Montreal to eliminate sugary drinks from municipal buildings
The city is eliminating sugary drinks in its arenas and sports centres.
Montreal city council passed a motion Monday night to phase them out of all municipal buildings.
The move to give Montrealers healthier options won’t happen overnight, though – and in fact may take years.
The process will involve waiting for contracts with suppliers to expire and then renegotiating the terms.
Two of out of the city's 19 boroughs – Saint-Laurent and Cote-des-Neiges/NDG – currently have bans on soft drinks.
The goal is to extend that to the remaining 17 boroughs and go beyond soda to include vitamin waters and energy drinks.
City councillor Marvin Rotrand, who instigated the motion and has long fought for the cause, explained how it might look.
“Our borough, in Cote-des-Neiges/NDG, we try to negotiate with our partner organizations. If they want to do something in our parks and if we’re involved in some way, a subsidy or whatever, that we insist that they adhere to our healthy lifestyle policy. If you’re having a picnic in the park and you want to bring a soft drink it’s not our business,” he said.
The motion was almost unanimously endorsed in city council -- with five independents voting against it -- but it does raise questions about how far the city should go.
Some councillors, including Anjou Borough Mayor Luis Miranda did express concern over how far to take a ban and on what is considered a personal decision.
The motion calls on Ottawa to follow the lead of other countries like Mexico and Ireland, which impose an excise tax, or a tax on the producers of those drinks.
The idea is in line with the World Health Organization's latest recommendation that suppliers pay a tax of at least 20 per cent on their products; that amounts to about 35 cents on the sale price, the level that results in a significant decrease in consumption.
The Dieticians of Canada made a similar recommendation to the Trudeau government last year.
According to the University of Waterloo, it could amount to up to more than $46 billion in revenue over 25 years; money that could be reinvested in health care.
A tax hasn't always worked, however. Some countries, including Norway, eliminated theirs. In Berkeley, California, suppliers simply lowered their prices so consumers didn’t see a difference.
For now Ottawa isn’t looking at an excise tax. Montreal promises to keep up the pressure, as does a similar movement in Toronto.