24 Years Later, the PM’s Offer is Accepted
by Adam Goodwin | 2015 | Last Updated: May 19, 2015
This is a posting of a letter sent to Canadian media outlets.
Copy of the Letter
In 1991, a graduate student at the University of Calgary (Alberta, Canada) wrote a research paper titled, The Political Business Cycle and Fiscal Policy in Canada. The 150+ page document was written by Canada’s current Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper.
Near the end of the paper, Mr. Harper suggests that “informational deficiencies may rest with the government [and that] remedies should improve information flow” (p. 139).
With the PM in Windsor, Ontario (my current place of residence) this past week to name the new Detroit-Windsor bridge after hockey legend Gordie Howe, and with the Conservative’s new television advertisements touting the benefits for families in the new budget, the opportunity has presented itself to provide the federal government with information.
The ads begin with information about the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit. Families can now claim $1000 per child (up from $500) for fees paid towards organized physical activity/sport programs that meet certain criteria.
With Canada receiving a failing grade in most global report cards in the area of youth sport participation, governments, non-profit organizations, and other stakeholders have been introducing interventions to stimulate participation. The tax credit is one intervention introduced by the federal government in 2006. The government, the taxpayers hope, had good intentions with the program.
However, most research shows that the tax credit is highly ineffective at fulfilling its core mission – stimulating youth physical activity levels and sport participation rates. Certain segments of Canadians do benefit from the tax credit. The reason a high percentage of the population does not benefit is complex.
To benefit from the credit, a family must first have the funds to spend on the registration fees. Secondly, using an example of a program that starts in January, the family must have the financial capacity to wait 14 months (pay in January, and tax refunds typically do not arrive until the following March-May) to receive the credit. Many families do not. Consider single-parent families, education level, geography, and access to infrastructure, and the complexity increases quickly.
Youth sport participation in Canada is socially stratified – the higher a family’s socioeconomic status, the higher the likelihood that the kids participate in sport. Instead of tax credits that benefit a portion of the population that least requires this incentive, the government must find new ways to support and invest in sporting opportunities that benefit all of Canada’s youth – not just those born into a family that has the capital necessary to pay the increasingly more expensive youth registration fees.
As the red carpets are rolled out for the Americas in July and August during the Pan American and Parapan Am Games in Toronto, it serves as a reminder that as great and vibrant of a country that Canada is, most countries arriving in Toronto do not have a failing grade for youth sport participation rates. Canada does. The Games will be used as an opportunity for those who watch to celebrate some of Canada’s greatest ambassadors – world-class athletes. And so we should celebrate.
Canadians must also use this pan-American celebration to share information and ideas to give all kids in Canada, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, geography, religion, or socioeconomic status, the opportunity to participate in sport. The first remedy: Get rid of the tax credits touted in the new ads. These are not effective. We must find ways to work with community sport organizations, municipal recreation centres, and private sport providers to deliver to all what is a part of the cultural and social fabric in most areas of Canada – sport.
Your Call to Action
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Based on your reading of this blog post, you may also be interested in: A Trip to Ireland (click here).
These are one person’s thoughts and opinions. We welcome your feedback and own thoughts. Feel free to comment below or connect with us via social media.
Adam Goodwin is a Canadian who has lived and worked in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and North America, who is currently attending one of the world’s best sport management programs at the University of Windsor. He is a proud introvert and silent leader. He has traveled to 50 major global cities around the world, and has worked with universities, non-profits, consulting firms, and sport organizations. He has family and friends around the world. Follow his travels, work, projects, and thoughts on Twitter (@adam13goodwin) and on this blog (click on the bottom right-hand corner to sign up for weekly email notifications).