Northern Canadian Hamlet Wants Junk Food Tax

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Fort McPherson, N.W.T., is 1,100 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife and about 110 kilometres south of Inuvik. (CBC)The northern hamlet of Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories, Canada, want to introduce a local tax on pop drinks and unhealthy snacks in hopes of promoting healthier food options that are closer to home, from picking berries to hunting local game.

Municipal officials in the hamlet with a population of 776, located more than 1,100 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife, are proposing the tax, which would include a five-cent levy on chocolate bars and a 10-cent tax on soda pop.

Toby Neuendorf, the hamlet’s senior administrative officer, said the idea came to him while he was looking at a receipt from the local co-op.

“I bought a can of pop and … there was a 10-cent deposit, a 10-cent enviro fee, and I thought, ‘hmmm!'” Neuendorf told CBC News.

Neuendorf said proceeds from the local tax would go towards local initiatives. One option, he said, would be to pay people to pick berries in the summer and donate them to the local school’s lunch program.

‘Concept was well-received’

Another option would be to cover costs for local hunters and trappers to harvest local meat. The money could also be put towards a community greenhouse, he said.

Neuendorf said the hamlet’s chief and council supported the idea, and now the proposal is being looked at by the Northwest Territories Association of Communities.

“Certainly the concept was well-received; certainly the officials want to promote healthy eating,” said Yvette Gonzalez, the association’s chief executive officer.

“Staff for the association were instructed to do some research on the topic, to look at other jursdictions within Canada and outside of Canada, to see what was undertaken in a project like this.”

Gonzalez said the association will also look at possibly proposing any legislation changes, so that other N.W.T. communities could adopt similar plans.

Neuendorf said it would be up to individual communities to decide whether they want to impose their own junk food taxes

In 2008, the Northwest Territories government’s environmental levy on beverage bottles and cans brought in nearly $5 million in revenue from across the territory.

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