The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) have expressed gratitude to the Government of Canada following the announcement that it would be increasing annual funding allocated to their Athlete Assistance Programme (AAP) by CAD$5 million (£3 million/$3.7 million/€3.5 million) over five years.
The first increase in 13 years, which will see 18 per cent more money invested in direct financial support to the country’s high performance athletes, was confirmed by Finance Minister Bill Morneau in his 2017 budget.
Direct funding through to senior AAP carded athletes has remained at CAD$18,000 (£10,800/$13,500/€12,500) a year since 2004, despite a 24 per cent increase in cost of living.
AAP development carded athletes, meanwhile, receive $10,800 (£6,500/$8,100/€7,500).
The COC's Athletes' Commission, along with other athlete and sport organisations, including the COC and the CPC, has long advocated for increased assistance.
Athletes are eligible for AAP funding if they meet carding requirements set by their national sport federations based on their results at Olympic and Paralympic Games, World Championships and World Cup events.
The AAP is open to sports that are part of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games programmes.
"I thank the Government for investing in our athletes and look forward to learning how this will be rolled out," Jeff Christie, chair of the COC Athletes’ Commission and a two-time Olympian in luge, said.
"We need to give them stable funding so they can plan their lives, education and training, and remain in sport to represent Canada internationally.
"Olympians are key ambassadors for their communities.
"Their accomplishments unite Canadians like little else can and inspire youth to reach higher in whatever they choose to do in life.
"We will continue to work with the Government to find ways to better support athletes and the development of sport at all levels."
Chelsey Gotell, chair of the CPC Athletes' Council and a 12-time Paralympic medallist in swimming, added: "On behalf of the Canadian Paralympic athlete community, we are very grateful for the support of the Government of Canada, especially through the Athlete Assistance Programme, and we are thrilled to hear of the increased investment in the AAP."
The Athletes' Council is an elected group of current and retired Paralympic athletes from within the past eight years that serves as a collective voice, advocating the best interests of Canada's Paralympic athletes and the Paralympic Movement within Canada.
"As a Paralympian, it is a privilege and an honour to compete for Canada on the international stage," Gotell added.
"National team athletes don't do it for the money.
"We do it because we love our sport, we want to push our limits, and we have a passion to be the best we can be.
"Our business is sport and our job is to win medals.
"This increased investment has exciting potential to help retain athletes in the sport system for a longer period of time, while also helping new athletes by providing resources to train at a world-class level sooner and longer - which will enhance ultimately Canada's performance at the Paralympic Games."
The budget also detailed CAD$19 million (£11.4 million/$14.2 million/€13.1 million) for aboriginal sport and CAD$1.34 billion (£803.3 million/$1 billion/€926.8 million) over the next 10 years for provincial and territorial sport, recreation and culture infrastructure development.
"We applaud the work of the [Justin] Trudeau Government and the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities for their continued support of high performance sport, specifically through this increase in direct funding to athletes," Chris Overholt, the COC's chief executive and secretary general, said.
"We also congratulate the athletes who advocated for this initiative on behalf of their peers including COC Athletes’ Commission chair Jeff Christie and former vice-chair Adam van Koeverden.
"This will make a huge difference for Canadian athletes who compete against the best in the world."
CPC President Gaétan Tardif added: "Our Paralympic athletes and coaches are role models for all Canadians and play a key part in generating national pride and inspiring more Canadians to be physically active.
"Minister [Carla] Qualtrough and this Government took the time to ask what was important, they listened and responded, and for this we are most grateful.
"We believe in accessibility, inclusivity and sport for all, from playground to podium.
"Thank you to the Government of Canada for this important new funding and for their deep belief in the value of sport."
Canada won a total of 22 medals at last year’s Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro, including four golds, three silvers and 15 bronzes.
At the Paralympics, the North American nation claimed eight golds, 10 silvers and 11 bronzes.