B.C.’s MSP Task Force has recommended B.C. make sugary drinks more expensive. The three-person panel suggests the province take away the PST exemption on pop, juice and energy drinks.
Three years ago, the Surrey Board of Trade put forward a policy recommendation to both the Provincial and Federal Governments to introduce an excise tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) and use the revenues generated to promote the health of Canadians. It was a leadership-oriented policy that no other business organization provincially or nationally would take on.
“This recommendation by the MSP Task Force is a step in the right direction. However, the Surrey Board of Trade continues to ask both levels of government to work together to implement a specific excise tax on sugary sweet beverages that will produce a greater deterrent,” said Anita Huberman, CEO Surrey Board of Trade.
Various taxation methods have been applied globally to reduce consumption of SSBs. The current best practice recommendation of international and national health organizations is to introduce an excise tax on sugary sweet beverages.
The increased revenue from this approach can be dedicated to education for all Canadians on the positive impacts of a healthy diet and the costs of unhealthy choices.
“As it relates to the impact on business, the Surrey Board of Trade’s research has shown that sugary sweet beverages add an excessive amount of sugar to the diet of children and adults leading to increased obesity and the heightened risk of diabetes and numerous other health risks. Further, with our aging population we are currently facing a wave of increased costs from diabetes and other diet and lifestyle related ailments,” continues Huberman.
A workplace survey conducted across Canada determined that employees with type 2 diabetes cost employers an estimated $412 per person annually due to reduced productivity while at work and $1,042 per person due to missed work (absenteeism). Employees with diabetes who experience non-severe hypoglycemic events (low blood sugars) lose between 8.3 and 15.9 work hours per month. Those who experience hypoglycemia at night, while sleeping, lose an average of 14.7 work hours per month.
The Canadian Diabetes Association, the Dieticians of Canada and other national health organizations are also calling for a national reduction in sugar consumption.
Currently, all non-alcoholic drinks are exempt from the 7% tax. The Task Force proposes that all non-alcoholic beverages, except non-carbonated water and unflavoured milk, be subject to the tax.
The report indicated that “simply removing the PST exemption for these drinks may not generate material health benefits associated with reducing consumption of these drinks, but these drinks do generate material health costs associated with their consumption and there is no nutritional or other benefit of the drinks that justify their tax exemption…
Research demonstrating adverse health effects of consuming high amounts of sugar and sugar substitutes raises a policy concern with the consumption of high sugar and sugar-substitute beverages.”
The Ministry of Finance has estimated that applying PST to non-alcoholic beverages, except non-carbonated water and unflavoured milk, would generate up to $120 million annually.