Gyms closed? Quebec has a message, with $70 million in funding: get outside

(Source Carol White)

By Selena Ross, CTV Montreal 

MONTREAL — Gyms may be closed, but Quebec wants people to think outside the box, literally, and take their sports outside this fall and winter.

“Go outside, enjoy the fall colours,” said Minister Isabelle Charest in a press conference Thursday, listing all the outdoor activities people will still be able to do in the coming weeks and months—hiking, tennis, ice-skating and others—while abiding by COVID-19 rules.

Charest, a speed skater and three-time Olympian, is the junior minister of education, but she has also been involved in announcements involving recreation.

On Thursday, she announced that Quebec is setting aside $70 million to promote sports during the pandemic, both in terms of keeping traditional sports networks alive, and also supporting the pandemic-friendly activities that people can turn to this year.

“We know the importance of staying active, on physical health and mental health as well,” Charest said. 

The funding announced Thursday includes almost $18 million for projects promoting “physical activity, leisure, sport and the outdoors,” as well as $4.3 million to create a sustainable transport network, though details on exactly what that means were scant.

Charest spoke at length in the press conference about the importance of staying active and the different, creative ways Quebecers have been finding to do so, with long-term closures of gyms and many team sports.

“You can do pretty much anything as long as you stay either by yourself, with a partner or within a family bubble,” Charest said.

“Of course there's all sorts of outdoor activities, and Quebec is full of so many opportunities to stay active.”

The $70 million also includes financial lifelines to sports federations, with Charest saying it’s a priority to make sure all sports can spring back into action when COVID-19 is no longer a threat.

“We want to make sure that the sports and leisure field will still be alive after this pandemic,” said Charest.

The $70 million will not be going to gyms or other individual facilities affected by COVID-19 closures, Charest said. Support for those businesses will come from the Ministry of the Economy.

The money is meant for organizing groups and federations, such as student sports’ federations, hockey federations and others, plus other big-picture measures like the transport idea.

Overall, sports federations are getting $23 million, while college and university sports networks are getting $2 million.

There will be an extra $2 million under an existing assistance program for local and regional initiatives in physical and outdoor activities.

The plan also includes just over $1.3 million to promote women and girls’ participation in sports and recreation.

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