REGINA — Aleana Young, the Official Opposition Critic for Jobs and Economy, was joined at the Legislative Assembly in Regina on April 28 by gym owners from across the province to lobby against the 6 per cent PST expansion to the fitness industry.
“A 6 per cent PST on gym memberships adds even more barriers to fitness and mental health,” Young said. “We should be encouraging people to reconnect and support local businesses. Instead, the Sask. Party is kicking the fitness industry when it’s down. Gyms shouldn’t foot the bill for this government’s pandemic and financial mismanagement.”
Edward and Jolene de Vries of Esterhazy and Yorkton Anytime Fitness, Aubrey Shpaiuk from Main St. Strength in Moose Jaw, Jake Sinclair of Regina Anytime Fitness, and Jon Shiplack of the Kinesiology Association of Saskatchewan added their voices in protest on the Assembly floor.
The expansion of the provincial sales tax to include a variety of entertainment industries, historic site admissions, and gym memberships has been criticized by various representatives of affected businesses and organizations. The NDP has said that taxing the economic sectors hardest hit by the pandemic just as they are starting to recover is a sign of how out of touch the Sask Party has become.
The provincial government has defended the move by saying that it is one of the ways money to reduce the surgical backlog in Saskatchewan will be generated.
Tim McLeod, MLA Moose Jaw North, said that the tax is not a hike, but an expansion to match the federal GST. He added that unlike the NDP, the Sask Party knows that money doesn’t grow on trees.
“We’ve already been suffering the past couple of years. It’s so frustrating to have to ask our members for more money,” said Shpaiuk. “We are pro-health care. Gyms and fitness facilities, we do everything in our power to keep people healthy, to keep them out of the healthcare system. We’ve been able to get clients off of their medications for diabetes, lower their cholesterol, lower their visceral fat, lower their insurance premiums. All those benefits from coming to the gym definitely reduce healthcare costs.”
Shpaiuk said that she and other gym owners reached out to Young to voice their concerns and that they will be back with more support as many times as they can before the tax is implemented. She added that many gyms have already been forced out of business by pandemic restrictions, and it feels like heaping insult on injury that just as they are recovering, the province is adding a tax.
“The fitness tax will hurt cash-strapped people and businesses. We cannot afford to compromise our health and wellness at a time when our hospitals are stretched to the max,” Edward de Vries said. “Everyone I talk to is worried, and no one was consulted. I fear people will cancel their memberships, and it’s hard to blame them. Food, fuel, housing, everything is getting more expensive. At a time when the government should be making life easier, they’re making it harder.”
Wade Grocott of CrossFit 161 in Moose Jaw said he would consider joining a lobbying effort at the Legislative Assembly to protest the PST expansion.
“I believe that there’s strong evidence that increasing or building your fitness and health is going to be less cost to the government long-term,” Grocott said. “The better your fitness is, the better your body works and your overall health as a result. Putting a tax on that is just increasing down-the-road costs in other areas.”
Far from taxing the fitness industry, the NDP says, there should be a tax incentive for people to go to the gym.
“The fitness industry is there to support our healthcare system,” said Jolene de Vries. “For every dollar invested in healthy eating and fitness activity, six dollars are saved in the cost of healthcare.”