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Donovan Bailey is inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in Toronto on Nov. 5, 2008. (Kevin Van Paassen)
Donovan Bailey is inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in Toronto on Nov. 5, 2008. (Kevin Van Paassen)

Ottawa Notebook

Bailey's $5-million dash Add to ...

With so much competition out there for federal dollars, organizations are bringing out the stars to pitch their issues. For example, actress Nicole Kidman was in Washington last week before the House foreign relations subcommittee asking for money to help combat violence against women around the world.

And there is a Canadian equivalent. Donovan Bailey, a former world record holder and Olympic gold medalist in the 100-metre dash, brings his winning ways to Parliament Hill today. He is appearing before the Commons finance committee this afternoon to talk about the "inactivity crisis" in Canada.

Mr. Bailey is on the board of ParticipACTION, the organization that was decades ago associated with a 60-year-old Swedish man who was fitter than a 30-year-old Canadian.

The sprinter thinks Canada is a "relatively health place" but wants more people to take advantage of it. His own children, for example, would "rather be on the Internet than be outside doing something."

"I grew up doing something outside," he told The Globe.

He hopes his advocacy will persuade both children and adults to be more active, and he's already seeing some signs of success. "There's a couple of friends of mine, big old men, and they decided they were going to take their wives ballroom dancing."

ParticipACTION has been around for 30 years, relaunching in October of 2007 after being dormant for five years.

The problem is that it now receives funding only on an ad-hoc basis, which means it has to go begging every year. Ottawa ponied up $3.3-million this year, but it wants stable funding of $5-million a year for the next five years.

This is the first time it has come before the finance committee, which is in its pre-budget hearings right now.

"It's an amazing iconic brand," ParticipACTION president and CEO Kelly Murumets says. "Eighty-four per cent of Canadians know our brand today. When I was in the private sector I would have killed for that brand awareness and brand equity."

Ms. Murumets, who has an MBA and Masters of Social Work, had run several publicly-traded companies and had retired several years ago after selling them. At 46, she decided to come back to work in the non-profit sector. "I would like to go change the world," she told The Globe.

She and Mr. Bailey will pitch the committee, noting that since 2001, Canada has spent $5.3-billion on health-care costs "that were directly related to physical inactivity."

"We have to start thinking prevention," Ms. Murumets said.

She described Mr. Bailey as passionate about the organization and and it's useful to have a "star" as your pitchman.

"He's a big name. He's well-known." she said. "We have to get on the agenda and the tactics of old just aren't working."

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