KAMLOOPS, B.C. — An NDP government would invest $28-million to make it easier for poor and disadvantaged youth to play sports, but it needs to review the current child fitness tax credit before deciding whether to keep it, Tom Mulcair said on Wednesday.
Clad in a windbreaker and flanked by a group of young street hockey players, the NDP leader closed his tour of British Columbia's southern Interior with a promise to break down barriers to girls, young women, First Nations, LGBT and disabled athletes.
"Sports were an important part of my life growing up, whether I was on the basketball court, the football field, in the pool or at the rink," Mulcair told reporters in Kamloops. "I was staying fit and learning valuable leadership and team-building skills that have served me well throughout my life.
"As a dad, coaching my kids' hockey team provided its own reward. It also showed me firsthand how important participation in sports was to all kids on our team."
The multi-million dollar investment in Sport Canada would increase funding to provinces and territories for community sports programs. It would also help low-income families with registration fees, equipment and transportation, Mulcair said.
The Conservative government's child fitness tax credit currently allows parents to claim up to $500 per child for their sports fees. Mulcair said he first wants to measure the success of the credit — something he said Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused to do.
"We always say that it's good to practice fact-based decision making. Harper practices decision-based fact-making," Mulcair said.
"He doesn't like having things measured. We're going to take the trouble to do that properly, and make sure that we get the desired effect: having more kids participate in sports."
It was the NDP leader's final stop on a three-day tour of the largely Conservative Okanagan region, where he has been trying to win new voters with plans to boost tourism and improve wildfire response.
He was also asked about Kinder Morgan's proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which would run through Kamloops and which its regional government supports — in contrast with Vancouver-area communities that oppose the project.
Mulcair accused Harper of "gutting" the environmental assessment process. He said the exclusion of oral cross-examination from the National Energy Board review of Trans Mountain is a breach of a "fundamental rule of natural justice."
"How can the public even begin to feel confident that the government's not playing a trick on them?" he asked.
"That's why these projects are not moving forward. You cannot say yes to any of these projects unless you have a clear, credible, thorough environmental assessment process."
After the announcement, he scrambled for the puck in a parking lot hockey game with the group of kids in brightly-coloured jerseys. Local candidate Bill Sundhu also grabbed a stick and Mulcair joked he was a "ringer."
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