Gassing sport ministry is dumb

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:02 AM ET

TLAQUEPAQUE, MEXICO - The Province of Ontario hosted a photo opportunity at a downtown Guadalajara hotel on Saturday night to meet and greet various sports leaders and Pan Am Games officials.

A number of political big-shots were invited, including Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who apparently is having a bitchin’ time visiting the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Toronto 2015 CEO Ian Troop, Federal Minister of Sport Bal Gosal and Ontario cabinet minister Charles Sousa.

But behind the smiles and glad-handing at the Quinta Real Hotel was a sense of that something important has been lost. The fact is a great many people involved in sport at a provincial and federal level were unimpressed that Sousa is representing the Ontario government at the Pan Am Games.

It’s not that anyone has anything against Sousa personally.

It’s just that — at a time when Toronto is preparing to host the biggest multi-sports Games held in Canada since the 1976 Montreal Olympics — the Ontario government’s representative at a photo op to promote sport and the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games is Sousa, the minister of citizenship & immigration. You would think that the province would have sent the minister of health and sport to talk up the 2015 Pan Am Games and the advantages of hosting such a historic event.

But it didn’t. The fact is, there is no longer a ministry of health promotion and sport in the Ontario cabinet. Premier Dalton McGuinty, in announcing his new, post-election cabinet earlier this month, elected to gas the ministry. And that has upset a great many in the sports community. And it really does seem to be a ridiculous thing to do at a time when the province is investing millions into a mega-sports festival like the 2015 Pan Am Games.

Some major sports organizations, including the Coaches of Canada — an association dedicated to advancing the profession of coaching — is organizing a letter-writing campaign of its members to ask the premier to reconsider his decision to exclude sport in the cabinet.

The Coaches of Canada website describes the decision to exclude the position as “troubling” for two reasons:

“The first is the hosting by Toronto of the PanAm and Parapan Games in 2015 which will clearly require a considerable allocation of public resources and assets in the run up to the Games. Having a member of the Ontario Executive Council publicly delegated to oversee the hosting of this huge event would seem a minimum prerequisite.”

“Secondly, the decision to eliminate the former Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport is perplexing given the declining levels of physical fitness, physical literacy and wellness of Ontario’s children and youth. On October 14th, Active Healthy Kids Canada released its Ontario Supplement to the 2011 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. The report card, data for which is compiled and analyzed by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute’s Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group, awards Ontario an overall grade of D-minus ...”

D-minus is not a good grade. You might think the Ontario government might want to do something to improve that. Yet, when the government is afforded a unique chance to promote and advance the cause of fitness and wellness, i.e. the 2015 Pan Am Games, they take a step in the wrong direction.

What’s particularly strange is that McGuinty created the health and sport cabinet position in 2005 to promote healthy living and disease prevention and now, with Ontario hosting the world in four years, has killed it. For what? To save some money. Studies have shown that every dollar invested in sport and healthy living, particularly geared towards young people, equals major savings down the road in health care costs.

Further in its website, Coaches of Canada added: “In recent years the Government of Ontario had appeared to be providing the right institutional support for a philosophy predicated on prevention, health promotion and physical activity & sport. Now would not appear to be the correct time to be abandoning this approach. Notwithstanding the need to find savings in the current fiscal environment, cutting support for sport and physical activity is, in our view, a false economy.”

Other sports organizations are aligning themselves with the campaign started by the Coaches of Canada.

Times are tough, but of all the ways to save money, gassing the ministry responsible for health and sport, when Ontario is getting ready to host its biggest sports gathering ever, is dumb, dumb, dumb.


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