Mr. Speaker, in August 2013 the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario released a report on forced marriages. It reported that 219 cases of forced marriage happened between 2010 and 2012 in the province of Ontario alone. All of these individuals experienced a form of violence. Most were young and from a variety of cultures and religions. Furthermore, the majority of victims were unaware of their rights in a situation of forced marriage. These victims were often forced into marriage by a family member, in most cases by their own parents.
I am the father of a 14-year-old daughter, whom you know, and these statistics explain why I speak today in favour of the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act. This bill is consistent with a variety of actions by our Conservative government to help the victims of these horrible situations.
This bill would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Criminal Code, and the Civil Marriage Act to provide additional protections for Canadians against certain practices involving violence against women and girls. I will be supporting this bill and I would urge my colleagues to do so. This government is taking steps to strengthen our laws to help ensure that no young girl or woman in Canada becomes a victim of early or forced marriage.
In addition to a having a career in international law, I am a dedicated advocate for human rights and have spoken in this House, in my riding of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, and abroad to urge action against oppression. I have also had the privilege of serving communities across Canada through my former role as chair of Food for the Hungry International Federation. I also joined with others to create the Canadian Constitution Foundation, which to this day advocates for the constitutional rights of Canadians. In my role as MP, I have defended the rights of Canadians incarcerated overseas. This past October, I stood with the member for Mount Royal publicly to call on the Iranian government to spare the lives of three Iranian prisoners on death row. I have also travelled to Pakistan and Iraq with One Free World International on human rights missions.
Whether as lawyers, MPs, or fellow human beings, we who have a voice and a platform have a responsibility to speak on behalf of those who cannot do so themselves. We must stand up for the victims of barbaric practices such as the ones targeted by this bill. My constituents stand for human rights, and I stand together with them.
Today I address a key misconception that has arisen during debate on the zero tolerance for barbaric cultural practices act. Critics of this bill say Canada does not need a new law imposing a minimum age for marriage. However, the bill would raise the lowest age at which anyone can marry in Canada to age 16, with no exceptions. Currently, federal law sets age 16 as the lowest age for marriage, but only in the province of Quebec. As difficult as this may be to believe, elsewhere in Canada there is no federal legislation, and the old pre-Confederation common law applies. This means that girls can marry at age 12 and boys at age 14. Raising the lowest age that anyone can marry to age 16 for all those who live in Canada would create a long-overdue new national standard that would increase protections for children, as no marriages could occur below that age.
During the debate, some asked why the Government of Canada is proposing to lower the minimum age of marriage to 16. They believe that provincial law already sets a minimum age higher than 16, such as 18 or 19.
This is a serious misunderstanding of the law, understandably caused by confusion, because constitutional jurisdiction over marriage is shared in Canada. Both the federal and the provincial legislatures have jurisdiction over complementary but different aspects of marriage.
Under the Constitution, only the federal Parliament can set the lowest age for anyone to marry across the country. The provincial legislatures can determine the age at which a child becomes an adult, and adults can consent to marriage for themselves with no additional requirements. The age of adulthood, or majority, is currently set at either age 18 or 19, depending on the province. For young people between the lowest age for marriage and the age of majority, provincial law requires the consent of the child's parents to any marriage. In the case of younger children who are closer to the lowest age for marriage, the provincial law may also require the approval of a court or restrict such marriages to situations in which the young couple is expecting a child.
As we can see, provincial and federal laws work together, with federal law setting the lowest age for anyone to marry and provincial laws adding requirements for marriages above that age until the child becomes an adult and can consent for himself or herself.
Because the constitutional powers are complementary, it is not possible for provincial laws to set the lowest age for anyone to marry. The bill would raise the current lowest age for anyone to marry up to age 16 for all those living in Canada. Provinces and territories would continue setting additional requirements for mature young people who wish to marry between that federal minimum age of 16 and the age of majority as established by the province or territory of residence.
Under private international law rules, the lowest age for anyone living in Canada to marry would apply wherever in the world that marriage is conducted and registered. In other words, the bill would also extend protections to Canadian children under the age of 16 who are taken out of the country to marry or who are married through telephone or proxy marriages overseas while they remain physically present in Canada.
The provisions of the bill would protect children and should be fully supported by the House.
We must not forget the powerful, positive, egalitarian aspects that accompany our citizens' general respect for various cultures. Canada is focused on accepting and accommodating people from all different backgrounds, religions, races, and ethnicities. Canadian multiculturalism is fundamental to the belief that all citizens are equal. It ensures that all citizens can keep their identities, take pride in their ancestry, and have a sense of belonging. I continue to believe that acceptance gives Canadians a feeling of security and self-confidence, making them more open to, and accepting of, diverse cultures.
The Canadian experience has shown that multiculturalism encourages cross-cultural understanding. However, this acceptance and understanding does not extend to harmful cultural practices that victimize people. Our Conservative government is taking a strong stance against the harmful practices of early and forced marriage. We are leading international efforts to address these practices as a violation of fundamental human rights.
I hope all my colleagues will support this important piece of legislation.
The hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country.
Accordingly, I will go to the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country for his right of reply. The hon. member has up to five minutes.
I invite the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country for his right of reply. The hon. member has up to five minutes.
Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure tonight to speak to the bill. I think it is one of the most important bills we have had in this Parliament because it affects all of us in a major way.
I have to compliment the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. He has taken a dynamic leadership role in, first of all, making MPs aware of healthy eating and healthy living styles. Parliament Hill is a place where we eat on the run. We eat unhealthy foods because we are so busy. We are on airplanes all the time, and need I say more about airplane food and the inactivity of sitting on an airplane? We have chronic issues there.
Having said that, when I was first introduced to the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, he was starting all these fitness programs around this place. I am possibly the least sports- or fitness-minded person. As a mother, I took my kids to every sport known to man, from hockey to soccer. I was the hockey mum and the soccer mum and did all those kinds of things. My husband is a wonderful athlete and does everything from martial arts to hockey to whatever. That certainly helped him when he got chronic cancer, because today he is in remission, and I credit that to, number one, prayer, and second, his fitness level was fantastic.
When I look at what the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country has done, it has began to turn or reset the channel of even Parliament Hill, the seat of Parliament where we are supposed to be producing laws for all Canadians and being examples for all Canadians.
I had a big challenge personally, because at a very young age my brother drowned and it hit our family very hard, particularly my mum. I was a baby at the time, so I do not remember my older brother, but I remember my mum sitting in a rocking chair and every once in a while she would start to cry. Even when I was a teenager, my dad would say, “Leave mum alone for a while. She just needs this time”. She was remembering the tragic loss of her son and our brother. I have to say it sort of seeded a fear of water in me. I love to look at the water. I love to put my toe in the water. When I was very bold, I would walk into water up to my neck and hope I could still reach the bottom, because I liked the water in way, but I feared it dreadfully.
One day the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country said, “Why do you not come and learn how to swim?” I kept telling him I did not have time, and I really did not have time. I was very busy. However, it was a very healthy thing to do and he is very persistent and very persuasive. I could not believe it. I bought a bathing suit, goggles, and a cap. I looked like something from outer space, and I do not have the greatest figure in the world, so getting me out there just on that basis was a challenge.
Having said that, I started going into the water, and today I am not a bad swimmer. I know how to swim and I have learned how to go under water. The most exciting thing is having my goggles on going under water and seeing all the things that are happening there. I got over my fear of water, but it also got me into physical activity.
The other thing I do on a regular basis is biking. We could be walking down Wellington or O'Connor and there we would see the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country early in the morning on his bike. It never ceases to amaze me how he can bike in extremely cold, windy weather.
I am not that dedicated, but I am dedicated to a charity I started, and I biked for victims of human trafficking. I have done that kind of thing, which motivated me as well.
The member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country has changed the environment around this place through his leadership, and it is an environment of activity that involves people from all parties. It is just amazing. We can get together, no matter what party we belong to, and we can run, bike, or swim, and it is pleasant. It became a three times a week event for me over the summer. I am now down to two times a week, but I do other things.
One of the members said earlier that taking care of our bodies is like taking care of a 1950s car. I wish I were a 1950s car. My car would be a little older than that. Having said that, we have to take care of our bodies and repair them so we will end up living longer.
This awareness that the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country has brought forward is of paramount importance in my own riding. I love the idea of the first Saturday of June being a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians. I love that idea because it would make us all aware. A school will not change our mindset. Parliament will not change our mindset. I have always said that education is our greatest weapon. The more we know about the problems we have, the better off we are. It takes a tremendous toll on our families if we are sedentary and do not take care of our bodies. Not only does it take a tremendous toll on our families, but it also takes a tremendous toll on our lifestyle and our quality of life.
We have heard members talk about the different aspects of the health care system. One-quarter of colon and breast cancers are attributable to Canadians' sedentary lifestyle. Twenty-seven per cent of diabetes in Canada and 30% of chronic heart disease is attributed to inactivity.
It is telling when one in three Canadian children are overweight or obese. It is telling when health care costs due to overweight individuals and inactivity amount to $7 billion a year. We can do something about that. Under the leadership of the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, we have been caught up in the awareness of physical activity.
I have talked to many municipal leaders in my riding about doing something special on that day. There could be free entry into the pool or maybe a special thing for seniors to get them out, like a bike-a-thon. We could do anything on that national health day. Each municipality has the ability to do that.
It says a lot when only 13% of Canadians participate in sports. It says a lot about our need to become aware of the health benefits from activity. It says a lot as well when only 6% of Canadians choose to spend their leisure time in sports.
That would have been me before, but not anymore. When I have some leisure time, I either go for a swim or a bike ride. I take part in some activity. Through this process I not only managed to overcome a fear of the water, which was tremendous, but I now enjoy the lifestyle and the physical activity. Exercise of some sort clears our minds in such a way that we feel better mentally and physically.
I congratulate once again the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country for his tremendous leadership on this issue. I urge members to look for him on the Hill. He will be recognized because he always has a bicycle pin attached to his lapel. I think it is marvellous. He gave me one of those little bicycles and I wear it quite frequently now. I am proud to say that I am a bit of a sports jock now. I could not have said that before.
Mr. Speaker, Liberals will be supporting Bill S-211 because it aims to designate the first Saturday in June of each year as national health and fitness day.
We are pleased to support this bill from my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. It is a laudable initiative indeed, even though symbolic. However, I think we need more than just a day and we certainly need to do more as governments to promote healthy, active living at all ages.
I remember my years as a physician when I was very involved with the British Columbia Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association. One of the things we had been trying to do for years, and I am talking about 30 years, was promote one hour of daily quality physical activity in schools, but we could not get that done. Not all provinces have that at the moment.
I heard my colleague say that if one begins as a young person learning to be physically active every single day of one's life, it becomes a lifestyle habit. It becomes like brushing one's teeth, having a snack in the middle of the afternoon, getting homework done, watching TV, all of those other things. It becomes a part of one's routine and one's life. It is easier then to carry that on as one grows and goes through life cycles, so that by the time one becomes a senior, one would continue to have that active physical living.
We know that active living is not only a good thing to incorporate into one's lifestyle, but it is an important part of health promotion and disease prevention. Exercise and active living helps people who have Alzheimer's postpone the disease. If we can start getting people active throughout their lifetime, we may be able to postpone Alzheimer's. If we postpone Alzheimer's for five years, we will literally be seen to have eradicated the disease, mainly because we do not live five years longer every year, and people would not have their ability to remember and function neurologically fail.
We also know that there is a rise in children who will never be as healthy as their parents were, mainly because of type 2 diabetes and obesity. It does not help to have computers, as we all sit here everyday and watch ourselves become slightly addicted to social media and everything else we do with computers. Again, it tends to bring down the level of physical activity in young people.
We also find that eating fast foods, processed foods and a large amount of food that is high in fat and sugar have a tendency to create obesity. We know that increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, and with type 2 diabetes, vision problems, as well as neurological problems later on in life.
Active living will assist people throughout their lives to either prevent or postpone chronic disease and illness, which, to be crass, costs the health care system a great deal of money. Active living will create savings so that we can put money into other things that are necessary to keep us healthy and give us quality of life, such as mental health care or other areas of health promotion and disease prevention.
We can perhaps look at finding a way to assist people who are physically and mentally unable to work and live reasonable quality lives. There are a lot of things we could do with that money we would save the health care system by reducing hospital costs.
At the same time, people will be healthier, work and live longer. We see that seniors today are living and working longer. They will continue to contribute to the tax base, the economy and the productivity of the nation.
The initiative to designate a national health and fitness day has been gaining widespread support for all those reasons. We now have about 150 municipalities across the country that have adopted some form of health and fitness day.
The bill originated in the other place by Senator Nancy Greene Raine, who is an avid supporter of active living. Increased physical activity not only promotes physical health but also mental and emotional health. Again, we find that people who exercise more are less likely to be depressed and less likely to have problems like Alzheimer's.
Over the last decade, the participation rate in physical activity in Canada has actually declined. The majority of Canadian adults and children do not meet the physical activity level guidelines. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, in the period between 1981 and 2007-09, measured obesity roughly doubled in most age groups in the adult and youth categories for both sexes. The data also indicated that approximately one in four, which is 24.3%, Canadian adults age 18 years and over is obese. The combined rate of Canadians who are overweight and obese is 62%.
In 2005, the costs of adult obesity in Canada were estimated at $1.8 billion in direct health care costs and $2.5 billion in indirect costs for a total of $4.3 billion.
Obesity and lack of physical activity increases the risk of developing several chronic diseases, including osteoarthritis. We know it is linked to some types of cancer, though we do not quite know how direct the links are.
The 2009 report estimated that on average an inactive person compared to an active person spends 38 more days in hospital and uses 5.5% more family physician visits, 13% more specialist services, and 12% more nurse visits.
The rate of obesity varies across the country. It is a good thing to dedicate a day across Canada to fitness, and for the federal government to be talking about this since the federal government is responsible for the health and well-being of Canadians regardless of where they live.
What we saw from a recent UBC study is that my home province of B.C. has the lowest obesity rate. That is probably in part because British Columbians tend to engage in more healthy and active lifestyles. It just so happens that we also live in lotus land which offers the best things since sliced bread. The mover of the bill can relate to this, coming from British Columbia himself.
In 2005, the previous Liberal government invested $300 million over five years in the Public Health Agency of Canada for an integrated strategy of healthy living and chronic disease to ensure that Canada had an integrated approach in addressing major chronic diseases and their risk factors. One of the key pillars was promoting health by addressing the conditions that lead to unhealthy eating, physical inactivity and unhealthy weights.
There are many factors that play into the physical activity and healthy living of adults all the way through their life cycle. This is important; this is a start. This is only one of many things we can do. It is one way to remind us, at least once a year, that we should get out there and become active.
Mr. Speaker, while I realize that having a Chair occupant rise on debate is a little like witnessing a solar eclipse, this is actually the second time I have had the opportunity to speak to this bill. I am delighted to speak on the subject of health and fitness as addressed in Bill S-211, which has been sponsored in the House by my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country and in the Senate by Canada's athlete of the century, Senator Nancy Greene Raine. This bill would establish a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians.
Before I begin my remarks, I would like to reference a couple of paragraphs from the bill itself, because they will explain what this is about and why we are doing it. It says:
Whereas the Parliament of Canada wishes to increase awareness among Canadians of the significant benefits of physical activity and to encourage Canadians to increase their level of physical activity and their participation in recreational sports and fitness activities;... Whereas the Government of Canada wishes to encourage the country’s local governments, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and all Canadians to recognize the first Saturday in June as National Health and Fitness Day and to mark the day with local events and initiatives celebrating and promoting the importance and use of local health, recreational, sports and fitness facilities;
This is an excellent bill, which I am hoping all members in this place will support. It is not a silver bullet, and it is not a panacea that will cure all the physical ailments of Canadians, but it is an important piece of a larger puzzle in terms of encouraging Canadians to be fit and active and to look after their own health and that of their children.
When I spoke for a few minutes about this a few weeks ago, I mentioned that it is a challenge that members of Parliament face. Access to good food and not much time to exercise is a combination that causes many members in this place to struggle with their weight, their health, and their fitness.
I hear some “hear hears” from some of my colleagues.
It is important for all Canadians. We have one body we have to make do with from the time we are children until the end of our lives. There are things we can do. Modern medicine really is filled with miracles in terms of interchangeable parts. However, every time I see something on television from Cuba, and I see one of those old 1950 vintage cars, it always reminds me that those taxi drivers knew that they had a car and were not going to get another one. They had to look after it and learn how to repair it and how to maintain it. The fact was that it was just going to have to do them for a long time. For people, it is the same thing. Whether we are in our 20s, 40s, or 70s, we have one body.
Years ago we thought about health and fitness mostly in the context of living longer. That is still part of it, but most of us have figured out that it is about the quality of the life we enjoy. When we see someone in their golden years who can still ride a bike, go downhill skiing, or do other physical activities, we are reminded that they did not get there by accident. They probably looked after their health over the years. That is why they are still able to be active in those later years.
About a year or so ago, when I turned 50, one of my friends said that I was playing the back nine now. I had not really thought that somehow I was over the hump and that I was teeing off on the 10th hole, but it is probably true. It reminded me that it is important for all of us to mind our health. I have two young children, and I try to remind them of this at the same time.
Obviously, there are all the economic arguments for good health, at a macro level, for our country and society. We all benefit if we all stay in better shape, because it reduces acute health care costs. However, I would suggest that there is a stronger argument than that, and it is the central point I would like to make, which is that it is about quality of life and staying healthy and fit so that we can do the things we all want to do.
This bill today is part of that. It is to encourage other levels of government, such as municipalities, to open facilities, whether they are squash clubs, hockey arenas, or curling clubs, for one day each year so that people who are not familiar with them can go in and try these activities and see if they enjoy them.
It is an opportunity to remind all of us, adults and children, that there is actually an abundance of recreational facilities in many of our communities. Sometimes we go by them many times without ever setting foot inside. Having a day set aside to focus on this would remind Canadians that it is important.
I really want to tip my cap to my colleague, the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, who is a true leader in this area. He leads a group of parliamentarians on Tuesday mornings on a run. He leads another group on Thursday mornings for a swim. He is leading by example. Even though it does not show up in the name of his riding, the area he represents includes the town of Whistler, which was home to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Anyone who has ever visited Whistler will know that recreational activities are pretty much what make that place and are what attract so many people there.
It is not surprising to me that he is the one pushing this. He has been joined by one of our senators, Canada's athlete of the century for the 20th century. They are a perfect set of bookends around this idea. I would really encourage all members not only to support the bill but to actually take to heart the sentiment captured by the bill and get involved themselves and encourage friends, family, and constituents to do the same.
Mr. Speaker, I realize I only have about three or four minutes this morning.
Some of my colleagues may be surprised to see me on my feet speaking to this motion today. It has been six years since I stood in my place and participated in a debate. Given that I am not reoffering in the next election, this could be the last time that I participate in a debate in this place.
I am here today to support my colleague, the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, on this bill. I know it has come from Senator Nancy Greene Raine at the Senate, but the principal mover of it over the last several years has been my hon. colleague from the west coast. We often discuss whether people who talk the talk can walk the walk. In this case, I think my colleague from that riding lives the values that are embodied in this bill.
My colleague from Burlington, and others this morning, talked about some of the challenges of maintaining health and fitness while we are members of Parliament. It is a challenge. We are constantly offered free food that is very tasty, and it is easy to get busy and not take care of ourselves. I have also been on the roller coaster. I am not sure that the highs and lows were quite to the extent that the hon. member for Burlington has experienced, but they were along the same vein. It is something that we all need to work at.
I think a collaborative effort whereby the federal government takes leadership and we identify an aspirational goal for our communities, so that municipalities large and small across Canada can come together and make their facilities available on a particular day where we focus on these values, is very important.
Statistics around childhood obesity and health are common, and I think we all know those numbers. However, it is a delight to rise in this place today to discuss something we all agree on. That is a rare moment. It is something that I am pleased to participate in. Therefore, I would encourage all of my colleagues in this place to not only support this motion and vote in favour of it, but to get back to their communities and make it real, both in their own lives and in the lives of their constituents.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country and Senator Greene Raine for bringing forward this bill to draw attention, once a year, but hopefully every day, to the fact that we need to pay closer attention to our health. To do so, we need to pay closer attention to our level of fitness.
I am not a poster child for a person in great physical condition, but I used to be, until my knees gave out in my thirties. The arthritis in my knees has made it very difficult for me, as it does for many Canadians, to get the level of exercise we need to stay as healthy as we should.
This bill, by drawing attention to the issue of fitness, will hopefully draw attention to the problems that many Canadians face in keeping themselves and their children fit. Senator Greene Raine suggested in her speech that kids spend more time than ever in sedentary activities, such as looking at their tablets, phones, and other things, to play non-active games. She is right.
How many kids carry their baseball gloves or tennis balls to school anymore? How many spend their whole summer riding their bikes to frog ponds, parks, and neighbourhood pools? How many actually spend an hour or two every day playing tennis, football, soccer, or a game of tag in their local park? Fewer and fewer kids are doing that. By drawing attention to this fact, perhaps we can find a way to get kids active again. It is those kids who are going to take care of us as we get older.
“We need to change” were the words of Senator Greene Raine. Hopefully, this bill will be a catalyst for such change.
Sadly, my riding is mostly designated as a “priority” neighbourhood in the city of Toronto. Almost all of it is now a priority neighbourhood. It is designated based on 15 categories, sections of the city that need special attention. One of those categories is on the health of the residents in the riding. All of Keelesdale-Eglinton West, Rockcliffe-Smythe, Weston-Pellam Park, Weston, Mount Dennis, Rustic, and even Beechborough-Greenbrook, which has $2-million homes in it, are designated priority neighbourhoods by the City of Toronto, as places that need special attention. One of the reasons they need special attention is the health of the constituents, including the children, which is not great.
The social determinants of health are what we in the NDP like to focus on in trying to find ways to improve health, which is what this bill is partly about, through smart approaches to health promotion and physical activity. One of the things the government can do, for example, is to change the nature of the health and fitness tax credit. It is currently not a refundable tax credit, so it has almost no application in much of my riding. People do not have the ability to pay first and then wait for a tax credit that they are not going to get because they pay no taxes anyway. A single mom on Ontario Works or ODSP has absolutely no use for this tax credit. It is difficult for that person to have access to an organized fitness regime for their children.
The other thing in my riding is that as a result of financial pressures on our city, the city is closing the doors and locking away some of the sports facilities so that kids cannot get at them. They used to be able to kick a ball around in the Weston Lions Park soccer field. It now has astroturf and it is locked up tight. We cannot get in it unless we are part of a league or a team, and, even then, the leagues or teams are very expensive to join. These kids cannot afford it. We have shut them away from much of what they could use to become more fit.
The good thing is that being a priority neighbourhood means that recreation and fitness activities in my part of the city are free for many kids. The trouble is that they are only in the recreation centres, and only in the recreation centres in priority neighbourhoods, of which there is only one. We are chasing our own tail.
As MPs, we can do things to encourage people to be more fit. I ran a “Bike with Mike” day, where we gathered a bunch of people in the community, got on bikes, and road 15 kilometres down to the lake and back. We had a bus for those who could not ride back, but those people were active for at least a day. It showed them a beautiful section of the riding. There is a bike trail along the Humber River, which runs from the centre of the riding down to the river.
I have also encouraged the local tennis facility to share its facility with less privileged kids who cannot afford it. A kids' drop-in centre and training facility, called Frontlines, is going to be given free access and a trainer for some of the kids, starting in the next few weeks. It is a great example of how we can coordinate and get kids active who would not otherwise be able to do it.
In closing, I want to thank the movers of the bill from this House and the other place for bringing attention where attention is necessary to the state of physical fitness. We will perhaps save a few dollars in health care costs in the bargain.
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to stand here today and talk about why I support Bill S-211.
I want to challenge my colleague across the way. On the same weekend that he will be running the half marathon, I will be running a full marathon in Moncton. It will be my eighth marathon, and I am trying to do one in every province. I will have Newfoundland and Manitoba left to do after this. I have done the Bluenose already, so I know the member can do it, and I want to congratulate him on his effort.
In the few minutes I have here, I would like to talk about the 10 top reasons that I support Bill S-211, an act to establish a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians. It is a coincidence that I am borrowing the top 10 list from talk show host David Letterman, who went to Ball State University in Indiana. My daughter went there on an athletic scholarship, so there is a bit of a connection with respect to health and fitness and stealing his top 10 list.
I am excited that this legislation seems to have the full support of all members in the House and that in the near future the first Saturday of every June will be a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians.
Let me mention all 10 of the reasons that I support this legislation in case I do not have time to mention them all.
First of all, this bill is universal. It affects everyone.
Second, the bill aligns with a motion I put forward in the House on obesity, a motion that was unanimously passed.
Third, it brings awareness to the problem. Nobody can fix a problem if they do not know that there is one. A day promoting health and fitness would let people know about the problem. It would coordinate efforts to promote health and fitness across municipalities, provinces, and the whole country. It would help to provide opportunities to promote health and fitness.
A national day would provide an opportunity to celebrate the success of those who have made a difference and are making a difference in their own lives and the lives of their families, communities, provinces, and country.
As the mover of the motion has said, this is not all about elite or pro athletes, and I will come back to that.
As a practical point, health and fitness reduce health care costs, and those costs affect every taxpayer across this country.
A national day to promote health and fitness would be a national statement. It would be about our country and where we are going in this particular policy area.
I would like to say a few nice words about the supporters of the motion, both in the other place and in the House, but first I would like to talk about the universality of a national day to promote health and fitness.
Health and fitness affects everyone from eight to 80. In my own family, a number of my immediate relatives have lived past 90. Health and fitness play a significant role in the quality of their life, as well as in the quality of life for young people, middle-aged people, and seniors. significant role in the lives of our youth and seniors.
Quality of life has several aspects. Having the financial support to look after oneself is also important, but one area that is absolutely under the control of individuals is their own physical health. They can take advantage of all opportunities available to them to make sure they do what they can to stay as healthy and fit as possible.
As I mentioned, I had a motion in the House on obesity that passed a number of months ago. I used myself as an example. I was elected to the House of Commons eight and a half years ago, and it did not take long for me to gain 40 pounds. On the Hill there are a lot of receptions and other things that go on, and I became a little heavier than I should have.
As a result, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. There is no diabetes in my family, except for maybe my 95-year-old grandmother, and that onset came with age. There is no history of it in my family. It was obvious that physical fitness was one of the aspects that was missing, and proper and healthy eating was another part.
I have lost that 40 pounds. I have made a commitment to physical fitness, as I mentioned before. For me, it is running. I do not run because I love it, but because it helps me stay physically fit. I have a commitment to my family to stay physically fit, so I can be here when I am 96 to see my great-grandchildren. I have a grandmother who had great-great-grandchildren. I am hoping I am going to be one of those.
This motion brings awareness to the problem. I had not given it any thought prior to my own personal issues. I had very athletic, very active children. They went to volleyball, track and field, gymnastics, swimming. They were high performers. They worked out, sometimes for two different sports for three or four hours a day.
It was not that physical fitness was not around me, but I never considered it for myself. I did not think about it being a problem until it hit me at home.
A national day to promote health and fitness will bring that issue forward, at least on that first Saturday in June. It is an opportunity to make sure that we understand there is a problem, which was very well articulated by the mover of the motion. It would coordinate efforts and allow municipalities, provinces, and the country to have a focus. We can coordinate promotion and have the opportunity to talk about physical fitness and health on a particular day in the calendar year.
It has already happened in a lot of municipalities across this country. I hope it will continue, and that coordinated efforts will help bring that message to a higher level. Hopefully, that message gets through.
It does give opportunities to promote what is available to Canadians. It is not all about elite sports. There are lots of activities: walking, hiking, whatever the activity, as long as it is healthy.
In my area of Burlington, there are a tremendous amount of opportunities for a variety of different ways to get involved, to get active. This day will give organizations and individuals an opportunity to promote those opportunities.
We should be celebrating success. When communities, individuals, or organizations are doing a great thing on the physical fitness file, that day could be a day where we celebrate their success.
I have mentioned that I am one of those who watches pro sports on television. It is not all about being an elite athlete. I cannot outrun my daughter. I cannot outvolleyball them. I cannot outdo a lot of things they do. I may be a little smarter than them, but do not tell them that.
It is not about just sitting on the couch and watching; it is about participation. That is what is important. Being healthy simply reduces health care costs. If people can avoid going to the doctor and to the hospital, it reduces costs. It is not a hard message to understand; it is national in scope.
Finally, I want to thank the two key movers behind this motion: first, the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country—and I hope they change the name of that riding—for that member's efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle here on the Hill and throughout this country, and our national hero, Senator Nancy Greene Raine. She is a role model, and not just for physical fitness, but also for many women across the country. She has brought this bill to the forefront to have this day acclaimed in this country.
moved that Bill S-211, An Act to establish a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, rarely in the House one discovers unity around an issue that brings together the people of Canada and their representatives rallied in a common cause. Occasionally, a bill to which we speak already has such broad support that it has gained sweeping support from coast to coast to coast, and sometimes in this chamber we witness a powerful unstoppable energy unleashed when Canadians unite in common cause to defeat a national adversary. It is a great honour to rise on one of those occasions today as I sponsor Bill S-211, an act to establish a national day to promote health and fitness for all Canadians, also known as the national health and fitness day act.
In the remarks that follow, I will outline the health and health care crises that led to this bill and explain how the bill responds to those needs. I will also pay tribute to some champions of health and fitness, and for those who decide to get involved, suggest some practical ways to do so.
We are facing a battle. An implacable adversary is slowly and insidiously killing Canadians and dragging us down as a nation. I say implacable because unlike a human adversary, there is no person or group to target in making the situation better. The adversary is a pattern of behaviour that has progressively undermined Canadians' level of physical fitness. What is it that I am calling our national adversary? Our national adversary is inactivity. It is costing us and it is killing us.
Canada's inactivity problem drives deep. It is rooted in our culture and wedded to the routines we have developed in our schools, our work and our play. The problem relates to the progress we have made in technology which enables us to communicate by computer seated in the comfort of our homes, of our classrooms and our workplaces. Similarly, screen time, whether in front of a TV, computer or smart phone, has taken our kids off playing fields and put them on chairs instead.
Statistics Canada has reported a continuous decline in sports participation which, from 1992 to 2005, went from 45% to 28% among Canadians age 15 and older. That is less than one out of every three Canadian adults who is as active as they should be. Less than 7% of Canadian children and youth meet the guideline of 60 minutes of activity daily six days per week. Among Canadians age 20 and older, two-thirds do not meet the recommended physical activity levels, that is, to be active at least two and a half hours per week to achieve a health benefit. That is only 20 minutes per day to meet the minimum standards for adults and we are not even doing that.
Statistics Canada has delivered more disturbing news. In the period between 1981 and 2009, measured obesity roughly doubled in most age groups for both sexes. Data from 2009 suggests that approximately one in four Canadian adults age 18 years and over is obese. In 2008 the combined overweight and obese proportion was 62.1%. Nearly two out of three adult Canadians is either overweight or obese.
This trend has dramatic implications since children who are overweight are more likely to be overweight as adults. Among other things, studies have shown that adolescents who are overweight have a fourteen-fold increased risk of a heart attack before they turn 50. Excess weight in childhood is increasingly linked to illnesses once seen only in adults, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal blood fats, abnormal blood clotting, and thickening of the arteries.
Psychologically, evidence suggests a positive relationship between physical activity and psychosocial health in employees, including emotional well-being, improved mental health, and reduced depression, anxiety and stress. They have all been associated with regular physical activity as well as reduced symptoms of fatigue, enhanced mood, increased quality of life and life satisfaction.
The support for the bill before us is not related to high-performance athletes, but instead to Canadians who are not necessarily involved in athletics. This is not a sports bill; it is a health and fitness bill.
As I biked to work this morning, I was thinking in fact of those Canadian heroes like Terry Fox and my friend Rick Hansen who have shown the world that participation in physical activity is not just for able-bodied people.
More and more persons with disabilities—I prefer the term “adaptive athletes”—have made the point really clear. Look at Jody Mitic, the Canadian veteran who lost his legs in Afghanistan, who runs marathons anyway and is now campaigning to be an Ottawa city councillor along with Matt Fleury, another great champion of health and fitness.
Initiatives such as Soldier On and Ottawa's Army Run bring out many of our wounded warriors and others, inspiring with the realization that one does not have to be Wayne Gretzky or Nancy Greene Raine to participate and improve one's health through physical activity.
Our declining health and fitness rates are clearly an economic problem, not just a matter of life quality. The Public Health Agency of Canada has concluded that costs of obesity are estimated to be $7 billion. That is the total cost of the obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Members may have heard the quote from Roman times that a healthy mind relates to a healthy body.
In addition to direct and indirect health care costs, the quality and productivity of our work in Canada will improve if our people become healthier, if only by decreasing the number of sick days. Indirect costs of poor health include the value of economic output lost due to illness, injury-related work disability, and premature death.
It has been estimated that, on average, compared to an active person an inactive person spends 38% more days in hospital and uses 5.5% more family physician visits, 13% more specialist services, and 12% more nurse visits.
The bill that I sponsor today, Bill S-211, tackles problems that touch every Canadian in terms of our health, our quality of life, and our economy. The bill aims to increase the health of Canadians by increasing our physical participation rates.
Specifically, supporters wish to encourage local governments, non-government organizations, the private sector, and all Canadians to recognize the first Saturday in June as national health and fitness day, or NHFD, a day marked by local, provincial and national events to promote health and fitness.
The bill makes particular mention of local governments as they own and operate many of our nation's health and fitness facilities. NHFD supporters want to encourage local governments more aggressively to promote the use of such facilities. Furthermore, we encourage cities and towns to mark the day with local events and initiatives celebrating and promoting the importance of using local health, recreational, sports and fitness facilities.
People around the world know that Canada's mountains, oceans, lakes, forests, parks, and wilderness also offer recreation and fitness opportunities, and we ought to benefit from what we share collectively.
The month in which NHFD falls, June, is not only a time of great weather, but is also parks and recreation month, a time in the calendar already set aside to foster heightened appreciation of our outdoor assets.
The bill is an amended version of a private member's bill I introduced in this House previously which had widespread support, but for procedural reasons did not progress. To be clear, NHFD is not a legal holiday; it will not incur costs of lost productivity. In fact, it is not just a day at all. It is about a dramatic change in lifestyle.
On a personal level, my wife Donna and my children Shane, Jake, and Meimei have inspired me to promote the bill. Donna is a personal trainer. My children all earned black belts in tae kwon do at an early age and are dedicated athletes. I am a pretty active person myself, finding that physical activity keeps me healthy, energized, and effective in my public service.
With the privilege of representing West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country in B.C., I can say that constituents in the riding I represent are among the most active in the country. Where I live, people love the outdoors and are concerned about the physical inactivity problem Canada is facing. I personally learned much from the people in my community, who have inspired me to promote health and fitness as a gift they give to the rest of our great country. I bring Bill S-211 forward today in paying special tribute to the wonderful role models for health and fitness who live in the riding I represent.
The bill was tabled appropriately by my friend and everyone's athletic icon, Canada's female athlete of the 20th century, Senator Nancy Greene Raine. Senator Greene Raine, who is here today, Nancy to her millions of fans, is a proud British Columbian and an articulate spokeswoman for all Canadians in many areas of public policy, but in promoting health and fitness no one can surpass her. Demonstrating great leadership, Nancy won unanimous support for Bill S-211 in the Senate.
I also thank the Minister of Health and the Minister of State for Sport, who have gone out of their way to support NHFD at every turn.
I also want to thank my colleagues across the floor. This bill already enjoys a rare element of enthusiastic cross-party support.
Another distinctive aspect of the bill is the fact that it has already been implemented on a broad scale well before it has become law. Over 155 cities and towns across Canada have proclaimed the day, including Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Halifax, Yellowknife and Pond Inlet. I am especially proud that the earliest adopters included the towns and the cities in the riding I represent: West Vancouver, Whistler, Squamish, Sechelt, Gibsons, Lions Bay, Bowen Island, North Van district and Powell River.
Led by Premier Christy Clark and the energetic MLA, Michelle Stilwell, last spring B.C. became the first province to endorse NHFD, followed quickly by Yukon as the first territory.
On May 30, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities passed a resolution at its annual conference encouraging all member municipalities to proclaim the day, and just two weeks ago, the Union of Quebec Municipalities followed suit.
Members would be amazed at the number and influence of non-government organizations that have endorsed the bill and begun to promote its objectives even before it passes. These include: the Canadian Medical Association; Lisa Ashley and the Canadian Nurses Association; Chris Gray and the Heart and Stroke Foundation; Chris Jones and Physical and Health Education Canada; Bob Elliott and Sport Matters Group; Participaction; Debra Gassewitz and the Sports Information Resource Centre; C. J. Noble and Canadian Parks and Recreation; Richard Way and Canadian Sport for Life; Trisha Sarker and the Fitness Industry Council of Canada; Arne Elias of Canada Bikes; Canadian Interuniversity Sport; Rob McClure and the Ottawa Bicycle Club; Trans Canada Trail, championed by Laureen Harper, Paul LaBarge and Deborah Apps; and one of our recent supporters, Movember.
Additionally, I am grateful to private sector organizations for their support: The Running Room, Canadian Tire and Jumpstart, Kunstadt Sports, Glacier Media, Capital Hill Hotel and Suites, Tractivity, and GoodLife Fitness.
Like most good things in life, the bill comes about due to the efforts of a large team of people over many years. The broad public support for NHFD reflects a unity in this House that began in 2008 during the lead-up to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. As a large part of the games was to take part in the riding I represent, I spent much time with people asking what we could do to ensure a lasting positive legacy from the games. While gold medals were a crowning glory, we wanted something that all Canadians could claim as their own on an ongoing basis.
The key tragic event that spurred us on was the untimely death of Tom Hanson, a renowned Canadian Press journalist who died in 2009 while playing pick-up hockey. Tom was a young man, only 41. The Prime Minister took the occasion to remind us that we needed to take care of our health.
I had Mr. Hanson's sad experience in mind along with the Prime Minister's words when I met two great heroes of mine, Pierre Lafontaine and Phil Marsh, who have left an indelible imprint on Canada for their advocacy of health and fitness. Pierre and Phil are the energetic coaches of our parliamentary fitness initiative, which I began in 2009 with the support of the members for Sackville—Eastern Shore and Etobicoke North, each of them from different parties in this House.
When I met Pierre in 2009, he was coach of Canada's national swim team. He continues in his role of promoting national health and fitness now as president of Canadian Interuniversity Sport. Phil Marsh is regional manager of the Running Room in Ottawa, who with his boss, John Stanton, is a major force in promoting fitness for all Canadians. Both Pierre and Phil are great men, generous with their time, who volunteer to coach our MPs and senators in running and swimming, each once a week whenever Parliament is in session.
I have also worked with others to create companion events that have supported NHFD, including Bike Day on the Hill, Bike Day in Canada and National Life Jacket and Swim Day on the Hill.
With all that support and all this national enthusiasm, I have to ask the most important question: will a bill like this make any difference to Canada's battle against inactivity? National health and fitness has far-reaching implications, including physical health, mental illness, life expectancy, school performance, national productivity, economic performance, and health care costs. If we do not change our current patterns, this is the first generation of Canadians who will die at an age younger than our parents. We must change our direction.
Bill S-211 will be Parliament's statement that MPs and senators wish to instill in Canadians an awareness of the significant benefits of physical activity, and to encourage our people to get more active. Supporting NHFD is not the whole solution, but it is part of the solution. I encourage all Canadians to take the field in the battle against inactivity, and to be sure to approach their mayors and councillors if they have not already proclaimed national health and fitness day.
I thank colleagues in this House for their support. I welcome them to join me in the parliamentary fitness initiative, for their own health and to demonstrate their commitment to their constituents. I ask that they support Bill S-211. Canada's health and fitness depends on them.
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a great honour to be here this evening. We stand in a historic place and we look forward to a historic anniversary. Our 150th celebration as a nation is coming. If we look back 100 years from today, Prime Minister Borden was bringing in the Naturalization Act that precipitated the Citizenship Act of 1947, and here we are today, generations later, finally updating our Citizenship Act.
We stand in the name of great people. I am honoured to represent people from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, people who really care about their citizenship, a varied population of different ethnic backgrounds and first nation backgrounds. They are people who cherish their citizenship.
I stand in the name of my father and my uncle. My late father was a prisoner of war in World War II. My late uncle, Smoky Smith, was the last surviving Victoria Cross holder. I am very proud this day, and I know that they would be very proud, considering what we are doing to protect the rights of Canadian citizens and ensuring the rights of a group that I am about to speak about, the lost Canadians.
I am proud to speak on behalf of my predecessor, the former member of Parliament for this riding, John Reynolds, who was an ardent advocate for the lost Canadians, for the people whose rights will be restored in Bill C-24. I am proud to speak on behalf of constituents who have worked for this day, including people like Don Chapman, who helped John Reynolds on his way to advocate for lost Canadians.
Given these personal connections, I am also very glad to speak on behalf of all Canadians who have been watching the evolution of this bill from coast to coast and who have waited with anticipation for us to do something truly historic.
The measures in Bill C-24 represent the first comprehensive reforms to the Citizenship Act in more than a generation, and they deserve the support of every member in this House. Canadian citizenship is central to our identity, values, and traditions and is a tremendous source of pride for all of us who are fortunate enough to have it.
Generations of Canadians have made great sacrifices to defend our way of life, to ensure that our country remains strong and free, and to guarantee the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship. Among those Canadians are the people I have mentioned, and there are others, such as the people who have returned from Afghanistan so recently and those at that poignant ceremony that we celebrated, the Day of Honour. Those are the people who are watching this evening.
In short, Canadian citizenship is precious, and it should never be taken for granted. Its value must always be preserved and strengthened whenever possible. That is why Bill C-24 is such an important piece of legislation.
As I mentioned in my opening remarks, I would like to focus on one particular measure in this bill: the restoration of citizenship to those who are known as the lost Canadians.
Under the 1947 Canadian Citizenship Act, there were groups of people who were either not eligible for citizenship or who lost their citizenship for various reasons. They included people born outside Canada to a Canadian parent and people born in Canada who naturalized in another country. They were people who might have justifiably but erroneously thought they were Canadians. They were excluded because of outdated and inconsistent provisions in previous citizenship legislation. Those affected by these provisions became popularly known as “lost Canadians”.
Some lost Canadians spent many years of their lives believing in their hearts that they were Canadian citizens and publicly identified themselves as such. They did not realize that they did not actually have Canadian citizenship. In some cases, the bad news of their actual status came as a nasty surprise when, for example, they applied for a Canadian passport for the first time. Other lost Canadians spent many years yearning for the citizenship they felt would rightfully be theirs if not for outdated legal provisions.
This was a unique and unfortunate situation. I am sure all of us in this House can sympathize with the plight of these unlucky individuals.
Over time, many lost Canadians asked the Government of Canada to give them citizenship. Four and a half years ago, building on the advocacy of my predecessor John Reynolds and others, the government did just that. In 2009, significant changes to Canada's citizenship legislation were implemented. The changes restored citizenship or granted it for the first time to the vast majority of lost Canadians. The amendments reflected the seriousness with which our government takes the issue of people's citizenship.
On the day that law came into effect, most lost Canadians automatically obtained their citizenship retroactively, as of the date they lost their citizenship if they were former citizens, or as of the date of their birth.
Many of my hon. colleagues may remember the day in April 2009 when this law came into effect. There was a lot of media coverage of what was naturally a very happy story of these lost Canadians, so-called, returning home. In fact, a number of former lost Canadians showed up here on Parliament Hill that day, determined to celebrate the restoration of their citizenship and to apply for a Canadian passport at their earliest opportunity.
Our government resolved the vast majority of lost Canadian cases in 2009, and we are committed now to fix the remaining ones. The Liberals could have done this, but they failed to do so.
Although the 2009 legislation did cover the overwhelming majority of lost Canadians, there still remained a small number of people who did not benefit from those changes. The lost Canadians who would gain citizenship under the provisions of Bill C-24, the bill we see before us this evening, fall into three categories: people born or naturalized in Canada before 1947 who subsequently lost their British subject status and did not become Canadian citizens on January 1, 1947; second, British subjects ordinarily resident in Canada prior to 1947 who did not become citizens on January 1, 1947; and third, children born abroad in the first generation to any parent who was born, naturalized, or was a British subject ordinarily resident in Canada prior to 1947.
Here is what Bill Janzen, consultant for the Central Mennonite Committee said about Bill C-24:
I welcome the government's decision to include “Lost Canadians” in their changes to the Citizenship Act. The decision will improve the situation of people born outside of Canada who until now were deemed ineligible for Canadians citizenship....
For instance, someone who was born out of wedlock before 1947 to a Canadian father and a non-Canadian mother did not automatically gain Canadian citizenship when the 1947 law came into force. Neither did someone born in wedlock to a Canadian mother and a non-Canadian father.
It goes without saying that these, seen from our perspective today, are archaic provisions. There is why the measures in Bill C-24 pertaining to remaining lost Canadians are so timely and necessary.
In summary, these measures, measures that I have advocated for since becoming an MP, much of which time I was on the citizenship and immigration committee, would extend citizenship to more lost Canadians born before 1947 and their children born in the first generation outside Canada who did not benefit from the 2009 changes.
It is proposed to extend citizenship to these individuals retroactively to January 1, 1947, or to their date of birth if they were born after this date.
I urge all hon. members of this House to join me in supporting the passage of this bill in order to ensure that Canadian citizenship remains strong and that we can ensure these lost Canadians are welcome and remain a part of the Canadian family.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the chief government whip.
I rose this morning, before rising here, thinking about how grateful I am to be in this wonderful institution in this amazing country of ours, how grateful I am just to be standing here, and what an honour it is to represent the people of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country and to be with colleagues who champion the interests of Canadians day by day.
It is also my honour to express support for a bill that keeps Canada on track. I am speaking of economic action plan 2014, tabled by our Minister of Finance.
Our government has charted a course for this nation that has led us through uncharted waters, namely the fragility of the global market. However, despite this uncertainty, there is no doubt that we have emerged triumphant, as our nation's economy continues to thrive.
This is not a coincidence. Our government has, since 2006, relentlessly pursued job creation and economic growth with the full intention of creating a stable, sustainable, and prosperous Canada.
In my remarks today I will focus on four aspects of budget 2014, which illustrate this focus and commitment. I will be drawing direct ties to the people of my constituency who brought their interests to me and to this Parliament through me.
Canada's economic success manifests a vision set forth by our Prime Minister. We cannot witness the transition from a multi-billion dollar deficit to a predicted multi-billion dollar surplus next year without first acknowledging the efforts of this Conservative government.
With the elimination of our deficit, Canadians can anticipate lower taxes, a higher standard of living, greater opportunities for job creation, and a significantly smaller financial burden on our children and grandchildren.
Canada has already leapt from number six to number two in Bloomberg's annual ranking of the most attractive countries for doing business in the world, just behind Hong Kong. A reduced deficit will continue to attract investment and signal our nation's stability on the global stage.
What I see in front of us is a budget that reflects the priorities of our citizens. I know for a fact that this budget addresses four key areas that interest my constituents and other Canadians: the environment, the economy, health and fitness, and search and rescue. I am equally confident that it will reflect the concerns of Canadians from coast to coast.
We have seen a growing number of Canadians voice their concerns regarding our environment. Today I am proud to tell these Canadians that their government has listened. It is my long-held belief that the economy and the environment are inherently entwined. In fact, in my speech to this House last year, entitled “The environment is the economy”, I relayed the concerns of The Future of Howe Sound Society and other constituents that we must embrace the two in tandem.
Economic action plan 2014 follows the lead of innovative Canadians who continually find ways to stimulate the economy while protecting our natural resources. The economy and the environment are not at war, so the advancement of one should not prejudice the other. This is evident in B.C., where a great number of people, including constituents of mine like CaroleAnn Leishman, have expressed their concerns over proposed pipeline projects, despite their potential economic rewards.
This budget will fund the National Energy Board to review pipeline projects so that Canada's economic pursuits can be reconciled with the protection of its natural resources. Our government will not commit to specific energy transportation projects, but will sustain dialogue with the aim of reconciling economic potential with environmental restraint.
As our Minister of Natural Resources recently declared:
No project will be approved unless it is safe for Canadians and safe for the environment.
Energy exports will continue to grow and create many great jobs for Canadians, but the government remains committed to ensuring safe and responsible resource development.
Economic action plan 2014 will also invest in environmental sustainability by protecting Canada's recreational fisheries, so brilliantly championed by organizations in my riding such as the Sea to Sky Fisheries Roundtable, the West Vancouver Streamkeepers, the Squamish Streamkeepers Society, and the Squamish River Watershed Society.
Last year, the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program received $10 million, and this year the government is renewing its commitment to environmental sustainability, another demonstration of our government's ability to balance both economic and environmental goals.
The recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program commenced last year at the urging of organizations like the ones I mentioned and people around the country who care about the recreational fishery.
I congratulate the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette for his championing of this program. This is a strong encouragement to show our government has listened to and acknowledged the voices of people who are passionate about salmon and other fisheries in B.C. and throughout the country.
Increasing financial support for another great organization, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, responds effectively to advocacy by fellow Conservative B.C. members. I am proud to have championed the PSP cause along with them. It is another great aspect of budget 2014.
With our government's devotion to environmental sustainability in mind, Canadians can anticipate more economic progress without great cost to the environment. My constituents in Powell River and the Sunshine Coast and the mayors who have been so powerful in advocating for new jobs, like Wayne Rowe in Gibsons, John Henderson in Sechelt, and Dave Formosa in Powell River, can look forward to adding more jobs in their areas as Canada's economy continues to strengthen.
More than one million net new jobs have been created since the recession. When compared with other G7 nations, Canada's economic performance is among the best, leading the pack in job growth.
In this budget, the government has re-emphasized its desire to find employment for every Canadian and reduce job vacancies.
Internationally, I commend our government for securing free trade agreements with other countries. When our government came into power, Canada had three established FTAs. This number has now grown to 44, including the recent Canada-Korea trade agreement—to which the Speaker has contributed—our nation's first official trade agreement in Asia.
Under our government's leadership, Canada will continue to bolster its economy by trading with other nations in a way that is mutually beneficial.
Within our borders, our government also commits to the future employment of our youth, through its youth employment strategy. This program aims to provide young Canadians with real-life work experience that aligns with the evolving realities of the job market. We need to ensure that young Canadians can access employment in high-demand fields, like science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and trades. The government has recognized this need and proposed a $40-million investment to support 3,000 full-time internships, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. Allowing our youth to gain work experience is a worthy investment and a proactive step toward reducing future unemployment and strengthening our economy.
I am also excited to see how our government has recognized health and fitness as a priority in its 2014 economic action plan, a priority I have championed, to reflect the emphasis on this area shown by my constituents in the Olympic riding.
I applaud the government's initiative to increase the rate of excise duty on tobacco products as a viable method of increasing federal tax revenue. This measure illustrates our government's desire for fiscal responsibility and, more important, for a healthy Canadian population.
This budget also addresses prescription drug abuse, another concern shared by my many Canadians, including West Vancouver police chief Pete Lepine, who has worked closely with me to bring about a national prescription drug drop-off day, which will occur this year on May 10.
The new economic action plan proposes to invest $44.9 million, over five years, to expand the focus of the national anti-drug strategy, so we can also address this emerging health and safety concern. This investment would serve a diverse Canadian population, by enhancing education on the safe use, storage, and disposal of prescription drugs, among other things.
Having watched our Olympians and Paralympians demonstrate the ultimate in health and fitness in Sochi, I am delighted to see our government's continued desire to support Canadian athletes of all levels. Sport promotes leadership. It plays a vital role in our culture, both as an expression of our national identity and as a means of inspiring more Canadians to become active and healthy. This budget would maintain our government's record level of investment for athletes without leaving anyone behind.
While our Olympians are supported through initiatives like own the podium, our government supports Paralympians, amateurs, and Special Olympics athletes, as well.
The last provision upon which I would like to touch is the search and rescue tax credit. This commemorates Tim Jones, the amazing revered volunteer who led the North Shore rescue team for 26 years and who participated in over 1,600 rescue operations. The search and rescue tax credit would recognize the important role played by volunteers who put themselves at risk for the sole purpose of serving their communities.
In conclusion, I see Canada's 2014 economic action plan as another step in the right direction.
Today, I have highlighted four of the many aspects of budget 2014 that are particularly relevant, not only to my constituency but to the whole country: environmental sustainability, economic prosperity, health and fitness, and the recognition of our nation's search and rescue volunteers.
The return to a balanced budget is the fulfillment of a long-term goal. The proposals I have mentioned are examples of our government's commitment to Canadians. It is a good time to be a Canadian. This budget would help ensure good health for our people, our environment, and our economy.
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should continue to: (a) recognize the long-term health risks and costs of obesity in Canada; (b) support, promote and fund organizations and individuals who are involved in the physical well-being of Canadians; and (c) make the reduction of obesity of Canadians a public health priority.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure this evening to rise to speak to my motion, Motion No. 425, regarding obesity, and the issue that is facing this country.
I want to first thank the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country for his work on the issue of health and fitness, trying to make Canada the fittest country in the world, and on initiating a national fitness day, which I believe next year will be June 7. He is doing great work, and I really appreciate his support.
In this House we are usually talking about policy or legislation. Tonight I am going to take the opportunity to talk about something that has personally affected me and why I brought this motion forward--it is not a bill, but a motion--to bring light to the issue and to have some discussion among our colleagues about what could be happening with our health care in terms of the issue of obesity and looking after one's health.
I thought I would start by telling members a personal story.
I have known four great-grandparents. I have two grandmothers still alive; they are both 96. I have known my grandfathers; they lived into their late eighties. I have a picture of myself, my daughter, my father, his mother, and her mother. It is a five-generation picture.
I have very good genes for long life. We have no heart disease in the family. One grandmother, who is 96, did survive cancer at age 40, a long time ago. Other than that, we have been very lucky with our health.
A year and a half ago, I was having some difficulty, so I went to my doctor. I thought there was something wrong with my prostate; however, I found out that I had diabetes, which was a bit of a shock to me. I thought that I was virtually indestructible because of my genes.
However, my lifestyle included drinking five or six Coca-Colas a day, eating improperly, and not keeping proper hours, in the sense that these are long days. It is a really interesting career one chooses in federal politics, and travelling back and forth, not eating breakfast, and just not doing things correctly, I gained weight here, as I know some of us all have. I was about 225 pounds at one point. I hid it well with big suits.
Things changed for me. I went to the doctor; I was having some difficulty. Lo and behold, they claimed that I had diabetes. Of course, my first reaction was to say, “No way. That is not possible. How is that possible when I have no diabetes in my family, when I have no heart disease?” My blood pressure was excellent. It still is excellent. However, my sugar levels were through the roof.
The doctor indicated that if I continued, I had a chance of my pancreas getting worse. I would have to take insulin, and so on and so forth. The doctor diagnosed me with type 2 diabetes—not type 1, of course, which is juvenile diabetes—and put me on a pill, Metformin, which is the standard thing they start a diabetes patient on. I told the doctor I did not want to take pharmaceuticals if I did not have to and asked if there was a way for me to do something about it.
He indicated that it was possible—not likely, but possible—that if I lost weight and exercised regularly, I might be able to get off Metformin.
I took his advice. I started exercising again. I set a goal for myself to run a marathon in every province; I have run six. I just ran one this past weekend, in Victoria, British Columbia. I do not advise everyone that they have to run marathons to get healthy, but I have taken on that task. I eat better, I have lost weight, and I am not on Metformin anymore. It has been about a year.
What woke me up to this issue is that I really did not pay attention. I have two daughters who are athletes. One is on a sports scholarship at a university in the United States. The other plays competitive volleyball. They are both in very good shape. Obesity and diabetes were never an issue around our house. All of a sudden there was something there.
I started thinking that if it could happen to me, what about everybody else? I started looking around and talking to different individuals and organizations about what is happening. In that time frame, even the United States had announced that obesity was actually a disease and that if it did not get on top of it, it would become a real health care issue for them.
Based on the motion, I have broken it down into three pieces. This is just to get people to think about where we are going from a health perspective.
The first part of the motion is to recognize the long-term health risks and costs of obesity. I can put a lot of statistics out there and talk about the costs of obesity and the like. However, it is just common sense. If people are not healthy, they will be using the system. There is no magic to it or statistician's formula. I am always a little nervous about statisticians. If I give my friend a dollar today and a dollar tomorrow, there is a 100% increase yet it is still only a dollar, so one has to be careful with that.
The reality is that if we look around at what we are eating and what we are doing in terms of being healthy, there will be a long-term cost to our health care system. Members may not like the way I put this but at the federal level health care is writing cheques to the provinces that deliver the actual health care. That is a lot of pressure, not necessarily on the federal system but on the provincial system. In general, we need to worry about the costs with respect to health care.
We also need to worry about the health risks. It is claimed, and I hope it is not true, that we might be the last generation with the ability to outlive our children. Imagine a generation that is unable to outlive its children. That is just not right and not what I think should happen. However, if we do not do something in terms of looking after our health, that is an actual and real possibility. I do not think that is something we want.
The second part of the motion is about supporting the promotion of health and healthy living, not just financially but in other ways. There are a number of great organizations. Some are not for profit and others are for profit. I have no issue with that. I just want to highlight a couple.
There are organizations that are oriented toward health issues. For me, the Diabetes Association has been fantastic. It provided me with a lot of information about what diabetes was, what I could do about it and the two different types. There is the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the lung associations. There are a number of organizations that do great work.
My motion asks that all levels of government, federal, provincial and municipal, continue to support those organizations in their efforts. That does not necessarily mean we have to write them a cheque. Rather, it means going to their events and supporting their efforts in the communities. If one has a neighbour or friend who is running in a marathon, which I do, in support of diabetes, support that individual. Those groups are doing great work in their areas of expertise and are important in terms of not only helping those with the disease or health issue they are dealing with but at promoting awareness and education and they need to do that.
Another organization, which I am very excited about and which the Government of Canada has supported, is ParticipACTION. I am a keen supporter of organizations that get people moving and healthy. It does not have to be running. It can be karate. It can be whatever activity one wants to do. I want to encourage people to take advantage of what these organizations do. We do not have to be experts at whatever we are doing.
I ran my marathon this weekend in four hours and 42 minutes. The gentleman sitting beside me in the plane coming back ran it in two hours and 19 minutes. I was exactly halfway when he was finished. We have to just get out there and get involved. If members could, I want them to encourage neighbours, friends and communities. Whatever is happening in a community, if members of Parliament could, they should help support those organizations.
There are for-profit organizations that are helpful, and I'll use the Weight Watchers organization as an example. I think it is an excellent organization. I have not personally used it. I lost my 25 or 30 pounds basically by eating less and not drinking Coke, which I miss. However, people do need help and there are organizations that will help and they are doing a great job.
Another organization in my community that has recognized this issue is Big Brothers Big Sisters. It has a program for the clients they serve, the young people, because youth is a big issue. If we do not convince youth to take care of themselves both by eating healthily and keeping physically fit, there will be a problem. Big Brothers Big Sisters has a program for those young people to make sure they understand what good health is, what good fitness is and what good eating is. I applaud its efforts.
As I mentioned before, one of my daughters goes to school in Indiana and she is in an education program. It was interesting to hear this past week that in one of the courses she takes, which talks about introducing healthy eating and activity into the classroom, it used Canada as an example of how it is done well. I am very supportive of our education system, and I think it does a good job, but we need to continue to support it to make sure physical activity does not leave the curriculum of our Canadian school children, particularly those at a young age, and ensure that other things do not ease it out, being more of a priority. Health is a priority and we need to teach young folks that piece.
The last piece I have to talk about is the public health priority. I think it is fair to say that the public health policy here at the federal level has been somewhat lacking in the obesity and fitness area over the last number of years. It just has not made it to the top as a priority piece. I am hopeful that will change under our government and with the support of all members.
If members look at the throne speech from yesterday, under safeguarding families and communities, they will see that the government will also work with provinces, territories and not-for-profit sectors to encourage young Canadians to be more physically active. I did not know that would be in the speech. I have had this motion in front of the House for a while, because it kept getting bumped for other private member's motions that I felt were of higher priority in terms of timing. So this was a very pleasant surprise for me, and as a member of Parliament, I am going to use it to encourage my government to be proactive in making sure we meet the mandate we have put in this throne speech over the next number of years.
I thank members for their attention and for their attention to their own health and their family's health. I would be happy to answer any questions.
The electoral district of West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country (British Columbia) has a population of 129,241 with 95,764 registered voters and 245 polling divisions.
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