Can Canada be the fittest nation on earth? Conservative Member of Parliament John Weston thinks so. For a first step he is proposing to establish a National Health and Fitness Day to be marked all over Canada the first Saturday of June every year.
By introducing a private member’s bill he calls on municipal governments to provide free or reduced-rate access to their fitness centres the first Saturday of June each year. An adept of healthy lifestyle, John Weston says his goal is to create “the fittest nation on earth”. The legislation is non-binding and would require the volunteer participation of municipalities.
The move is important in light of the steady stream of statistics that point to a continuing decline in Canadians’ health, said Weston. A week before Weston announced his bill, statistics Canada had released a study that concluded 31.5 per cent of Canadians between five and 17 are overweight or obese. The percentage of Canadian adults who participate in sports, meanwhile, has seen a steep decline, with just 28 per cent taking part in 2005 compared to 45 per cent back in 1992.
While private member’s bills rarely pass, Weston said he has the support of all four parties represented in the House of Commons. Two MPs, the NDP’s Peter Stoffer of Nova Scotia and Liberal Kirsty Duncan of Ontario, have publicly endorsed Weston’s initiative.
Not everyone is on board
While many say it’s a good idea, there has also been a level of sarcasm among obesity and nutrition experts regarding the bill. They find there are numerous other priorities that the federal government should be attending to other priorities such as regulating unhealthy ingredients and creating tax schemes to encourage healthy food choices.
Weston does concede his plan cannot change the situation by itself.
“The only criticism I can see of the bill is that it doesn’t make everyone healthy and fit all on its own. I agree with that; there are many other things we have to do,” Weston said. “But hopefully this is one thing where I can get everyone working together.”