from experts in the field:
David Hardy IS PRESIDENT OF THE &ITNESS )NDUSTRY #OUNCIL OF #ANADA
www.ficdn.ca A NOT FOR PROFIT ASSOCIATION REPRESENTING #ANADA S
3HOULD #ANADA RELY MORE ON
YES. The children’s fitness tax credit applies to families with children under
the age of 16 who participate in a registered sport or physical activity. A
broad range of activities qualify for the tax credit: everything from hockey
to swimming programs to dance lessons to a youth fitness membership.
While the tax credit is by no means a catch-all solution to Canada’s
inactivity and obesity crisis, it’s a good start. It helps parents pay for costly
sports and physical activities. This will encourage young Canadians to become more active,
more often. It will also encourage parents to become more active. When parents set an example
of active living, this instills healthy habits and a love for active living in their children.
Since the introduction of the federal tax credit, some provincial governments have introduced or sweetened their own incentives. Nova Scotia, which introduced a healthy living tax
incentive in 2005, increased the amount parents can claim in one year. Recently elected Ontario
Liberals have also made a promise to introduce a similar provincial credit in hopes of encouraging healthy behaviours in Ontarian children. In Quebec and British Columbia, government
officials have expressed interest in expanding the credit provincially to help combat increasing
health-care costs associated with physical inactivity and obesity.
It’s a fact that physical activity helps prevent many illnesses. Families who lead active lives
miss work less often, are in need of medical attention less often and are generally less of a burden
on Canada’s health-care system.
Physical activity in children confers additional benefits, including positive self-esteem,
greater self-efficacy, improved academic and cognitive performance and greater perceived well-being. Young people who are physically active are less likely to use tobacco, alcohol or other
drugs. Problems of juvenile delinquency can decrease when appropriate physical activity programs are available.
In the words of Dr. Kellie Leitch, chair of the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit Expert Panel,
“this tax credit helps parents help their kids. By making physical activities more accessible to
families, this moves kids off the couch and gets them playing, dancing and moving around. And
that will help transform children’s lives.” C
0ERCENTAGE REFLECTS VOTES
RECEIVED B Y .OVEMBER
from experts in the field:
3HEILA "LOCK IS DIRECTOR OF HEALTH AND NURSING POLICY AT THE 2EGISTERED
.URSES !SSOCIATION OF /NTARIO www.rnao.org AND A RESEARCH ASSOCI
ATE WITH THE #ANADIAN #ENTRE FOR 0OLICY !LTERNATIVES www.policyalter
NO. While the government’s objectives are to promote physical fitness
among children and reduce childhood obesity, it is unlikely that this tax
credit will meet them—and it will certainly leave some families behind.
First, a broader range of activities than those eligible for the tax credit
is needed to reduce childhood obesity. These include activities such as cycling, which does not
meet the tax-credit requirements. Other energetic, informal activities, such as basketball
“pickup” games, are not eligible because they do not meet the requirement that an activity be
Second, the tax credit is designed in a way that does not take into account differences in
participation in physical activity by gender. According to a 2006 study conducted by the
Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Institute, 40 per cent of boys spent seven hours per week in
moderate physical activity outside of school hours—compared to 28 per cent of girls. By failing
to address these important gender differences, this seemingly gender-neutral program will, in
fact, disproportionately support boys’ physical activities.
Third, the credit has no value for parents whose income is not taxable, such as social assistance recipients. For parents whose taxable income is low enough so that other expenses—such
as child care—reduce their taxable income to zero, this program will also have no value. At the
same time, children in low-income families are more likely to be obese and less likely to participate in sports that do qualify for the credit, such as organized hockey.
Even for families with taxable incomes, the value of the credit is negligible. The maximum
value is $77.50 per child. The average annual cost of a minor-league hockey program can be
$1,000. For a less expensive sport, such as soccer (which costs about $125 a year), the tax credit
would provide a maximum benefit of only $19.38.
The government could more effectively encourage physical activity and reduce childhood
obesity by providing direct funding to the organizations that support and encourage physical
activity in children. This tax credit is not the way to go. C
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