Ontario should reject calls for a sugar tax


Ontario Director

Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation


SOME people believe that politicians and governments can solve all the problems of the world. That by simply passing the right laws and imposing the right regulations, leaders can solve complex social issues and cure society of all its bad habits.

Despite this instinct, and as much as they try, politicians cannot change human nature. They cannot simply legislate away unwanted behaviour like meanness, laziness or evil. If they could, they would have already. That is why the recent proposal from the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation — calling for a $1.8 billion tax grab on sugar — is particularly naive.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation calls for a series of bizarre and aggressive recommendations in a misguided attempt to solve the obesity problem in Canada. Their recommendations range from a steep tax hike on sugary beverages, to a new layer of bureaucracy to implement education programs. They even call for the federal government to “conduct surveillance” to “measure the free sugars intake of Canadians.”

That sounds downright creepy.

Do they want the government to spy on us to make sure we don’t supersize our meals?

Besides, are sugary beverages really the cause of obesity in Canada? Facts would suggest otherwise.

For instance, there as actually been a 35 per cent decrease in the consumption of soft drinks in Canada since 1998, and yet, obesity levels has not followed suit.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s recommendation paper also mentions that Canada should follow the lead of Denmark in mandating a tax on soft drinks and sugary foods. This is a strange suggestion, since Denmark recently repealed this tax due to its massive unpopularity.

Denmark has been a leading crusader in the public fight against obesity. The Danish government targeted sugary drinks and beer as the culprit, and imposed new taxes to discourage consumption of these “bad” drinks. But these items were so heavily taxed that as much as 57 per cent of the Danish population crossed the border into Germany to buy their beer and pop. Much like Denmark’s failed fat tax — which was revoked only 13 months after being introduced — their sugar tax will also be repealed by the end of this year.

Denmark’s experiments with fat and sugar taxes should serve as a warning. These taxes simply don’t work.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation has long served as a trusted voice for Canadians in nutrition and health standards. Their suggestions, like the recommended individual sugar and calorie intake, are followed by millions. But this latest paper crossed the line.

They are calling for Orwellian policies to insert the government into our kitchens to mandate what we eat. Higher taxes will not end obesity. Like with Denmark, it will just encourage people to find a way around the tax.

These new recommendations are nothing but a tax grab to help fund our indebted governments and enable spendthrift politicians.

Obesity can only be addressed through more information and education, and ultimately more balance. But individuals — and not governments — are the ones who decide what to buy and what to eat. The policies recommended by the Canadian Hearth and Stroke Foundation will not make Canadians thinner. It will on make our bank accounts smaller and our government fatter.