11/26/2014 04:18 EST | Updated 01/26/2015 05:59 EST

Mulcair promises an NDP crackdown on food, beverage ads aimed at kids

GATINEAU, Que. - The NDP is proposing a ban on commercial food and beverage advertising aimed at kids under 13 as a way of limiting the junk food intake of Canadian children.

"An NDP government will ban advertising of food to children right across Canada," NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Wednesday in a speech to a public health nutrition conference in Gatineau, Que.

"We'll put the power to make health food choices back in the hands of parents."

The province of Quebec already has such a policy, credited in a recent study with reducing the consumption of junk food in the province by as much as 13 per cent a week, Mulcair said.

Quebec also has one of the lowest obesity rates among children, while some 31 per cent of Canadian children are overweight or obese, he added.

"We know that an entire generation of Canadian kids is growing up to face a lower quality of life," said Mulcair, noting that those children watch more than 20,000 TV ads a year — more than half of which are for food products.

"But it's not too late to act. We know what needs to be done."

When people eat healthy, they live longer, better lives, Mulcair said.

"And they're less likely to suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which puts enormous strain on our health-care system."

For the first time, he continued, young Canadians are facing the prospect of having a lower life expectancy than their parents did.

"We're leaving future generations with a full-blown public health crisis," Mulcair said. "We can do better."