Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« The Smell of National Bankruptcy | Main | Fighting Fascism with Fascism »

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Canada should stop funding athletes

Some in sporting community are in an uproar because the federal government is declining to increase its spending on the "Own the Podium" program by $11 million. It seams that private and provincial funding is going to end soon and the Canadian Olympic Committee is trying to pressure the Federal Government to make up the short fall.

I applaud Minister of Sports, Gary Lunn, for saying that “You shouldn't just always reach to government and say ‘Oh, it's your problem.'” In fact I think we should extend this idea and cut all spending to Olympic Athletes. If you want to spend your life perfecting your going up and down big hills technique, then you should have to do it on your own dime.

I never fully understood why the government would fund the Olympic Games. Oh, that isn't exactly true. I understand it, I just do not like it. The only reason why our money is being given to these people and their hobbies is petty nationalism.

I respect people who want to spend government funds to help the poor. I agree with their generally good hearted intent even as I disagree with their methods. But funding Olympic Athletes does not even have the virtue of a positive moral desire. It is pure tribalism; some misguided attempt to make people happier that they are Canadian.

I am proud of Canada, and I am proud to be Canadian. I truly feel that Canada is one of the best places to live. Canada is one of the freest most open societies, not just in the world but in human history. I am eternally grateful to have been born in the time and place that I was.

Not one ounce of that will be diminished because some fellow Canadian can not skate as fast as someone else. I will not feel any less satisfied with my home of birth because the US team scores more goals than the Canadian team. Seriously does anyone feel less Canadian due to any defeats during the Olympic Games?

In a time of crippling deficits and ever growing debt, I would think that this would be the obvious place to make cuts.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on February 24, 2010 | Permalink


Actually, the obvious place to make cuts would be to the inflated salaries of public employees. Payroll costs are the biggest single expense of any large corporation and the government is no exception. At least they should be brought into line with their private-sector counterparts. And no more platinum-plated pensions.

As for the Olympics, I put them in the same category as the arts. Not at the top of the funding list, but also a long way from the bottom.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-02-24 8:39:54 AM

I agree with you Hugh. The real spending problems, however, will never be cut. I'm referring here to healthcare and social security. The last Fraser Institute report I saw (2008) indicated our debt + unfunded liabilities in Canada to be about 190% of GDP. That was before Harper went on a spending bonanza. We're screwed.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-02-24 9:01:50 AM

I'm patiently waiting to hear about the $100,000,000 lawsuit from the family of the luge guy, who died on that poorly designed track. I think they have a pretty good case.

The winter olympics will never be worth the money they throw at it. There aren't enough mainstream sports at the event. Hockey already has plenty of high profile tournaments. The fact they put the NHL on hold for two weeks means the olympics probably takes away from the sport. True hockey fans get as much entertainment from the world juniors.

Posted by: dp | 2010-02-24 9:17:25 AM

the Yankees are kicking ass. i haven't looked into it, but i wonder if and how much they are being funded by taxpayers. i'm gonna check it out.

if they're not being coddled with public funding, this will put the lie to the necessity of tax expropriation.

Posted by: shel | 2010-02-24 9:38:34 AM

according to this, Americans don't receive public funding:


Posted by: shel | 2010-02-24 10:10:59 AM

The US has a slightly different outlook on amateur sport. Tax incentives make it much easier for corporations, and private citizens to fund amateur sport. Professional sports kick in seed money to minor sport. Without government sponsorship, amateur sports are forced to become more resourceful. It works, in their situation.

Canada has become too reliant on government for so many services, we don't know how to function without government funding. Everything from social assistance, to pest control, are considered to be the responsibility of big brother. It makes the average person less likely to pitch in, and give of their personal time and money. Why should I donate? The government already wastes my tax dollars on things I don't care about.

Now that we've come down this road, I doubt we'll ever get back to a workable system.

Posted by: dp | 2010-02-24 10:26:13 AM

Could Canada save money by not fielding an Olympic team period? Not every country sends teams to the Olympics! Why does Canada have to send one? Special corporate tax incentives shouldn't be wasted on funding Olmpic athletes! Do you see a Singapore olympic team? I doubt it!

Posted by: Ted | 2010-02-24 3:34:07 PM

Crippling deficits and growing debt are easily remedied if the GoC will take back "the control of the issue of currency and credit" from private banks.

“Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as its most conspicuous and sacred responsibility, all talk of the sovereignty of Parliament and of democracy is idle and futile. Once a nation parts with the control of its currency and credit, it matters not who makes that nation's laws. Usury, once in control, will wreck any nation.”


Posted by: Alexander | 2010-02-24 3:56:29 PM

Singapore does have an Olympic team. It is funded by government and gaming revenues.

"January 24, 2007 – Singapore National Olympic Council has announced the initial beneficiaries of its new $7 million funding program for elite athletes looking to medal at the Olympic Games in 2008 and 2012. Through the new Project 0812 funding program, the 22 athletes from sailing, shooting, table tennis and badminton will be able to concentrate full-time on training for the Olympics."


"Singapore National Olympic Council

Tote Board recognises that Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) is the national body representing Singapore’s sporting interests at the International Olympic Council and that the desired outcome from funding SNOC is national glory from winning medals at major international sports meets and the elevation of Singapore’s status in the international sporting arena."


Posted by: Alexander | 2010-02-24 4:11:48 PM

On the topic of government spending and waste, Shane raises an important point. I cannot recall a post dealing with the whole issue of the public service in Canada, even though in proportion to the population the Canadian government along with its provincial counterparts remains the biggest employer. If spending cuts are the topic, this must be addressed.

Perhaps our way of funding athletes for the Olympics is not the best, but do not forget that every single country does the same in some form or another.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-02-24 6:44:49 PM

Good grief darn Libertarians. Yes its nice to beat the Russians in Hockey and yes it makes me proud to be a Canuck! Go pout somewhere else ok.

Posted by: Merle Terlesky | 2010-02-24 9:13:08 PM

In fact I think we should extend this idea and cut all spending to Olympic Athletes

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on February 24, 2010

I would go further and question the need for a "Minister of sports". I can visualize the talk around the PM's table. " He/she's too dumb for a real portfolio so let's make him/her minister of sports". Just what are the credentials for that one?. Good place to start cuts.
I like Britains idea of having a lottery dedicated to funding sports. They raised over 400 million towards funding the athletes and other major sports events as opposed to the 110 million that Canada took out of taxpayers pockets for our athletes so we could "own the podium".
Instead of being robbed the taxpayer would be a willing participant.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-02-24 9:54:51 PM

peterj-Have you forgotten, the original Canadian lottery, was the Olympic Lottery?

Most of the proceeds from VLTs go to amateur sport. So do most of the winnings from casinos, in Alberta, at least. Bingos are still a major source of funding for minor sport.

Lotteries funding amateur sport is as Canadian as maple syrup.

Posted by: dp | 2010-02-24 10:06:09 PM

Lotteries funding amateur sport is as Canadian as maple syrup.

Posted by: dp | 2010-02-24 10:06:09 PM

Which leads me to the question of why the federal government had to kick in 110 million to "own the podium". Where the hell is the lottery money going??. Would'nt be general revenue would it?

Posted by: peterj | 2010-02-24 11:34:10 PM


First of all, this is sort of the place we have to pout. Second of all if your pride in Canada is based purely on winning a hockey game, well then I don't see how you can be all that proud to be Canadian (not that there is something wrong with a lack of nationalism).


Yes I agree. The public sector is too big.

Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 2010-02-25 2:56:59 AM

Good grief darn Libertarians. Yes its nice to beat the Russians in Hockey and yes it makes me proud to be a Canuck! Go pout somewhere else ok.

Posted by: Merle Terlesky | 2010-02-24 9:13:08 PM

Then you would not pout if I took $10 out of your wallet for something I think (what you think does not matter) is important. To me, this is exactly what things like the olymics are. I love watching the drama and the competition. But morally it is wrong for the government to confiscate my money to pay for something that benefits so few.

If people feel so strongly about the olympics, they are wlecome to donate their hard earned money. I prefer mine in my pocket.

Posted by: TM | 2010-02-25 5:41:05 PM

I agree with Hugh that this amounts to petty tribalism. If the government wants to fund sports, it should do so in a way to encourage average Canadians to become fitter, not to encourage elite athletes to win medals.

Posted by: Chris | 2010-02-25 9:27:30 PM

Put it to a vote… I'll bet you that more than 80% of Canadians are happy to give up a few bucks to see our flag flying at the top of that podium. If you are that greedy and that selfish that you aren’t willing to help people, be the best that they can be, and represent our country while doing so…
Well, feel free to wine and bitch about it, it’s the second best thing about being Canadian.

Posted by: Douglas Creamer | 2010-02-28 8:51:30 PM

...in addition we should stop wasting money on the arts. If people want to see a show or look at a painting, then let them pay for it! The government shouldn't be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars sticking stupid blue raindrops outside of convention centers and the like. So much waste everywhere! Thanks for starting the discussion Hugh.

Posted by: mike | 2010-03-01 10:42:06 PM


I am perfectly willing to help people. I object to being forced to help people, particularly when I don't think those people are in special need of my help. You may be right that 80% of Canadians are willing to spend money to see Canada win. Well then those 80% can spend their own money and not force us 20% to fund something that we don't want to.

Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 2010-03-02 4:57:33 AM

Some of the opinions remind me of those middle aged, childless people, who bitch about paying school taxes.

Professional sport is big business. We all want big business to prosper, right? It creates jobs, right? Well, professional sport would die, from the bottom up, without a good amateur pool to draw from. Whether it's funded, or not, is not the issue. It's how it's funded that matters.

Chris' comment that funding should be for helping average Canadians become fitter, and not creating elite athletes, is misinformed. More people are inspired to become fit, by watching superstar athletes, than any "participaction" campaign, ever launched. Did you ever hear of a kid, who wanted to join a mediocre team, just to shed a few pounds? If a kid tells you that, he's not being honest, he's merely setting the bar where he's been told it should be set.

I see kids walk into my gym, every week, who say they aren't sure if they want to compete, or just get into shape. What they really mean, is they aren't sure if they're talented enough to achieve their goals, so they don't want to risk failure. The best way to reassure them, is to point out another kid, in your gym, who's won a significant event. Being near greatness, inspires greatness.

Back to funding, I believe it's crucial to fund relevent sports. To receive funding, a sport should prove its value to society, as a whole. Some of the sports I've seen, on the olympics, should not get a bunch of tax dollars, because they are no more than adult pastimes (curling comes to mind). Others have such limited access for the average Canadian kid, so they aren't relevent to society (pick any ski event).

I was running a boxing club, in Northern AB, about 20 years ago, and I applied for a piece of the lottery fund, which was designated for our region. When I did my presentation, I met some of the other applicants, and didn't understand why they expected funding. I had almost 20 kids, under the age of 18, in my gym. Some of the applicants had no one under 18. In the end, the bulk of the money went to rugby, to build a club house. The club had no one under 18, and the club house was just a place they needed to drink beer, and pull each other's puds. Another big wad went to cross country skiing, to build shelter along the trail, for skiers to sit and "drink cocoa". I'm not kidding, that phrase was in the application.

The reason those clubs got funding, was because they had members on the selection committee. Funding should not be designated by government lackies. They're way too easy to buy off.

Posted by: dp | 2010-03-02 6:41:05 AM

14 GOLD MEDALS and you want to cut funding? Good luck with that, in fact I can guarantee you that the powers that be will be INCREASING funding and rightfully so.

Posted by: Sean Roberts | 2010-03-04 12:39:31 PM

Hi all, I enjoyed reading your comments. I am a Paralympian from Athens, and wrestled with the glaring displays of nationalism during Vancouver 2010.

Click the link on my name above to read an article I wrote about Canadian nationalism and sport. I think it explores some valuable perspectives in exploring this topic of discussion.

Posted by: Josh Vander Vies | 2010-06-22 12:08:49 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.