tax hot dogs, not down dogs!

It’s catchy, eh? “Tax hot dogs, not down dogs” is a new mantra that West Coast yoga teacher Eoin Finn is rallying for, in his ongoing mission to keep yoga accessible and available to all. Eoin is speaking out against the HST (Harmonized Services Tax) in British Columbia, a new tax system that was imposed last year and is now in a referendum process. Between June 13 and August 2, BC residents will vote by mail-in ballot on whether or not they want to keep the tax, which increased taxes on services – including gym, health club and yoga studio memberships – from 5% to 12% (this is a simplified explanation: for more details on the HST, see HST in BC).

On his Blissology blog, Eoin wrote:

… this extra tax is not just in proportion to where the tax dollars mostly end up, in our health care system.

In my yoga classes and workshops after the introduction of the HST, I had to raise the rates, which I had been trying to keep affordable for people for the last 11 years. I believe that a good government will incentivise things that keep people healthy like gym memberships, yoga classes, massage, etc. But adding 7% tax is going the other way.

What really bothers me about this: Most of our tax dollars in BC go towards health care. It doesn’t seem right that things that keep people out of the health care system have an extra tax applied to it.

Eoin goes on to propose a third option: “If most of the tax income raised is going to health care, why not shift the tax burden to the things that contribute to people being unhealthy and ending up using the medical system in the first place… like fast food.”

Some of the comments on Eoin’s post pointed out the benefits of the HST tax and asked him to reconsider his position. “Moving to the HST is a move towards simplicity — it untangles things and gets us all a little closer to the hammock, if you like,” wrote one commenter, referencing Eoin’s Hammock Enlightenment movement. “In terms of your wish to tax health-averse activities more strenuously, I believe that is something better advocated outside of the bounds of the HST referendum debate.”

Maybe we need some yogi economist to explain the nuances of the tax and how it will affect the BC yoga community. However, Eoin isn’t the first person to call for taxing junk food. In 2003, the World Health Organization proposed taxation of low-nutrition foods in an effort to tackle the problem of Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other noncommunicable diseases, which are exacerbated by poor diet and lack of exercise. This year, an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal advocated taxing junk food, along with banning trans fats and limiting the number of fast-food outlets near schools, as a way to curb the “obesity epidemic.” Apparently obesity and its negative health side effects place a $3.96 billion annual burden on the Canadian economy.

So maybe taxing fast and junk food isn’t a realistic alternative to the HST, but it’s an interesting proposition and could be an issue that health-concerned yogis could rally behind. Let’s hope Eoin takes the “tax hot dogs, not down dogs” movement on the road!

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