Fountain drink of lies
By Craig Allan, Business Manager
I feel like the government is lying to us because it is just so engrained for governments to lie to the population when introducing unpopular bills.
Last year a story came out that I was surprised to see slipped under the radar for most of the public. An announcement from the BC NDP government that the provincial sales tax (PST), which is normally not applied to food and grocery items, will now be applied to sugary soft drinks, juice, diet soda, and basically almost every liquid digestible item other than water. The tax increase was put into effect on July 1, 2020.
Now, I’ll admit that if this were done last year, it would have really cheesed me off. Until this year, I would drink Coke Zero everyday. My average was probably two a day. When I entered the new year, I decided that I needed to make healthier choices. Yes, I still have the occasional Coke Zero, or other sugar cola every now and again, but it is no longer a daily ritual for me. Now I only drink it when I eat fast food or go to the movies (God I can’t wait for the day I get to do that again).
However, despite the reduction in my soda intake I still do not support taxes on soda. The reason is that there are just not that many options out there. I mean if I go to a fast food restaurant, I’m not just going to get water if I am also already paying for the soda in the combo and since I don’t drink alcohol or coffee it’s soda or bust. Even with this tax, I am still going to pay it. I put it in on a calculator, and if a soda is $3.50 then an extra seven percent tax (the amount of the PST) on that the additional cost is 24 cents. Even at $5.00 it’s still only 35 cents—that is not that much of a deterrent for me.
My bigger issue with this rollout is not the taxing of the soda, but in the way it was announced. In a press conference for the announcement in February 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says, “Research shows that teens between the ages of 14 and 18 are the top consumers of pop. This is about keeping young people healthy while taking in a bit of revenue to continue to pay for enhanced health care services for everyone.”
Won’t somebody please think of the children! It may be true that teenagers age 14 to 18 are the largest consumers of soda, but I also think they are the least money conscious group out there. If they have money to get a soda, they are going to get a soda.
The article from beveragedaily.com also states that the measure will accumulate around $46 million in 2021 to 2022 (originally posted as $37 million USD, but adjusted here for Canadian figure) for the government. Yes, the government did mention that this will add more funds to the health care system (a topic the government loves to talk about) but I don’t think it can be a coincidence that this tax is coming in at a time when the government is hemorrhaging money due to a certain worldwide pandemic currently engulfing the planet.
We all know that the government is going to need to come up with innovative ways to make money, and those ways are going to have to apply to taxes. I just don’t see why they can’t be honest with us. Why can’t James just come out and say “Look, the government needs money, people like soda, so we are going to tax it.”
Even Dr. Tom Warshawski, the chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation, says that a mere increasing of the tax is not going to change the population’s consumption habits. A more effective strategy would be to put a special tax on soda and offer cheaper alternatives. However, the government does not have that ability to impose a tax like that, so this is as far as the government can go.
I feel like the government is lying to us because it is just so engrained for governments to lie to the population when introducing unpopular bills. When will the government realize we’re grown-up boys and girls and we understand the “death and taxes” of life and they can be honest about it.