New Brunswick

Green Party proposes tax on sugar-sweetened beverages

Green Party Leader David Coon promises, if elected, to implement a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

Tax aims to improve child wellness, according to Green Party Leader David Coon

Green Party Leader David Coon said if elected, the party would impose a 20-cents-per-litre tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

Green Party Leader David Coon is promising a new tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.

Coon said he would impose a 20-cents-per-litre tax and the revenue would go toward foods that are healthier for kids at school and wellness programs.

The average New Brunswicker consumes 110 litres of sugar-sweetened beverages per year, according to documents the Green Party submitted to Elections NB. The estimated revenue per year would be around $16 million, the document said.

In four years the tax would bring a total revenue of $63.8 million, according to the Greens.

Coon said the tax has been something health professionals and interest groups have been asking for.

Coon said the revenue from this tax would go toward healthy school foods and wellness programs. (Sarah Morin/CBC)

"There is a need to improve child wellness," he said.

Coon said this new tax has nothing to do with policy 711. The recently announced policy created controversy over what food is sold to kids at school cafeterias, fundraisers, and after-school programs.

Health advocates weigh in

Diabetes Canada is one of the groups advocating for the kind of tax proposed by the Green Party.

Jake Reid, senior leader of government relations for Diabetes Canada, said they've been in talks with all party leaders to discuss this kind of step.

"We're very pleased with this," he said. 

He said increasing the price on sugary drinks could lead to fewer people buying them. 

Reid said the revenue for wellness programs and healthy food is also a good idea. 

"Sugary drinks in Canada are the main source of sugars in our diets," Reid said.

Jake Reid, senior leader of government relations for Diabetes Canada, said the proposed tax is one that wellness groups have been advocating for. (Submitted)

Reid said research shows the levy could reduce the number of people with diabetes. He said 250,000 people could be saved from Type 2 diabetes over the next 25 years. 

He said Diabetes Canada and other organizations are going to continue to lobby for this to happen regardless of who forms a government on Sept. 24. 

Not a one-step solution

Health Psychologist Stephan Dombrowski said this is the first step to creating healthier New Brunswickers, but it's not the only one.

"It's a step in the right direction, in and of itself, it would not be the solution," said Dombrowski, who is an assistant professor at the University of New Brunswick.

Dombrowski said that we can't say for sure that sugar-sweetened drinks cause chronic illness, but consuming a lot of sugar is unhealthy.

"It a good strategy in order to get people to consume less sugar-sweetened beverages," he said.

He also said that the tax may influence the beverage industry to create healthier drinks.

Neither the PC party nor People's Alliance had any reaction to the Green Party's commitment.

The Liberals and the NDP did not reply to CBC's request for comment.