't spend a red cent of your hard-earned money on sport.

If you'd like a more personal spin on it, Sport Nova Scotia also took a survey of some Nova Scotia candidates, and you can see their answers here (PDF).

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