Review of Sport Canada’s Targeted Excellence Approach - Backgrounder


In order to be the best, athletes and coaches must constantly review and adjust how they train and compete. Over the past year, Sport Canada did the same to ensure that the investments Canadians make in high performance sport allow these athletes in Olympic and Paralympic sport to push for the podium.

In July 2016, after an open bidding process, Sport Canada hired an external contractor, Goss Gilroy Inc., to conduct a review of Sport Canada’s approach to Targeted Excellence funding for Olympic and Paralympic sport.


The objectives of the review were to:

  • Evaluate if the Targeted Excellence approach has achieved – or is likely to achieve – Sport Canada’s Targeted Excellence outcomes;
  • Assess the intended and unintended impacts of the Targeted Excellence approach and its effects on the Canadian sport system; and
  • Provide data, findings and observations that would inform Sport Canada’s approach to supporting excellence.


The review was based on multiple sources of information and evidence, including:

  • Document and literature reviews of:
    • Overall Sport Canada funding;
    • International sport reports;
    • Targeted Excellence funding; and
    • Olympic and Paralympic medal results.
  • Key informant interviews with 80 representatives from sport partners, including:
    • Provincial/Territorial governments;
    • National Sport organizations;
    • Athletes;
    • Coaches;
    • Academics;
    • The Aboriginal Sport Community;
    • Media; and
    • Private sector.   
  • Surveys targeting:
    • Currently carded and retired athletes (489 athletes responded - 397 from currently carded athletes and 92 from retired athletes);  
    • Presidents and Chief Executive Officers, Olympic and Paralympic High Performance Directors/Leads in funded National Sport Organizations and coaches of carded athletes (184 Olympic responses, including 138 coaches and 51 Paralympic responses of which 32 were from coaches); and
    • The broader community of those wishing to have their say (605 completed surveys).

Key findings

The conclusions in the report identify seven key findings:

  1. Targeted Excellence funding has helped to achieve podium results in an increasingly competitive field; however, there was no strong consensus on the efficacy of the Targeted Excellence approach.
  2. The Targeted Excellence approach has had a positive impact on targeted athletes and sports, but non targeted sports and athletes are feeling left behind.
  3. It is getting more expensive to achieve international success.
  4. There is strong support in the high performance sport community for the Targeted Excellence approach and for Own The Podium as an independent technical agency.
  5. There is strong support for high performance system development through a longer-term focus.
  6. There is strong consensus about the need to focus on the next generation of athletes.
  7. Despite the success and support for the Targeted Excellence approach, approximately half of respondents feel that we should reconsider the current approach.

Priorities and next steps

Our attention now turns to what needs to be done to address some of the issues that have surfaced in the findings of the review. Sport Canada has been focused on working with key sport partners to frame the next steps. The following four priorities and next steps have been identified.

Priority 1: There is a need for balance between a targeted approach and sport development within the high performance system.

Canada needs to support the development of the high performance sport systems for all Olympic and Paralympic sports, not just for those that are targeted to win medals at Games. Winning medals for Canada will always be important, but it can’t be the only measure of success. Different indicators would include systematic improvements in areas such as coaching, quality daily training environment, sport science and sport medicine.

As a result, we will work with high performance partners to establish the key indicators supported by our sport partners that demonstrate that we are advancing the high performance sport system, for all Olympic and Paralympic Sports.

Priority 2: High Performance System Sustainability

Canada needs to build and support sport-specific technical expertise within national sport organizations for all Olympic and Paralympic sports. Sport Canada will continue working with Own The Podium, the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and other key sport partners to see how we can move forward with all Olympic and Paralympic sports to help develop technical expertise.

In order to provide national sport organizations with more financial stability, we will work with high performance partners to look at opportunities to provide multi-year funding to national sport organizations when appropriate.

For a high performance athlete to succeed, we need to ensure that they receive the support services required. Sport Canada will work to ensure that the Canadian Sport Centers and Institutes are sustainable and in a position to provide consistent services to all carded athletes.

Priority 3: High Performance Sport System Alignment

The existing high performance sport system is complex and involves many players. The report identifies the need to clarify the respective roles and responsibilities of the various partners. Therefore, we will be working toward clarifying the roles and responsibilities of our high performance sport partners. In order to do this, we need to first ensure that we are all working towards a tangible common vision. As a result, we will be working with partners to develop a national high performance sport strategy.

Sport Canada will also review the Sport Funding and Accountability Framework models to better reflect and align its programs with a sustainable high performance sport system.

Priority 4: Process Issues and Inefficiencies

The report highlighted the need to address inefficiencies and other issues within the current approach. As a result, we will be working with high performance partners to review the overall funding application, review, approval, and monitoring process. Specifically, some of the areas that will be examined include: ways of improving existing application processes; support to sports on a multi-year basis; whether existing funding envelopes are aligned; and the perceived conflicting position that Own the Podium finds itself in as both a technical agency and funding recommender.

As we continue to work on addressing these improvements, we will be working closely with the key funding partners in our high performance sport system, notably the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committees, as well as other key partners. These improvements will ensure that we have a more sustainable Canadian High Performance Sport System while ensuring that targeted support is provided to our nation’s best athletes and coaches.

Sport Canada wishes to thank the sport community for the time invested to provide feedback so that the Government of Canada can continue to refine its approach to achieve international success and a sustainable sport system.

The full and accessible version of this report can be found on the Government of Canada’s Website.

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