Coalition For Active Living

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January 18, 2006 - 2006 Election Update

Election Day is right around the corner. On January 23rd, as you contemplate your electoral choice as a member of the active living community, we would like to offer you a snapshot of the political parties' positions on issues of concern around physical activity in Canada.

During this Election Campaign, there has been much discussion about the Canadian health care system, but not much talk generated around the role physical activity can play in preventing chronic disease, and improving the overall health of Canadians. To identify specific commitments from the parties, CAL approached each of the five major Canadian political parties with three key questions. The Green Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party of Canada sent us their answers directly while the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party and the Bloc Québécois have not yet responded. We offer the following comparison which notes each party's response to the questions asked. Where a formal answer was not provided, we include excerpts from the party platforms.

1. Physical inactivity costs Canada $ 5.3 billion each year and is cutting the lifespan of our children. In fact, we are currently raising the first generation of children whose life expectancy will be less than their parents. In 2003, the Federal, Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Physical Activity, Recreation and Sport committed to increasing physical activity by a minimum of ten percentage points in each province and territory by the year 2010. The Coalition for Active Living has recommended a federal investment of $100 million dollars annually to increase physical activity. What specific kinds of investments would your party make to move this pan-jurisdictional goal forward and to achieve a physically active Canada?

New Democratic Party: "The New Democrats believe that Canada needs to re-invest in physical activity. To that end, and to keep Canadians, especially Canadian children, healthy and active, New Democrats have worked hard to label and ban trans-fats in food and have called for the restoration of a national program to prevent illness by encouraging physical activity and promoting alternative and traditional health practices." Response sent to CAL, January 13, 2006
The Green Party: "To promote Active Living in Canada, the Green Party will: make a strategic investment of $500 million over 5 years to aggressively address inactivity and obesity, through Health Canada and through school-based physical and health education as well as community-based programs and facilities; implement the pan-Canadian goal, agreed to by all 14 Ministers responsible for physical activity, of increasing physical activity by 10 percentage points over 5 years; promote a broad-based national system of active living as a prescription for better health and lower health care costs, to be delivered in partnership with provincial, municipal and non-governmental bodies; create a new Ministry of Active Living, Recreation and Sport, as supported by a broad coalition of fitness and sport partners and proposed by former secretary of state Paul DeVillers, but rejected by his party; and make healthy conditions for active living -- healthy air, water and food – a basic right of all Canadians, and implement policies (agriculture, transportation, energy, industry, etc.) to achieve these conditions." Response sent directly to CAL, January 9, 2006
Liberal Party: "Recently, the Paul Martin government launched the Integrated Strategy on Healthy Living and Chronic Disease. With five-year funding of $300 million, the strategy is aimed at healthy eating, physical activity and healthy weights – all key factors for some of the leading preventable chronic diseases. It will be balanced by complementary investments to help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.". Taken from Securing Canada's Success, the Liberal Party of Canada Federal Election Platform 2006
Conservative Party: "The most important part of health care is prevention, including insuring that Canadians, especially children, have proper diet and exercise. A Conservative government will promote a wellness and physical fitness agenda to help Canadians and their children stay fit and healthy…A Conservative government will: commit to spending at least one percent of total federal health funding annually on physical activity, including amateur sport and programs for school age children such as the Awards of Excellence program." Taken from the Conservative Party of Canada Federal Election Platform 2006.
Bloc Québécois: There was not direct mention of physical activity funding in the party platform.

2. To integrate physical activity into the daily lives of children, adults and seniors, we must ensure that the communities where Canadians live, learn, commute, work and play are barrier-free (i.e. creating and maintaining greenway corridors, bike lanes and safe sidewalks). How does your party plan on funding and building the infrastructure needed to create physical-activity friendly communities?

New Democratic Party: "The NDP wants to modernize our infrastructure to make our communities stronger, safer, and more livable. In that direction we'll increase the Gas Tax Transfer to municipalities to the full 5 cents per litre as requested by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to be used in part for cycling and pedestrian infrastructure." Response sent directly to CAL, January 13, 2006
The Green Party: "To promote sustainable sport and recreation practices, the Green Party will: endorse and promote the Olympic Movement's Agenda 21 for Sport which advocates sport and recreation management practices that are sustainable and encourages sustainable practices at all sports events and facilities and promote access to recreation facilities and programs for Canadians of all physical and mental abilities, and recognize the distinct needs of all groups." Response sent directly to CAL, January 9, 2006
Liberal Party: "A new Liberal government will build upon the success of the New Deal for Cities and Communities by ensuring it becomes a key permanent component of Canada's strategy for success and creating a new fund to build municipal sport and recreational facilities to promote healthy lifestyle. We will create a new Community, Sport and Recreational Facility Fund (CSRFF) with investments of $350 million over five years, that when matched with provincial and municipal funds will make available $1.05 billion. Investing in community infrastructure is central to developing the inclusive communities that Canadians want. Sport and recreation facilities provide much wanted public space for healthy, active lifestyles." Taken from the official Liberal Party website, press release dated January 15, 2006
Conservative Party: The platform does not specifically address this question.
Bloc Québécois: "A sovereign Québec with a national sports policy could promote physical activity through awareness campaigns and accessible sports facilities. In addition, a sovereign Quebec could also invest in the promotion of sustainable physical activity, particularly within its own institutions, and declare a National Physical Activity Day." Taken from the Bloc Québécois party platform 2006.

3. According to recent findings, one out of three children in Canada between the ages of 2 and 11 are either overweight or obese, placing them at a higher risk of developing preventable, chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, certain types of cancer and heart disease –to name a few. How does your party plan to address the physical inactivity crisis among children and youth in Canada?

New Democratic Party: "Canada's NDP has always called for restoring a national program that prevents illness by encouraging physical activity, and promoting proven alternative and traditional health practices to keep Canadians, especially Canadian children, healthy and out of the acute care system" Response to CAL, January 13, 2006
The Green Party: "To reduce youth obesity and inactivity: the Green Party will: introduce a national standard of daily, quality participation in sport and physical activity in schools and re-introduce a national school-based fitness-testing program." Response sent directly to CAL, January 9, 2006
Liberal Party: The platform does not specifically address this question.
Conservative Party: "A Conservative government will allow the parents of young people under 16 years old who register their children in programs that promote physical fitness to claim a federal tax credit on spending up to $500 per year per child spent on registration fees and memberships" Taken from the Conservative Party of Canada Federal Election Platform 2006
Bloc Québécois: The platform does not specifically address this question.

It is not too late to raise awareness around physical activity this election campaign. You still have time to inform the political parties and their candidates on the importance of physical activity to the overall health and well-being of all Canadians. Stand up at the microphone at the next all-candidates debate in your riding and ask these questions or forward them to your local candidates via phone, fax, and email.

CAL looks forward to working with the next government and all members of parliament in ensuring that the environments where Canadians live, learn, commute, work and play support regular physical activity.

Stay tuned for our reaction to the election results.

Rick Bell
Chair, CAL Board of Directors