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Everyone in the pool (except Quebecers)

This Magazine Staff

A spate of drownings in Ontario and Manitoba over the weekend has spurred renewed calls for better water safety and mandatory swimming lessons in schools.
That’s from the CBC.
The idea is being pushed by Carolyn Bennett, who I almost defeated in the 2000 election,. She’s still doing better than me: she has since gone on to become our Minister of State for Public Health.
Two questions arise.
1. Is mandatory swimming lessons the proper response to this?
2. And if so, is the federal government the proper level of government to implement this?
My answers are “no” and “no”. For the first question, I think we need to be extremely wary of policy ideas that are developed in response to public tragedies. At the very least, a proper cost-benefit analyis needs to be done, especially to see if there are better places to put the money and resources. Would more lives be saved by mandatory swimming lessons, or by better trained and funded lifeguards? Is lack of swimming the problem, or is it the usual summer combination of booze, boats, and boneheads? etc.
For the second: Swimming lessons are offered by community centres, YMCAs, some schools, and other municipal bodies. It seems to me that if there is anything that is senstive to local variations and therefore not suitable for federal involvement, it is this.

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