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Nancy Greene Raine’s race against time

Canada’s athlete of the century is determined to ensure her bill limiting the marketing of unhealthy foods to kids becomes law
Nancy Greene Raine Pic

During her first 75 years on this earth, Nancy Greene Raine has done it all.

To this day, she is Canada's most decorated skier. In 1968, she gained international fame, winning Olympic gold with a very decisive giant slalom victory in Grenoble, France.

Nancy was also named Canada's athlete of the 20th Century, was appointed to the Senate, and despite being in her mid-70s – and a cancer survivor – skis almost daily during the winter months as Director of Skiing at Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops.

However, still, this Ottawa-born legend who grew up in Rossland and perfected her skiing skills on the steep slopes of Red Mountain is determined to win one more race for the good of Canada's young people: a race against time.

Before retiring from Canada's Upper Chamber on her 75th birthday last year, Senator Greene Raine introduced and doggedly promoted Bill S-228.

The Child Health Protection Act aims to protect easily influenced kids by limiting the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to young people. But while this private member's bill appears to enjoy widespread support in the House of Commons and the Senate, the proposed legislation appears to be parked.

"I know that the food and beverage industry is determined to stall the bill, knowing that if they can stall it long enough, it will die on the order paper when the writ is dropped for the next federal election," laments Greene Raine.

While Bill S-228 has undergone a few minor amendments (with Senator Greene Raine's blessing), it was passed in the House of Commons by a vote of 210 to 79. And while she applauds that bi-partisan support for the health of Canada's youth, the onetime face of Mars bars is frustrated by a lack of support from many of her former Conservative colleagues in the so-called Red Chamber.

"I'm very aware that in the Conservative caucus, there is a significant number of people who feel that this is just one more regulation enhancing the nanny state," admits Greene Raine, who readily admits that she doubts she has support from the majority of Conservative Senators.

Greene Raine points out the fact that Canada's first-ever legislation to prohibit marketing directed at children was introduced in 1974 by the late James McGrath, a Newfoundland Conservative MP, who later became a cabinet minister in the Mulroney government.

At the heart of Greene Raine's determination to see Bill S-228 passed is the fact that childhood obesity is quickly becoming a national health crisis. In fact, according to a recent of Government of Canada report, obesity rates among Canadian children and youth have nearly tripled in the last three decades.

"It's obvious that there is no silver bullet to prevent obesity," says Canada's athlete of the century, who is convinced that poor eating and exercise habits during childhood often get worse with age.

"This issue has been around for a long time. There are very powerful companies and industries that don't want to see their business model changed," admits Greene Raine.

While powerful industry lobbyists continue to fight hard for their interests and seem to have the ear of the Senate for now, they would be well advised not to start celebrating just yet against an Olympic champion who knows how to win.

The reality is with a federal election looming, this race could be much closer than Nancy's Olympic gold medal victory over Annie Famose of France.

As always, I welcome your comments and criticism on Twitter @kammornanchor and email: [email protected].

Bob Price is a veteran B.C. broadcaster who anchored the morning news on CHNL radio in Kamloops for the past 30 years. Bob is also a past Webster Award winner whose previous stops included Vancouver and Calgary.