For over a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has been threatening the livelihoods of thousands of fitness business owners and fitness professionals as well as the health of millions of Canadians. From the beginning, Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC), the not-for-profit voice of more than 6,000 fitness facility operators, has been organizing its members, lobbying the government, and educating the press. The following is a condensed timeline highlighting a few of its key initiatives.
1. FIC Forms a National Coalition and Provincial Task Forces (March 2020)FIC members meet virtually weekly for updates from the Executive members and the government lobbyist. Task Force members report on local and provincial efforts; members share ideas, information and resources. The Coalition begins creating relationships with other associations and groups, such as the Small Business Association, CrossFit, the Retail Council of Canada, and Restaurants Canada.
“Provincial Task Force members and Board of Director members are doing incredible work in supporting our industry,” says FIC vice-president Nathalie Lacombe. “They have launched dozens of public relations initiatives and deepened relationships with numerous decision makers in government and beyond.”
2. FIC Q & A: Covid-19 (March 2020)
FIC National Coalition representatives–from big box gyms, group exercise studios, private training facilities, education companies, and technology companies—create a document that answers the top questions about operating a fitness business during the pandemic.
3. Extended Rent-Relief Program (April 2020)
FIC hires a government relations firm, Grassroots Public Affairs, to lobby the federal government on the fitness industry’s behalf for rent relief. FIC also hires a public relations agency, The Neighborhood Agency, to bring attention and pressure to landlords across Canada to help retailers manage their rent.
4. Considerations for Reopening the Fitness Industry (May 2020)
FIC presents a document after consulting with fitness associations around the world regarding strategies for reopening. A big concern for the global industry is a second or third wave and clubs having to close again. Asian and European clubs share their guidelines and strict measures for reopening.
6. Adult Fitness Tax Deduction (March 2021)
FIC met with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland to reintroduce the government to the FIC’s proposed Adult Fitness Tax Deduction. The message: Healthcare costs can be reduced and prevented by allowing fitness and athletic services to be tax deductible.
Concurrently, FIC initiated a letter-writing campaign (and a sample template letter stating that that fitness should be treated as a medical expense and be tax deductible) encouraging FIC members and their networks to contact their local Member of Parliament.
“We believe our industry is uniquely poised to help get people started and keep them going with a new active lifestyle,” says FIC president Scott Wildeman, noting that physical and mental health is currently at an all-time low in Canada. “It is well documented that this will save our healthcare system millions of dollars each year.”
This tax deduction will support the health of Canadians and also help to rebuild the fitness industry and the economy. The fitness industry hires over 150,000 employees who serve over six million Canadians. The fitness industry advocates for exercise as medicine.
7. National Health and Fitness Day (happening June 5, 2021)
For this year’s annual event, the Canadian fitness industry is presenting a special YouTube video showing how fitness facilities and trainers, even during these pandemic times, are here to help Canadians improve their health. As facilities reopen, FIC’s Gympass partners will offer specials. Click here to see what fitness facilities near you will be offering. If you are a fitness business owner and are concerned about the state of the fitness industry, have your voice heard by joining and supporting Fitness Industry Council of Canada. FIC works with both industry and government to improve the health and physical activity levels of all Canadians. Click here to learn more.