Some Montreal districts think a ban on sugary drinks is unworkable

Some Montreal districts think a ban on sugary drinks is unworkable

MONTREAL — While Montreal’s city council has passed a motion looking to ban sugary drinks in municipal buildings, not all borough bosses believe it’s a workable measure.

Some veteran councillors who voted against it earlier this month won’t be drafting those types of rules for their own districts, saying they go beyond their competency as municipal politicians and would prove difficult to enforce.

“I’m for prevention, I’m for an excise tax where it would help fund the health system like tobacco,” said Luis Miranda, mayor of the eastern Montreal borough of Anjou.

“But to start patrolling what goes into my arenas, what goes into my parks in the summertime when there’s a baseball tournament, I don’t agree.”

A working group is expected to look at how to phase the ban on sports drinks, energy drinks and flavoured water into the city’s 19 boroughs.

Miranda said such restrictions would create problems for different groups — youth sports teams, for example, which often have sponsorships with drink companies.

Councillors from the borough of LaSalle also voted against the ban, with Mayor Manon Barbe saying she’d rather see education for citizens instead of having decisions imposed on them.

LaSalle introduced a health policy in 2008 that required 30 per cent of menu items in public buildings to reflect healthy choices, but nothing was banned.

Snack bars in LaSalle’s two municipal arenas shuttered after operators said the menu requirements made them unprofitable.

They’ve since been replaced with vending machines that offer healthy alternatives as well as the usual fare.

“I don’t want to have to choose for citizens,” Barbe said. “When I do my groceries, no one tells me what to put in my shopping cart.”

The motion presented at Montreal council began as one that called on Ottawa to introduce a national excise tax on sugary drinks — something all Montreal councillors supported.

Several public health groups have also pushed the idea of an excise tax.

In May, organizations including the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Childhood Obesity Foundation touted the “health and economic benefits of a sugary drink levy” after having commissioned a study by the University of Waterloo.

Researchers at the University of Toronto also came out in favour of a tax on sugary drinks in Canada, among other measures, to improve eating habits.

The World Health Organization recommended a tax of at least 20 per cent in a 2016 report.

In Canada, the Northwest Territories government said this year it was considering a sugar drink tax to help fight obesity.

The federal government has looked at the pros and cons of such a tax, but didn’t include it in its 2016 budget, Finance Department briefing documents suggested.

But the Canadian Beverage Association has called the Montreal excise tax motion disappointing, noting that studies demonstrate the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverage calories has dropped by at least 30 per cent since 2004 without a tax, even as obesity rates have risen.

Barbe said the fact she and some colleagues voted against the motion doesn’t mean they’re against health initiatives — just that they believe it’s a job for the provincial and federal governments.

“Where is it going to end? I don’t want to find myself in a position where I’m playing the part of the sugar police,” Barbe said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet arrives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Air Canada agrees to $5.9-billion aid package, giving Ottawa equity stake in airline

$1.4 billion earmarked to help reimburse thousands of customers

Innisfail RCMP say Brandon Pitts is missing. (Photo contributed)
Missing central Alberta man

Innisfail RCMP request public’s help

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Yukon Premier Sandy Silver as Liberal on Wednesday February 8, 2017 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon headed for minority government as two main parties in a tie

Liberals came into the election looking to build on their surprise 2016 majority win

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. Sajjan took aim at recent Chinese military expansions into the South China Sea this evening even as he faced questions about the Liberal government’s ties to Beijing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Sajjan targets Chinese claims in South China Sea, battles Tories over Beijing ties

HMCS Calgary shadowed for at least part of the voyage as it passed near the disputed Spratly Islands

Transport trucks approach the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. North American trade is facing a “critical moment” in the ongoing aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, say Canadian business leaders as they embark on a concerted campaign to fortify ties with the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Canada-U.S. trade faces ‘critical moment’ that demands urgent action, businesses warn

Will fall to Canada to ensure its best interests are represented

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

FILE - Rhian Wilkinson, left, and Melissa Tancredi of Canada’s women’s soccer team attend a news conference in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 to announce their retirement from the team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson now part of England coaching setup

Wilkinson left Canada Soccer in January to join interim England head coach Hege Riise as an assistant

Canadian actor/producer/director Jay Baruchel is photographed at the 5 Drive-In Theatre in Oakville, Ont., ahead of the premier of Baruchel’s movie Random Acts of Violence, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Jay Baruchel to host Amazon Prime Video’s ‘LOL: Last One Laughing Canada’

Final comedian left standing wins a grand prize for a charity of their choice

Letters
Letter: Leaders like MLA Jason Stephan should work towards greater good

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan talks about the devastating social and… Continue reading

Opinion
Opinion: Women, hit hardest by pandemic, key to economic recovery

Events of the past year have laid bare the many disparities and… Continue reading

Children at the Port Angeles Boys & Girls Club practice social distancing throughout the day to minimize the spreading of germs and potentially the coronavirus. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula
Opinion: Teach young people these five principles

At all ages, young people may be the subject of mean behaviours… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: MLAs need to think about all Albertans

I was surprised to find more than a dozen UCP MLAs were… Continue reading

Most Read