Member of Parliament John Weston is hoping his National Health and Fitness Day bill will receive unanimous support when it hits the House of Commons on Sept. 24.
The West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky MP said he has planned a walk from the steps of Parliament Hill to Ottawa's city hall for that day, a symbol of the cooperation needed between different levels of government in order to improve the health of Canadians.
“On a personal level, I just saw when I reached Ottawa how unhealthy was the lifestyle that MPs lead. So much time on airplanes and in committees and sitting in Parliament,” Weston said, explaining the inspiration for his second piece of non-partisan legislation. “I just resolved that if I was going to remain productive and useful to the people who voted me in, I needed to work at staying healthy.”
Weston hopes that one day Canadian calendars will mark National Health and Fitness Day on the first Saturday of June.
The bill encourages local governments to open the doors to their recreational facilities, something Weston hopes will help combat the sedentary lifestyle of Canadians.
He pointed to data released by Statistics Canada and public health agencies as indicators that the health of Canadians has declined since 1981 in terms of obesity, a risk factor for heart disease and even cancer.
“It's not a silver bullet,” he said, but the hope is that by filling recreation facilities across the country, more people will be encouraged to live a healthier lifestyle. There could also be economic benefits, Weston argued.
“We're looking at a direct financial hit of $4.3 billion to our healthcare system relating to over-weightness and obesity,” he said.
Weston launched National Health and Fitness Day this year on June 2 but next year he hopes it will go national.
Like a previous private member’s bill introduced by Weston dealing with the growth of crystal meth and ecstasy use in Canada, the MP hopes this legislation will receive unanimous support.
His parliamentarian fitness initiative has seen MPs from both sides of the House of Commons participate in physical activities, going for runs on Tuesdays and swims on Thursdays.
In addition to furthering the goal of a healthly active lifestyle for Canadians, Weston hopes the legislation might also help local governments increase revenues through health and fitness.
“It's an economic driver related to healthcare costs and work productivity and people's quality of lives,” Weston explained. “Those who come to use the facility on that day will come back later and become a source of continuing income to our recreational facilities.”
The legislation is non-binding and would require the voluntary participation of municipalities.