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ParticipACTION packing it in?

In the 1970s, Canadians went from couch potatoes to super jocks. Well, not quite. But at least during that decade they did start to get up and get fit. It was thanks to nagging TV ads, the example of an active prime minister and embarrassment compared to some very robust Swedes. But the nagging hasn't been entirely successful. Thirty years later the average Canadian is still overweight and spends more time on the sofa than at the gym.

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After nearly 30 years of encouraging Canadians to get up and get fit, ParticiPACTION may call it quits by the end of the month. The federal government has said no to the fitness agency's $2.5 million funding request. There will be no further money for the non-profit's famous fitness drives and information campaigns. In 1972, then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau set up the program to battle exorbitant health costs.

In this CBC Television report, one health professional says ParticipACTION's budget was a bargain compared to the $2.1 billion a year the government spends on health care.
• When Trudeau's Liberals started ParticipACTION, annual government funding amounted to $1 million.
• ParticipACTION said the $385,000 in funding for 2000 was not enough to keep the company in business. The organization had requested $2.5 million. Health Canada responded with an offer of $100,000 until June 2001.

• In a 2001 interview, then-health minister Alan Rock insisted ParticipACTION had not been cancelled but that the federal government would not "hand over a lump sum without a strategic plan."
• A skeleton of the original ParticipACTION remained with one volunteer: Russ Kisby, the former president who had worked for the organization since it began.
• In April 2001, Ottawa announced it would provide $10 million for the development of Canada's amateur sports program.

• Over 25 years, the federal government provided ParticipACTION with $16 million and the agency received $28 million in donations.
• In 2001 Martin Collis, a retired Canadian fitness expert, said "McDonald's alone spends more than $1 billion a year advertising. We spend nothing promoting a healthy lifestyle."

• In February 2007, the federal government pledged $5 million over two years to bring back ParticipACTION. The funding includes $1.4 million in startup capital and $3.6 million in its second year. To go along with the renewal of ParticipACTION, the Conservative government also launched a new website, www.healthycanadians.ca. The site is designed to provide Canadians with information on a variety of health and lifestyle issues, including physical fitness programs and the Canada Food Guide.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Dec. 7, 2000
Guest(s): Aubie Angel, Peter Katzmarzyk, Russ Kisby
Host: Ben Chin
Reporter: Kelly Crowe
Duration: 2:44

Last updated: May 20, 2014

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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