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  • Writer's pictureDavid Thibodeau

Sport and Recreation Budgets in Canada

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Since starting the Sports for Social Impact podcast I have often highlighted different aspects of budgets from different levels of governments and organisations. I have said that budgets reflect our values. So, for the 2023 season I have outlined below all 10 provincial budgets and Canada’s federal budget. This is an expansion of the podcast episode.

In this article we explore all new spending announced for sport and recreation. This can include funding to organisations, capital spending (often infrastructure and one time announcements rather than recurring), investing in parks, building active transport. It explores how different governments across Canada are investing, or not investing, in building active communities.

We start with the federal budget and then move from west to east across Canada for provincial governments. Each province faces different challenges in their budgets, some provinces are more rural and some are more urban. Providing equal access to sport and recreation to rural communities is often more difficult (one example can be seen in the Newfoundland and Labrador budget where they have to subsidise athlete travel from Labrador to competitions.) Some provinces are making more investments than others in active transport, sport, parks and recreation. All provinces can do more to invest in Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

The federal budget has two announcements about sport:

  • They are putting $13.8 Million over three years to enhance accountability and support efforts to build a safe and accountable sport system (this started in 2022/23)

  • Providing $10 million over two years, starting in 2023-24, towards the ParticipACTION Let's Get Moving Initiative, which will continue supporting national programming that aims to increase daily physical activity among Canadians.

There is very little new spending happening at the federal level to invest in sport and recreation across Canada.

On Canada’s west coast, the government of British Columbia mostly invested in BC Parks to expand access to outdoor recreation across the province. It also included the first active transport specific fund outlined in the provincial budget.

  • $100 Million over the next three years in active transport

  • $70 Million in operating funding to BC Parks

  • $31 Million in Capital Funding to BC Parks

No mention of physical activity, very few mentions of sport and recreation. (Really only when referencing the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport)

The budget also outlined some of the labour market statistics for the province. In 2022 BC saw the creation of 17,6000 jobs in information, culture and recreation. Showing strong growth in this sector.

In Alberta the provincial government focused mostly on capital spending on infrastructure to build up capacity for sport and recreation across the province. There was no mention of active transport and very little mention of sport and recreation.

  • $352 Million in Capital spending for Sports and Recreation, this is only 2% of their Capital Plan over the next three years. $213 Million goes more specifically to sport:

    • $150 Million for three years ($50 Million/year) to increase the Community Facility Enhancement Program. This Program funds non-profits to upgrade, fix, etc sports, recreational, cultural or other facilities

    • $14 Million over 3 years to allow development of land trails

    • $15 Million over 3 years to Canmore Nordic Centre for upgrades

    • $15 Million over 3 years to MNP Community Sport Centre

    • $8 Million to Winsport Day Lodge for renovation

    • $11 Million “other sport and recreation programs” over three years

The government of Saskatchewan budget has very little focus on sport and recreation and mostly focuses on building some new spending on Parks.

  • $14.0 million will fund construction of a group pavilion at Rowan’s Ravine Provincial Park for large or multi-group gatherings and a new Visitor Reception Centre at Crooked Lake Provincial Park to enhance customer service and visitor information.

  • 12.3 million for capital improvements throughout the parks system.

The province of Manitoba had several sport related items in their budget. Budget 2023 builds on investments in nature and heritage spaces, tourism, arts and culture. The government is investing $100-million for the Arts, Culture and Sport in Community Fund, with $50-million available in 2023/24.

  • The budget also provides $10-million to support the new provincial parks capital plan and operating requirements;

  • Budget 2023 will maintain funding of $250,000 to prioritise the welfare, safety and rights of every Manitoban taking part in sports.

  • Building Sustainable Communities Program provides a grant contribution of 50 per cent for eligible project costs up to $75,000 and up to $300,000 for large capital projects.

Ontario is Canada’s most populous province. The budget has very few highlights on sport and recreation. They are taking steps to open the first new, full service, operating provincial park in 40 years. It will offer four-season facilities and recreational activities including swimming, hiking and cross‐country skiing. The location of the park and its facilities is in the process of being finalised.

Out of all budgets examined, Quebec has the most extensive sport related items in their budget. They are investing $789.3 Million towards improving student retention and success. Through this they are promoting educational success and equal opportunity. They will also enable more youth to participate in sports, arts and science programs. The Quebec government wants all public schools to offer at least one special project (arts, science, sports). They are using sport as a specific tool to retain students in schools and increase the graduation rate.

They are putting $88.4 million to get Quebecers moving by 2027-28.

  • $72.7 M to improve access and participation in recreation, sports and Physical activity

  • $13 M to strengthen protection and integrity in sports & rec

  • $2.7 M to continue developing the National Trail in Quebec (cycling)

A further $300 M is being provided in the 2023-2033 Quebec Infrastructure Plan to fund development and maintenance of sport, rec and outdoor infrastructure.

The Quebec government is also making investments to help the active ageing of seniors. They are providing $106 M to consolidate measures to promote this.

They are making strides to promote active transport in the province with:

  • 15 M to active mobility in Quebec City (in addition to the 2.7M already outlined for the National Trail)

They are making investments to get Quebers outside:

  • 16.5 M to the diversification of the outdoor recreational infrastructure to offer access to greater number of natural environments

  • 50.3 M to Quebec Parks system

  • 4.6 M for electric bikes to offer year round access to the summit of Parc National du Mont- Megantic

Quebec is making strategic investments in their province to get Quebecers up and active unlike other provinces across Canada.

One of Canada’s smallest provinces, New Brunswick is trying to increase some access to sport and recreation with targeted programs:

  • GO NB - taking action through sport $300,000

  • Sport Development Trust Fund $100,000

They are also providing capital funding to increase access:

  • $1 million to help rural districts to assist rural communities purchase emergency equipment, construction and repair fire halls as well as repairs to community centres and recreation facilities

  • $5.1 million to carry out improvements to provincial parks, attractions and heritage sites

The pandemic saw a huge number of Canadians moving from larger provinces (mainly Ontario) to smaller provinces. With the rise of telework and more flexibility, Canadians moved across the country in search of a better place to live, work and play. Nova Scotia was one such province where many Canadians moved. This increase in population should have meant that the provincial government should be making strategic investments in the province to make it more liveable. However, there were no specific measures outlined in the budget for sport and recreation.

The budget highlighted that the service employment growth was particularly strong in information, culture and recreation, real estate and rental and leasing, and professional, scientific and technical services. Showing the benefits of sport on the economy.

The 2023–24 Capital Plan is the largest single-year capital funding program in the province’s history. The Province’s capital spending will advance healthcare projects more quickly and also provide Nova Scotians modern schools, safer highways, renewed provincial parks, and improved local roads and other infrastructure. I could not find a breakdown in how much was going towards each of these items.

The budget did commit to continuing work to develop active transportation networks and promote active transportation as a safe, accessible option to move within communities, however no dollar value was given.

Prince Edward Island

[Placeholder - currently in election period]

Newfoundland and Labrador

The budget for the government of Newfoundland and Labrador does make physical activity a priority. Budget 2023 includes:

  • Close to $7 million to support recreation, physical activity, and athlete and sport development.

  • $800,000 increase for the Active NL Fund.

  • Increased the Labrador Sport Travel Subsidy to $830,000 – a 14 per cent increase (this helps build the capacity for athletes from Labrador to travel for competitions.)

Budget 2023 includes $500,000 for upgrades to our provincial park facilities ensuring opportunities for visitors to explore and embrace nature.

This budget puts $25 Million towards the Regional Recreation Centre in the City of Corner Brook. This is the construction of a recreation centre on the Grenfell Campus, complete with swimming pool and aquatic features, daycare centre and fitness centre.

Newfoundland and Labrador is the next host of the Canada Summer Games. This budget invests $40 Million in the Canada Games Sporting Facility in the City of St. John’s. This is the construction of a sporting facility, a Centre of Excellence with athletic training space, teaching space, locker rooms and storage.


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