News / Calgary

Canadian Taxpayer's Federation says Alberta doesn't need a tax on sugary beverages

The Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (APCCP) renewed calls for a 20 per cent tax on sugary-sweet beverages this week

The Canadian Taxpayer's Federation questions the effectiveness of taxing sugary drinks in Alberta, despite health organizations saying that the sugar tax would save more than a billion dollars in health care costs.

Jennifer Friesen / Calgary Freelance

The Canadian Taxpayer's Federation questions the effectiveness of taxing sugary drinks in Alberta, despite health organizations saying that the sugar tax would save more than a billion dollars in health care costs.

The Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation (CTF) isn’t sweet on the idea of taxing sugary drinks in Alberta, despite a renewed pitch from health organizations that doing so would generate billions in revenue in the next two decades.

The Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (APCCP) said this week that a 20 per cent tax on sugary-sweet beverages, or approximately 50 cents per litre, could postpone 1,200 deaths in the province in the next 25 years.

Citing research commissioned from the University of Waterloo, the APCCP said the proposed levy would prevent thousands of future cases of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even cancer.

In terms of economic benefits, the APCCP predicts a 20 per cent tax would produce nearly $1.1 billion in health care cost savings and $3.5 billion in tax revenue in the same period.

Karen Boyd, regional executive director for Alberta and the Territories with Dieticians of Canada, said by increasing the cost of sugary drinks, the province could nudge Albertans to choose healthier alternatives.

“There’s a growing body of evidence linking sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages to the development of serious chronic conditions,” Boyd said. “Ultimately, we would like to see no tax collected from this and instead see people move away from consuming beverages like pop to consuming healthier beverages like water, milk, unsweetened tea and coffee – that kind of thing.”

But the CTF said Thursday that while it’s a good thing the APCCP is encouraging Albertans to make healthy choices and discussing how to save the health care system money, increasing the price of sugary drinks is not the solution.

“If simply taxing pop led to reduced consumption and weight loss, Canadians would already be thinner,” said Colin Craig, Alberta interim director for the CTF, which recently released a report on sugar taxes that have been implemented in other parts of the world.

In one case, when Denmark implemented a ‘fat tax’ in 2011, a significant increase in cross-border shopping to Germany was observed and the levy was axed a year later.

“This is the problem when you try to solve complex health issues with gimmicky tax grabs,” Craig said. “The only thing this pop tax is going to make thinner is your wallet.”

The North West Territories recently announced plans to investigate the introduction of a sugary beverage tax, possibly by 2018 or 2019.

A spokesperson for Alberta’s health ministry told Metro there are no plans to propose such a tax at this time.

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