Olympic athletes get extra $17 million a year
Published Thursday, March 4, 2010 7:06PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 1:06AM EDT
OTTAWA - With a section of his budget speech titled "Going for Gold," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty could hardly ignore the Olympic athletes whose victories he was invoking.
Canada's elite summer and winter athletes got gold in Thursday's federal budget -- an extra $17 million a year for the next two years. That's on top of the $47 million the government already spends each year on their programs.
The Own the Podium organization, which helps fund winter Olympians, will see its core annual federal funding doubled to $22 million.
Road to Excellence, which supports summer athletes, will see another $6 million annually tacked on to its current federal contribution of $36 million, as it prepares for the 2012 Games in London.
The Conservative government also announced it will renew another $10 million over two years for the identification and development of elite amateur athletes.
"Let us savour the achievements of our Canadian Olympic champions," Flaherty said in his budget speech.
"Let us look forward to the achievements of our Paralympic champions in the days to come. Let us take them as our models, a reminder of what we are made of, what Canadians can achieve."
Ottawa was the prime contributor to funding for Canada's elite athletes in the run-up to the Vancouver Games. Money from corporate donors and other areas is expected to dry up now that the Games are over.
Own the Podium had a $117-million budget over the last five years that came principally from the federal government and the Vancouver organizing committee. The British Columbia government, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee also kicked in cash.
Roger Jackson, CEO of Own the Podium, said he was thrilled the organization's requests were answered.
"I think the prime minister and Minister (James) Moore and Minister (Gary) Lunn were probably very impressed with the Canadian public reaction to the marvellous athletic performances," said Jackson.
"All of us are delighted by the absolute commitment to excellence and the importance of young Canadians being on the world stage and doing extremely well and giving us pride as a nation."
Jackson said there is some uncertainty about what will happen beyond 2012, but he said the funding will give his organization time to develop a strong giving campaign to attract public and corporate support.
In the past, Canadian governments have been reluctant to keep up their level of funding for athletes after hosting the Olympics and other major events. That has spurred some sports organizations to focus on bids for international competitions, in the hope that bringing them to Canada would bring their budgets back up.
B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell has already said his province will continue to contribute $5 million a year for elite athletes.
Other initiatives in the budget related to amateur sport include:
- $10 million over two years for the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
- $2 million over two years for Special Olympics Canada.
- $6 million over two years for ParticipAction's programs for promoting healthy lifestyles for Canadians through physical activity and fitness.
Jennifer Botterill, a member of Canada's gold-medal winning women's hockey team, called it an exciting day for amateur sports.
"It's hard for the reality of the Olympics to sink in, but I thing the athletes take away is that amazing support and how a country can really rally around its athletes," said Botterill, who was on Parliament Hill wearing her latest gold medal Thursday.