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National fitness day bill introduced

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MP John Weston with Sen. Nancy Greene Raine, who on Thursday, Nov. 21 introduced a bill that would make the day — which aims to “increase participation by Canadians in fitness and sports activities, contributing to their own health and well-being” — a regular part of the Canadian calendar.

If the wheels of government turn as quickly as a pair of B.C. parliamentarians believe they should, Canadians will mark the first official National Health and Fitness Day on June 7, 2014.

Sen. Nancy Greene Raine, on Thursday, Nov. 21, introduced a bill that would make the day — which aims to “increase participation by Canadians in fitness and sports activities, contributing to their own health and well-being” — a regular part of the Canadian calendar.

West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky MP John Weston, a runner and cyclist, has been pushing the initiative for the past couple of years, but said he decided to ask Greene Raine — the 1968 Olympic alpine skiing gold medalist — to bring the bill forward in the Senate in an effort to expedite bill’s enactment.

“In the House of Commons, private members’ bills are entered in a random draw and John got a low number. It was still at first reading,” Greene Raine said in a telephone interview on Nov. 22.

Said Weston, “We looked around and thought, ‘Who better to push the bill forward than Canada’s Female Athlete of the 20th Century?’

“She’s a great role model and she’s there to encourage people all around the country.”

In a statement, Greene Raine said she’s among those who are “deeply concerned” about rising obesity levels, with about one in three Canadian youngsters either overweight or obese. On average, only about 12 per cent of Canadian children get at least one hour of physical activity per day, the level that’s recommended by health professionals.

What’s more, the Canadian Public Health Agency has put a $7-billion price tag on health care for cardiovascular problems and diabetes arising from obesity.

An official national day to promote health and fitness may seem like a motherhood issue to many. But both Weston and Greene Raine said they think it’s an important way to combat the sedentary nature of many Canadians’ lifestyles and the impact those choices have on the healthcare system and society as a whole.

Weston said municipal leaders and many others in his riding have endorsed the idea.

“It’s a big concern for a lot of people and it’s not going to be easy to turn it around,” Greene Raine said. “We’ve built up these bad habits over the years and it’ll take time to change them.

“A lot of people think as long as our healthcare system is there for us, they’ll fix me up and I’ll be OK,” she added, “but that’s the wrong attitude to take. We’ve got to take care of ourselves, and why can’t Canadians be the fittest people in the world?”

Greene Raine said she expects the Senate to debate the bill over the next month or so. After that it has to go to the House of Commons.

“This is the first time I’ve put something through the Senate and I don’t quite know how long it takes,” Greene Raine said. “Certainly it’s not a high priority, but our hope is to get it enacted before National Health and Fitness Day occurs next June.”

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