After two years of suffering through extreme pandemic restrictions, gym owners in Saskatchewan, Canada, received more bad news last week:
In October, the government will add the six percent provincial sales tax to gyms. Also subject to more tax: football games, museums, rodeos, concerts, property and tobacco.
Why? According to City News, the expanded taxation is to “mainly address Saskatchewan’s backlog of surgeries and bed capacity worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
So we’re going to add yet more taxes to gym goers, whose choice of activity is likely to make them healthier and reduce the strain on the health-care system?
It gets better. Check out this line from the Regina Leader-Post: Finance Minister Donna Harpauer “did not explain why the budget suggested the tobacco tax should act as a deterrent for an unhealthy activity, yet the PST will now be applied to healthy physical activities.”
You’d be forgiven for thinking our governments really don’t care about the fitness industry.
Or common sense.
In June 2021, The New York Times reported on a BMJ study that concluded “people who start to exercise before or during middle age typically save anywhere from $824 to $1,874 annually on health care costs after retirement, and the earlier they start their workouts, the greater those savings can be.”
You can read the BMJ report here. Key line: “Our analyses suggest the healthcare cost burden in later life could be reduced through promotion efforts supporting physical activity participation throughout adulthood.”
Another stat: A 2012 study estimated that total health-care costs of physical inactivity in Canada to be $6.8 billion. In the U.S., “Costs associated with physical inactivity account for more than 11% of total health care expenditures and are estimated at $117 billion annually.”
I won’t bore you with all the other evidence that supports the fact that treating sick, sedentary people is expensive. Nor will I bury you with stats about how people who work out and eat well tend to be healthier.
I’ll just say that increased taxation of a post-pandemic fitness industry that’s already on life support is stupid and shortsighted. It’s the work of politicians who are disconnected from reality and incapable of producing effective solutions to problems.
Fit People Save Governments Money
The only way the move to tax gyms makes any sense is if you conclude that working out to improve your fitness has the exact same health effects as chugging beers at a football game or eating a corndog while watching a cowboy wrestle a steer.
I’ve long contended that gyms save the government money. For example, every single person who goes to a gym is less likely to be afflicted with obesity-related issues.
With that in mind, you could even make the argument that subsidizing gym memberships would be wise move for the government. If sedentary people started working out, they’d become healthier and stay out of hospitals. Governments might actually reduce health-care costs by a multiple of the subsidy amount. Even if they only broke even on it, quality of life would be improved for many people. That would be a wash and a win.
But common sense is truly dead these days.
Soon, Saskatchewan’s provincial government will lump working out in with chain smoking outside a concert venue.
It’s like taxing lettuce and broccoli to raise funds to combat obesity. It’s nonsensical. And it doesn’t even make economic sense at a basic level.
The reward for all these new taxes is estimated to be just $20 million annually. In government terms, that’s basically nothing.
Against a total health budget of well more than $6 billion annually, $20 million is far less than 1 percent.
So the government is going to making it more expensive to work out to collect just 0.003 percent of the revenue needed to fund health care? WTF?
If You Won’t Help, At Least Don’t Hinder
Why not just toss gyms out of this plan? I haven’t seen any stats yet, but it would be hard to imagine a scenario in which fitness centers contribute much to that $20 million.
Just leave them alone to try and get their clients and staff back after two years of COVID restrictions. Let them try to claw their way back to profitability and make a living while they improve health for their clients. Let them actually get people moving while bureaucrats produce generic fitness advice that won’t get anyone off the couch.
When things like this happen, it’s clear some politicians aren’t fit to govern. Change is needed.
But more than that, gym owners need to come together to push back. Make some noise, and have your clients do the same.
If one thing has been made clear over the last two years, it’s that governments care nothing for the fitness industry.
That needs to change. The health of nations depends on it.