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Liberals axe plans for 'meal 'tax'
Wendy's owner/operator says people helped kill tax proposal
Apr 23, 2004
Cindy Wells

NORTHUMBERLAND- 'Meal tax' has been taken off the table.

"They listened," says Paul Steel, owner/operator of Wendy's in Cobourg, "Enough people spoke so they (the government) didn't really have a choice."

The Ontario government announced Tuesday, the addition of sales tax to meals under $4 would not be included in the May 18 budget.

"I've decided that we are not going to proceed with the food tax," Premier Dalton McGuinty told reporters, adding he made his decision after meeting on Monday with restaurateurs, where they also talked about a concerted effort to make available healthier meals.

The tax, had it been included in the budget, could have generated $200 million for the provincial government. The PST exemption on meals under $4 was introduced in 1987 by the David Peterson Liberal government.

"As an industry we were able to educate both the government and consumers about the proposed meal tax. The Premier has listened to us, and to the unprecedented consumer response, and decided to take this issue off the table," says Terry Mundell, President of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association.

"The overall policy objective that I was trying to achieve by giving consideration to the food tax was to encourage families, but younger people in particular, to make healthier choices when it came to their eating," Premier McGuinty said.

"We don't tax groceries," says Mr. Mundell, "and we shouldn't tax a salad, sandwich, hot dog or a glass of milk simply because people are consuming them away from home."

Food service operators and consumers protested the 'meal tax' through newspaper advertisements, posters, a Web site and petitions.

The Premier was presented with petitions that included more than 100,000 signatures opposed to the tax.

Mr. Steel has no doubt the petitions made a difference. "That's a lot of people in such a short amount of time," he says. "With all the people that spoke out against it he (Premier McGuinty) realized he couldn't do it."

"If more things happen that people don't agree with they need to do the same thing," says Mr. Steel. "We can make governments listen. I think it's good that they listened. I think they heard people didn't like the tax and that it wasn't for everybody."

With files from Torstar News Service

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