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Council lobbies for federal sugar tax

City councillors are asking the federal government to bring in an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. On Monday city councillors gave unanimous support to a motion by Coun. Wes Brodhead to lobby the federal government for such a tax.
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City councillors are asking the federal government to bring in an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

On Monday city councillors gave unanimous support to a motion by Coun. Wes Brodhead to lobby the federal government for such a tax. Council supported an amendment by Coun. Ken MacKay to bring a resolution to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to support such a tax.

Brodhead said the motion came about after members of Montreal and Toronto city councils asked him to bring it to St. Albert's council chambers.

"It's part of an advocacy campaign across Canada, just to encourage the federal government to enact a decision that they've already made in terms of dealing with the health (effects) of sugar-sweetened beverages," Brodhead said.

"The science around it, I think, is unequivocal."

Since municipalities cannot introduce such taxes on their own, Brodhead said his motion would simply involve sending a letter to Ottawa.

The federal government has been under pressure from dozens of organizations, including the Canadian Cancer Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, to bring in a levy on sugar.

Brodhead cited a March 2017 report from researches at the University of Waterloo, titled Health and Economic Impacts of Sugary Drinks in Canada, which estimates sugar-sweetened beverages will contribute to more than 60,000 deaths over the next 25 years and cost $50.66 billion in health care costs.

"It certainly provides some context for the rationale around why a country would do such that we're doing here today," he said.

Although city staff noted in an administrative report that the city has not received public opinion on the matter, Brodhead said he thinks the motion falls in line with St. Albert's brand.

"I think it's consistent with what we as a community (want), and our Botanical Arts and our desire to have a great environment, be healthy, all those things," he said.

MacKay called Brodhead's motion "laudable" and suggested a resolution for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities could strengthen St. Albert's advocacy on this issue.

Currently, there are no active resolutions from either the Federation of Canadian Municipalities or the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association on the topic of a sugar tax.

"I think it would be a little bit stronger if it came in the form of a resolution that we could get behind," MacKay said.

Coun. Jacquie Hansen applauded Brodhead's decision to bring the motion forward and said it is an issue she feels is very important.

"I know there are a lot of things we can consume that are not good for us, but there is a direct correlation between sugar and obesity, which causes (myriad) health challenges," she said, adding she has "no problem" with such a tax.

Coun. Sheena Hughes supported the motion but noted taxing sugar-sweetened beverages can drive prices up significantly.


April Hudson

About the Author: April Hudson

April is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette
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