MP John Weston challenges Parliamentarians to get fit 

20:10 campaign urges MPs, senators and other members of government to be more active


Running for office is one thing, but if West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP John Weston has anything to say about it his colleagues will be running for fitness as well.

As the Member of Parliament for a riding that is hosting most of the Olympic events and a fitness fanatic in his own right, Weston launched a new campaign in the House of Commons on May 25 to improve the health and fitness of our representatives in Ottawa. The 20:10 leaders campaign challenges Members of Parliament and the Senate to be active for a minimum of 20 minutes and 10 seconds every single day.

It wasn't easy to get time on the floor. Weston needed permission from all four party whips to make his presentation, as well as the Speaker of the House. That took Weston weeks to put together, and it almost fell apart on the day of the presentation when the Speaker needed proof that all party whips had approved of the 20:10 leaders box.

All of the members received a red box that included swim goggles, a map of hiking and biking trails around Ottawa, and a hand-drawn map that shows the distance between Parliament buildings to encourage them to walk. Weston has also booked sessions with top coaches like national swimming and running coaches.

"A lot of MPs have pointed out the fractious nature of the House of Commons, and how unfortunate it is that we aren't working together more closely, so it was quite something to get everybody united on a single initiative," said Weston.

Weston has three goals for the program - to draw attention to the 2010 Games, to encourage his colleagues to exercise more ("to make them happier, healthier and more likely to get re-elected"), and thirdly, "to look at our elected representatives as potential role models who, by doing something healthy, can encourage their constituents to do healthy things as well.

"These are people that spend a long time in the House, at their desks, in front of their computers, and they have a hard time maintaining a healthy lifestyle," said Weston. "As an MP for a particularly health-conscious part of the country, I felt this was something I could do."

Weston is an avid swimmer, cyclist and runner who has competed in Ironman. He also skis alpine and cross-country, and last year earned his black belt in Tae Kwon Do along with other members of his family.

Heading to Ottawa he had some concerns that the workload would have an impact on his fitness, but so far he's found ways to stay fit. He never takes elevators, and walks between Parliament buildings instead of taking the complimentary bus.

"When I found a place in Ottawa I deliberately chose an apartment so I would be biking distance from Parliament, and the place has a swimming pool as well," he said. "When I got in the other day (from the FCM conference in Whistler) it was 4 a.m. Vancouver time, but I still spent some time in the water. It's a necessary thing to do if I'm going to be effective in the role I'm in."

So far the 20:10 program has been a success. Weston attended one session with a national swim coach, which was also attended by members of the Bloc Quebecois and NDP leader Jack Layton.

"(Conservative MP) John Cummins said it was the first swim lesson of his life, and here we had an Olympic swim coach volunteering his time to teach us," said Weston.

Weston also has support in the senate as Senator Nancy Greene-Raine is supporting the initiative. It supports her own initiatives in promoting sport and battling childhood obesity.

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