Children’s Fitness Tax Credit

Last week I had the distinct honour of welcoming Prime Minister Harper and Laureen Harper to Durham for a special announcement. The Prime Minister wanted to do this announcement at the Abilities Centre in Whitby for two important reasons. First, because the Centre is an inclusive place that promotes physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices for people of all abilities. And second, the Prime Minister chose the Abilities Centre because it is a lasting legacy of the important contributions to Canada and the Durham Region made by our friend and former colleague, the late Jim Flaherty and his wife Christine Elliott. They helped lead a volunteer effort over a decade to get this impressive facility built for the wider region to enjoy.

I introduced the Prime Minister ahead of his announcement that our government was doubling the popular Children’s Fitness Tax Credit (CFTC) by increasing the maximum amount that may be claimed under the credit from $500 to $1,000. Our increase to a popular measure we introduced a few years ago recognizes that costs have been rising for enrollment in sports, dance or other fitness focused programming. The Prime Minister also announced that the tax credit was being made refundable, which will help lower income families benefit directly from the program. This doubling of the credit will be effective immediately for this tax year going forward. The CFTC will become a fully refundable credit effective in the 2015 tax year and beyond.

I was also very excited to meet the person that thanked the Prime Minister after his remarks. I grew up swimming with the Bowmanville Swim Team and later the Oshawa Aquatic Club, so like so many swimmers of my generation, I looked up to Anne Ottenbrite. Anne grew up in Whitby and was one of the best swimmers in the world. She won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles alongside the strongest swim team Canada has ever produced. The pool next to the Abilities Centre is named after Anne. She lives in Port Perry and continues to coach and inspire young swimmers in the Durham Region. She is also a perfect example of the tremendous potential of the young people in Durham who can strive to be the best in whatever they put their mind to provided they work hard and have the support of family and the community.

What was extra special for me about this special event in Whitby was the fact that I was able to have my family with me.

Mollie, Jack, my wife, Rebecca and I meeting with the Prime Minister

My children are rarely in Ottawa, so they got the chance to visit with the Prime Minister and Laureen before the event. They also got to meet Anne Ottenbrite and hear about how their Dad looked up to Anne as a young swimmer. Like most of the 1.4 million Canadian families that enroll their children in sports or fitness programs, our family knows the positive benefits that flow from these activities. Our 8 year-old daughter Mollie swims with the Clarington Swim Team in their development program for new swimmers. Like many little boys his age, our 3 year-old son Jack is sports obsessed and wants to play goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs when he grows up. Whether or not Mollie or Jack ever make the NHL or compete with the best in the world at the Olympics like Anne Ottenbrite, their experience in sports will teach them important lessons on goal-setting, hard work and being part of a team. These lessons – learned on the sports field, the dance floor or the hockey rink – are as important to their personal development as the exercise is to their physical development and health.

With Anne Ottenbrite, Olympic gold medalist at the Abilities Centre

I am proud that our government recognizes the importance of these programs to families and has structured a tax credit that helps give families a little extra flexibility against the rising cost of sports and fitness programs. I was also proud to host the PM in Durham for the day to showcase our area and the great potential of our young people.

As a footnote to showcase Durham’s youth in sport, I am happy to share our community’s pride in the Darlington Fusion U16 Girls Soccer National Champions, who have just come home after winning the title at the Sport Chek National Club Championships U-16 Girls Cup in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland. Congratulations, girls!