• David Thibodeau

Canada's Sport and Recreation Recovery

Over one year has passed since the pandemic began. Many first pandemic budgets have been released around the world that have outlined how governments will be focusing their recovery spending. In this article, highlights from budgets from across Canada will be shared.


At the beginning of the pandemic, emergency funds were made available to sport organisations across the country to help support their programs:


These were some of the initial responses from governments to support the sport and recreation industry during the pandemic. A full year later since these emergency funds were announced, provincial and federal governments have announced their full budgets, with even more funding for aiding the sport recovery.

  • The Government of Nova Scotia’s budget included $5 million to increase inclusion and access of sport. There is a budget for $8.2 million in COVID-19 related for grants to Sports, Arts, Culture and Public Transit.

  • The Government of Ontario committed $200 million to Investing in Sport and Community Infrastructure through the newly established Strategic Priorities and Infrastructure Fund. The fund will also support the sport and recreation sector, which was one of the hardest hit sectors during the COVID‑19 pandemic. There is a separate fund for increasing active transit routes. They are also investing $3.9 million over 3 years to enhance the provincial park experience by using technology to better connect people with a one stop shop to help connect them with recreational opportunities that fit their location and interests. They are also offering free access from Monday to Thursday to provincial parks.

  • The Government of Alberta announced their Stabilize Program, which provides a one-time funding to reignite Alberta’s live experience sports, arts, and culture organizations and empower these organizations to reimagine their events and operating models to build an even stronger live experience sector. This program will provide up to $22 million in 2020-21 and $15 in 2021-22 and enable Alberta-based professional and amateur elite sports teams and leagues and organizations that own and/or operate live performance cultural infrastructure to offset financial losses due to cancelled activity and remain financially sustainable. There are also funds available for refurbishment of recreation facilities around the province. This budget includes $81 in operating expenses for Alberta Parks to help support increased recreational activity on Crown Lands (Land (including rivers and lakes) that's owned by the government is called Crown land: this type of land is available to the public for many different purposes – from industry to recreation and research).

  • The Government of Quebec has several funds available for the sport sector. To promote the practice of sports and recreational activities in Quebec for everyone, the government is planning on investing a total of $113.3 million by 2025-2026. These amounts will be used to invest: — $40.8 million to implement initiatives to encourage the practice of physical and recreational activities in all communities; — $72.5 million to develop sports and recreational infrastructure.

  • A break down of the $40.8 million is:

  • Supporting accessibility, quality of experience and promotion of regular physical activities, sports, active recreational activities and outdoor activities: $12.5 million

  • Implementing local initiatives for physical and outdoor activities $6.5 million

  • Offering better schoolyards to students $12 million

  • Facilitating the participation of people with disabilities in recreational activities $8 million

  • Encouraging the participation of girls and women in sports activities $1 million

  • Preventing the abuse and harassment of athletes $0.8 million

  • A breakdown of the $72.5 million to develop infrastructure is as follows:

  • Ensuring quality sports and recreational infrastructure $40 million

  • Improving and maintaining the Route verte $12.5 million (Route Verte is a provincial network of active transport pathways)

  • Providing the Capitale-Nationale region with a national-level tennis centre $20 million

The Government of Quebec is also providing funds to promote nature and adventure tourism. They are provided $48.9 million to promote nature and adventure tourism.

  • The Government of Canada announced several measures for sport and recreation in their budget. Some of the main highlights include:

  • $80 million over two years to remove barriers to participation in sports programming and to help community organizations kick-start local organized sports that are accessible to all.

  • $14.3 million over five years, to ensure that Indigenous women and girls have access to meaningful sports activities through the Sport for Social Development in Indigenous Communities program.

  • To support Canada’s many local festivals, celebrations, and amateur sport events that draw visitors to our communities: Budget 2021 proposes to invest $200 million through Canadian Heritage to support local festivals, community cultural events, outdoor theatre performances, heritage celebrations, local museums, amateur sport events, and more.

  • $300 million over two years, starting in 2021-22, to Canadian Heritage to establish a Recovery Fund for Heritage, Arts, Culture, Heritage and Sport Sectors

  • $400 million for Canada’s first active transportation fund

  • Providing $200 million over three years to establish the Natural Infrastructure Fund which will support natural and hybrid infrastructure projects ( for example: local parks, green spaces, waterfront). Some examples of projects that will be funded are the City of Toronto’s Ravine Strategy, the City of Vancouver’s Rain City Strategy, the City of Winnipeg’s Parks Strategy, the City of Saskatoon’s Green Strategy, the City of Halifax’s Green Network Plan and the City of Montreal’s Vision 2030 Strategic Plan.


Across the country, targeted funds are being made available to support sport organisations and sport infrastructure. A recent study commissioned by the Canada Games Council, found that 1 in 3 Canadian youth were unsure if they would return to sport, and 1 in 5 active Canadian youth say they do not intend to return to sport after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. These findings suggest that the long time trend of less youth participation in sport will be accelerated by the pandemic. Rightfully so, several funds specific to keeping people engaged in sport were created in response to the pandemic.


It is also important to note the importance of building the capacity of sport and recreation infrastructure across the country, including active transport. I think that in Canada, there is a lack of ownership of active transportation, the sport sector can take ownership and lead on promoting the use and creation of these forms of transit. I think a lack of vision has accounted for a slow pick up of active transit in this country, and with the sport sector as leaders, we could make huge strides.


I also included aspects of the budget that are being put towards supporting green spaces, and our park systems. While they are not usually considered part of our “sport industry”, these are important for national sport and recreation as they allow for Canadians to get out and enjoy nature through camping, hiking, kayaking, trail running, and many other outdoor physical activities. Our parks are important parts of our physical activity infrastructure in our country and around the world. They are also important for preserving our natural spaces. As has been pointed out on Sports for Social Impact before, physical activity can help preserve and protect our natural spaces.


Investing in sport is important for a smart recovery from COVID-19. Creating jobs, and creating healthier citizens is needed and that is what these budgets are aimed at doing.