Back in the May budget the Canadian federal government proposed a Children's Fitness Tax Credit, intended "to promote physical fitness among children." The proposal went on to say that "the credit will be provided on up to $500 in eligible fees for programs of physical activity for each child under age 16."
[An eligible program of physical activity is] an ongoing program suitable for children in which substantially all of the activities undertaken include a significant amount of physical activity that contributes to one or more of cardio-respiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and balance.
Of course, that still leaves a little room for interpretation. So for the last two months, an expert panel, appointed by the Minister of Finance, has been touring the country. They've been hearing from Canadians about what they consider meaningful physical activity, aiming to use that feedback to set the criteria for what should (and should not) be eligible for the tax credit.
As you might expect, Canadians think that everything their own children are involved in should be eligible. The panel has heard appeals for everything from ballet, to music and art, to "free-form play." The recommendation of the expert panel is due to the Minister on October 6.
I've written before that I don't want to get drawn into a debate about whether such-and-such activity is or is not a sport. In this case, however, we're debating whether specific programs should qualify as "physical activities."
The case for ballet seems like a no-brainer to me, although Linyee Goh takes a backhanded swipe at organized sports in the Vancouver Sun article, saying that ballet is "the best physical exercise for children, because it's both physical and mental." Unlike, say, soccer, where you just turn your brain off, is that it?
As my contribution to the debate, here are Amateur's suggested guidelines for eligibility for the Children's Fitness Tax Credit:
- In eligible programs, increased physical activity should be seen as an accomplishment in itself. I'll concede that you can achieve a good workout by playing the violin, but you can't achieve playing the violin by just increasing your level of physical activity.
- The incurred expense should include some element of instruction; that is, it should be something more than just the opportunity for exercise. Buying a bike or a Y membership isn't enough. And when I say instruction, I don't mean supervision — if you're paying money so that your children can engage in "free-form play," I say that's just "child care" under another name. And we know that you've already got plenty of money for that. .