Sports organizations disappointed in budget 2004 

Liberals increase contribution after sports organizations appeal to public

Canada’s leading amateur sports organizations didn’t hold back in expressing their disappointment with the proposed 2004 federal budget released by Finance Minister Ralph Goodale on March 22. Although $4 billion in new spending was announced for this fiscal year, none of that money was earmarked for Canada’s struggling athletes.

The Canadian Olympic Committee was surprised that their repeated requests for more funding were denied, especially with the Olympics coming to Canada.

"With Canada hosting the Olympic Winter Games in 2010, the time is now to invest in Canadian athletes," said COC president Michael Chambers. The COC is currently advocating an increase in government spending that would bring Canada’s investment up to par with other nations.

"The current low level of government investment in sport will not achieve the Olympic results Canadians desire and our athletes deserve," Chambers added.

In December, days after he was inaugurated as Prime Minister, Paul Martin appointed Stan Keyes as Minister of State for Sport, a cabinet-level position that sport advocacy groups have wanted for decades.

In February, representatives from the COC, Sport Matters, Athletes Can, national sport federations and Olympic athletes met with Members of Parliament, Senators and other senior government officials to present their vision for amateur sports in Canada, which included increased funding and athlete support. The meetings went well, which is why groups were disappointed to discover that athletics were left out in the 2004 budget.

Sport Canada, which funds groups like the COC and the Athlete Assistance Program, saw funding remain at $90 million.

A day after the COC and others complained to the media, Keyes increased the budget by another $10 million – $40 million short of the sum requested by the Sport Matters campaign.

"We see this funding as a prudent down payment on future federal investments," said Victor Lachance, senior leader of the Sport Matters Group which represents more than 60 national and provincial sport leaders and organizations. "This new money for sport, coupled with the $20 million that was kept in place (from the previous budget), is a welcome contribution that keeps the sport and physical activity file moving forward.

The COC plans to put all of that money towards Canadian senior and development level high performance athletes, says Chambers.

This is a crucial time for funding, with the Olympics in Greece this summer and the winter athletes qualifying for the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy next winter. There are also less than six years to go until Vancouver and Whistler host the 2010 Winter Games, and sport organizations are determined to shed the distinction of being the only host country never to win an Olympic gold medal at home.

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