June 24, 2022

3 questions to ask political candidates about sports and recreation services

Recreation and sport provide important opportunities to improve the physical health, quality of life and well-being of our communities. As a result, some data suggest that 98% of Canadians believe that recreation and parks are essential services.

However, recent data also indicate a decline in sports over the past 20 years. In 2021, adults in Canada received an F for sedentary behaviors on the Participation reportsuggesting that participation in recreational and physical activities is also declining.

There are a variety of reasons for declining participation in sports and recreation, including lack of opportunity, affordability and accessibility. Our research examines the impact of government decisions on sport participation for different groups of people and in different domains.

Our job is to understand the complex systems that provide sport and recreation opportunities and how these systems differ from province to province and territory. and regions in Canada.

Influence of regional policy

All levels of government do large investments to improve access to sports and leisure. The decisions of elected officials regarding these services can help improve the social, economic and cultural dimensions of community well-being.

However, different governments view these services and their role in providing them differently. This turns sport and recreation into a political issue.

the Canadian Sport Policy recognizes how much sport and physical activity involved in many sectors of society. Municipal education and recreation organizations are particularly important in these systems.

So, provincial and territorial governments play an important role in the operation of sport and recreation systems.

Questions to candidates

A closer look at regional policy and its effects is an important step in creating effective sport and recreation systems. A better understanding of how political parties view sport and recreation can help inform our decisions when we go to the polls.

Here, we provide three questions voters can ask their local provincial candidates to understand how their party’s policies will affect the sport and recreation sector. Although the details may be tailored to your province, territory or region, they are a good starting point for discussing these issues.

1. In your opinion, which ministry should assume responsibility for the sport and recreation portfolio, and why?

Across Canada, responsibility for sport and recreation rests with various provincial departments. these administrative arrangements affect the perspective of the incumbent government and how policies are developed and implemented.

For example, over the past 10 years, sport and recreation in Ontario has moved from the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism to the Ministry of Health Promotion. They now sit with the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.

Ontarians will go to the polls on June 2 for the 2022 general election in Ontario.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

In the same way, Manitoba and British Columbia situate sports and recreation with the ministries of tourism, arts and culture. Nunavut administers the programs through the Department of Community and Government Services and Prince Edward Island by Department of Health and Wellness.

Generally, sport and recreation are aligned either with the promotion of health and a healthy lifestyle or with the promotion of tourism and economic development. These distinctions have important implications for policy development and implementation.

2. How will your government address the infrastructure funding gap for municipal sports and recreation facilities?

According to 2019 Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, an alarming amount of municipal infrastructure is in poor or very poor condition. Sports and recreation facilities in neglected conditions represent an immediate need for action across the country.

The rehabilitation or replacement of these facilities is needed in the next 5 to 10 years to ensure that their services continue to meet the needs of the community. Unfortunately, these costs often fall on municipalities.

The lack of infrastructure funding is weighing on municipalities across Canada. many communities struggle to obtain funds maintain sports and recreational facilities for their citizens. Governments need an action plan to manage and repair facilities in poor condition.

3. How will your government support access to sports and recreation for diverse groups such as women and girls, indigenous peoples, people from rural and remote communities and people with disabilities?

COVID-19 continues to have a deep effect on organized sport and community recreation programs. Besides, recent locale and world events raised awareness of social inequalities related to the status of women and girls, as well as Black and Indigenous communities in Canada.

Teacher leading a group of students in stretches
Programs such as the After School Physical Activity Program in the Northwest Territories provide funding to schools and organizations to provide physical activity programs for children after school.
(Shutterstock)

To address this, coordinated efforts to address inequalities in sport and recreation systems are needed.

Provincial and territorial governments can be an important catalyst in addressing issues related to inequity and service accessibility. For example, Nova Scotia offers the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Sport Fund to support programs for underrepresented communities.

Programs such as the After-school physical activity program in the Northwest Territories provide funding to schools and organizations to provide after-school physical activity programs for children.

Advocacy for local associations

Public, private and not-for-profit organizations all play an important role in community sport and recreation in our municipalities. All of these organizations can benefit from strong policy frameworks that are intentionally designed to improve community well-being.

Sport and recreation are important services that can result in a range of benefits in our communities. But these results do not materialize spontaneously. Voters must hold their candidates and political parties to account on these issues and advocate for support for sport and recreation with provincial and territorial governments.

This article was co-authored by Tammy Borgen-Flood, research assistant in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Brock University.