Junk food should be taxed and those taxes used to pay for school food programs, the Green Party’s Tim Grant told a religious leaders’ forum. Photo: Alexandr Makarov
Speaking as part of an Ontario inter-party panel on poverty issues, the Green Party’s Tim Grant proposed taxes on junk food and new pricing for electricity. The panel was part of “Breaking Free from Persistent Poverty,” a religious leaders’ forum in Toronto sponsored by the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC), an Ontario organization dedicated to faith-based approaches to public policy reform in the areas of social justice and poverty elimination.
“I am a big advocate of junk food taxes and using those taxes to pay for school food programs and to pay for supplements for fruits and vegetables for those on low incomes,” said Grant, a former high school teacher and co-editor of Green Teacher magazine who will run in the riding of Trinity Spadina in Ontario’s fall election. “Some U.S. jurisdictions are considering taxes on junk food and I’d like Ontario to be the first in Canada to do this.”
Grant cited the long-term costs of having hungry children in school. “Even the most fiscally conservative would agree that the lifetime costs of having hungry kids in school to social services and the criminal justice system are enormous, because if kids went to school hungry, they didn’t have the chance to develop their potential.”
Grant also proposed a radical hierarchical pricing scheme for electricity in Ontario, where the average household uses about 1,000 kilowatts of electricity per month. “The first 200 kilowatts would be at lifeline rates-two cents a kilowatt. So no one unplugs their refrigerator or doesn’t use lights in the evening. This protects the poor,” he said.
After that, “you round off the electricity rates but you steal a quarter-cent a kilowatt and use that to fund conservation programs.” These are especially needed in Toronto, where 50 per cent of residents are tenants with little control over the energy efficiency in their units. “And landlords don’t have economic incentives to conserve. So a pricing system that funds conservation programs is a good way to address this issue.”
The NDPs’ Michael Prue, MPP in the Toronto riding of Beaches-East York, stressed the need to implement a tax credit for farmers who turn over food that would otherwise be wasted. “Every year we plow back into the ground millions of edible food that people don’t get the chance to eat,” he said.
The Liberal representative was Donna Cansfield, MPP for Etobicoke Centre. No Conservative candidate participated.
Forum organizers urged attendees to sponsor all-candidates meetings in the run-up to the election and to press them on poverty issues.