May 02, 2006

The Budget as Sport

Tomorrow is budget day for our new federal government — our new minority federal government, and that adds quite a lot of drama to the proceedings. Like most Canadians, I'll be looking closely at the issues that affect me personally and how the Conservatives plan to address them.

Before the election, I wrote a bit about the Sport Matters Group and their analysis of which political party would come closest to meeting its "wish list" of pro-sport initiatives. Last month the SMG released the submission they made to the Minister of Finance in advance of the budget. In a separate e-mail I received, SMG stated that the Minister received about 400 submissions on sport and physical activity out of 5600 total.

The conclusion of the report identifies three broad recommendations for "introducing a comprehensive package of investments in sport and physical activity." Here's my summary of those recommendations and my take on the Conservative view. (I should say up front that I my knowledge of politics is quite shallow, so you can take that part for what it's worth.)

Sport Funding

Sport Matters Group is calling for funding for sport and physical activity that is equal to 1% of total federal health care spending. This paper goes through the calculation and assesses the 1% mark as $465M per year. The report admits that some might take a less generous definition, which would come out at $318M. Either way, it would be a very significant increase from current levels.

According to SMG, the Conservative party platform for 2006 made a promise to meet this goal. I predict that they'll break this one. As a minority government, they'll be under pressure to spend; as Conservatives, they'll be pressured to cut. Funding for sport isn't an area where there is significant pressure to increase spending. As usual, it will be quickly passed over by the press and the public. I do believe that they will propose a small increase, but not a tripling or even a doubling.

New Fiscal Policy

Sport Matters Group is proposing a number of tax breaks and fiscal policy changes, including:

  • Tax credits for fees to register children in organized sport, and for fees paid by coaches and officials
  • Elimination of the capital gains tax on donations of securities to charities (including sport not-for-profits)
  • An increase in the allowable tax deduction for sponsorship of community sport by private corporations
  • Tax credits for parents supporting high-performance athletes
  • The renewal of the national sport lottery

Some of the above were Conservative campaign promises. And Conservatives and tax cuts, that's like peas and carrots. I think there will be a number of proposals in tomorrow's budget along these lines, and they will sail through parliament without debate. Many middle-class parents will be pleased when they read about this on page three.

Investments in Infrastructure

Sport Matters Group is hyping sport infrastructure as an investment in community health, and as an economic investment as well:

The lack of facilities that meet international standards causes many Canadian communities to miss out on the opportunity to reap the economic benefits from hosting competitive games. Similarly many communities are unable to fully exploit their potential to attract sport tourism because of inadequate or insufficient facilities.

SMG is asking for a "designated envelope" for sport facilities and infrastructure, with "adequate, long-term funding for this envelope." To be honest, I don't know what all this talk about "envelopes" means. I don't expect to see any of it in tomorrow's Conservative budget, though. My prediction is that they won't be sold on the alleged social or economic benefits.

Sport Matters Group has made a very coherent presentation, and a well-reasoned argument for their cause. And of course they don't really expect to check off everything on their wish list tomorrow. I don't think they'll be disappointed, and they'll have some concrete successes to point to at the end of the day.

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