Dwight Duncan announced yesterday that prepared food and beverages under $4 and newspapers will be exempted from taxes in the upcoming Ontario tax reforms, a move supposedly meant to make life easier for the everyday Ontario resident, especially those amongst low-income groups. Yes, the daily newspaper and coffee is an important part of the Canadian way of life. But the lobbying of the newspaper and coffee industries has played a significant role in this exemption (indeed, the announcement itself was made at a coffee shop) and I believe that this decision is at the long-term expense of the Ontario public.
That is because Queen’s Park is implicitly supporting an unhealthy nutritional choice. Coffee shops may have healthy alternatives to their mainstream (and usually excessively sugary/salty/calorie-laden) products, but over the long term the government should be encouraging the consumption of more fruits and vegetables, not processed foods. To deal effectively with obesity and cut down related health costs, the authorities need to make healthy choices cheaper and impose a sort of ‘sin tax’ on the processed calorie-laden products commonly found in the convenience food industry (including both fast food and coffee shops). The New York Times has reported on how posting calorie counts has not made a significant impact on eating habits; better policies need to be adopted. A rethink might be in order.