October 16, 2021

Mexico proposes a 'soda tax' to combat obesity

Mexico is the latest country to propose a higher tax on soft drinks in an attempt to curb high obesity rates which is a growing worldwide problem.

The country's residents are the most obese adults in the world with 32.8 per cent of Mexicans deemed overweight, compared to 31.8 per cent of Americans, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto hopes to raise $950 million for the country thanks to a proposed eight-cent (1 peso) per litre tax on soft drinks. Mexico's residents drink an astonishing 163 litres of soft drinks a year, one of the highest consumption rates in the world.

Overweight and obesity rates have risen around the globe with the likelihood of adults having one of these conditions rising to 34 per cent in 2008 from 24 per cent in 1980. Rates are increasing in every country, even in low-income countries where there's severe malnutrition, says the United Nations FAO.

Obesity isn't good for anyone's health, but it also puts a strain on a household's budget - whether it's through healthcare expenses or increased food costs. Weight increases can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease or cancer, as a few of the issues, which lead to a heavier strain on the country's healthcare system.

Countries have attempted to use a "fat tax" to improve the eating habits of residents. It's taking a page out of the book of tobacco control, which research shows that once cigarette prices rose by 50 per cent, smoking rates dropped.

Denmark is believed to be the first country to implement a "fat tax" in October 2011. The tax was added to food with more than 2.3 per cent of saturated fat, which included dairy, meat and processed foods. While the tax meant well, it was cancelled after about a year since it had a harmful effect on businesses and led Danish residents to cross the border to buy their junk food. The tax did manage to raise a revenue of $216 million, according to the New York Times.

In France, there was a backlash over a proposed "Nutella tax," which could have quadrupled the cost of food containing palm oil, such as Nutella. It was voted down.

Samoa Air, an airline company servicing the South Pacific, introduced the first-ever, pay-by-weight policy, which charges for a persons' baggage, along with their weight.

Unfortunately, obesity rates in Canada have climbed to record rates. The Ontario Medical Association has called for junk food taxes on unhealthy foods and cheaper taxes on healthy food option as some of the organization's recommendations.

Organizations continue to debate whether it's more or less expensive to eat healthy. While fruits and vegetables cost less compared to other high fat or high sugary foods, it depends on how you measure the price, according to a study released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Foods compared by price per calorie show that high-calorie processed foods are cheaper, while if food is compared by weight or portion size than healthier grain, fruit and vegetable and dairy options are more inexpensive.

Do you think a "fat tax" is a good or bad idea?

Josephine Lim, MSN Money

October 11, 2021

Swiss residents to vote on $2,800 monthly basic income

Switzerland is considering a basic income for adults to help tackle the growing worldwide issue of rising income inequality.

The country will hold a referendum vote after a grassroots group submitted a petition with more than 100,000 signatures. They're hoping to grant adults an unconditional income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,800), which could mean a nice, regular yearly cheque of $33,600 a year without having to work.

To kick off the call for a referendum, the group added a unique touch by delivering a truckload of eight million five-rappen coins, one meant for every resident in Switzerland, in front of a parliament building. A date still needs to be set for the vote.

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November 06, 2021

Clearing up an important myth about taxes under Barack Obama

Tonight, if we’re to believe the hype, will mark the deciding moment in one of the closest American presidential races there ever was.

Barack_Obama_addresses_joint_session_of_Congress_2009-02-24And while no one’s accusing American voters – any voters, really – of being the most informed bunch, taxes once more have become a divisive point in this election.

For years Americans have heard what taxes have been under Barack Obama, and what they will continue to be if he’s allowed four more years. Mitt Romney, by contrast, must be the only antidote.

This post will move to side with neither candidate, but as votes are tallied by our closest neighbours to the south, it’s important to clear up a few things about taxes under President Obama.

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October 12, 2021

CEO threatens workers' jobs if Obama re-elected

A day after Joe Biden guffawed his way through a debate with Paul Ryan, America is one step closer to an election that’s effects will be far-reaching.

The business world, understandably, is on edge, either for what will happen should either candidate be named president or what it fears will happen should either candidate be named president.

Steve Wynn, for one, the casino honcho and owner of Wynn Resorts, has said the pending election has caused his employees to be “all filled with anxieties,” the subtext of which is not hard to see for the outspoken Conservative.

But while Wynn may hint at what an Obama re-election would mean for the employment status of his 20,000-odd workers, one CEO has come right out and threatened his employees if Mitt Romney is not voted in next month.

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April 12, 2021

Barack Obama's $1M pizza party

You know, maybe it’s our nature, maybe it’s our – how do we say? – less-voracious media, but you rarely hear the same stories about Canadian politics as you do U.S.

There is little glitz to Canuck campaigns, not nearly enough smear, and certainly no $40,000-a-plate dinners at George Clooney’s house.

Yet that’s what the actor will host next month to support Barack Obama’s re-election, with all funds reportedly going to the Obama Victory Fund.

$40,000-a-plate? Well, that’s a lot … but is it a $1 million pizza party?

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April 11, 2021

What happens to business when you side with Fidel Castro

In sports, Ozzie Guillen is as colourful as personalities get, having shown no ability to censor himself in his 30-odd years in baseball.

As a manager with the Chicago White Sox from 2004-2011, Guillen was routinely suspended for offside remarks and ill-timed cursing, though he was always treated with kid gloves. Oh, there goes Ozzie again – what did he say now?

But a move this offseason to become skipper of the Miami Marlins hasn’t begun so well for the outspoken Guillen, who let slip a big no-no in a recent magazine interview, confessing his admiration for longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

The manager has already been suspended five games for his remarks, yet the damage stretches long past the diamond. It's threatening to derail the finances of the entire Marlins operation.

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May 04, 2021

Should Harper make public service cuts, as planned?

Today, with taxes the way they are, it’s nearly impossible to defend public services in Canada.

Istockphoto_8595689-financial-belt-tightening Everyone wants their parks, swimming pools and community ice rinks, but we don’t want to pay for them, especially when there’s a nagging perception that anything government-run is a cash-haemorrhaging waste.

But no matter: Stephen Harper and his Conservatives have their majority government now, and they’ve made it clear public department cuts are a priority. Should they go ahead with them, though?

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April 14, 2021

Which party leader is most fit to run Canada's economy?

The last two nights have been compelling TV for Canadians, if your definition of compelling TV means watching the nation’s PM squirm with a “How long do I have to let these creeps scream at me for buying fighter jets before I can squash them like bugs?” look on his face. In two different languages, no less.

985299_canadian_flag Indeed, Wednesday’s French language debate marked the end of two nights of bilingual bickering, but are we any better off because of them? Does anyone feel clearer about any of the candidates’ platforms, other than the notion Stephen Harper insists on standing like he’s strangling a wide-bodied Verne Troyer as he speaks?

From a money standpoint, there’s plenty of nitty-gritty facing this election. So, going forward, which candidate do you think is most fit to run Canada’s economy?

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March 10, 2022

Gaddafi's money stretches all the way to Hollywood

If there’s one thing we can definitely say about Muammar al-Gaddafi, it’s that his money, at least from a PR standpoint, is toxic.

1099457_ciak After stories surfaced that Nelly Furtado, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey and Usher had taken dough for private concerts performed for the Libyan dictator’s family, they were forced to give it away. To save face, they donated the cash – up to $2 million in Beyoncé’s case – to charity.

Yet while these pop stars were able to proactively get out from under the Gaddafi Stink, a new report shows that a movie studio funded by the tyrant’s money is getting shunned by Hollywood for a similar affiliation.

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February 28, 2022

Is this the end for public service unions?

It's tough to be a union man in the U.S. these days. As unionized private-sector jobs continue to disappear, the burden of paying for the seemingly lavish benefits of public employees has fallen on a shrinking base of disgruntled taxpayers.

That’s why Wisconsin and several other cash-strapped states are in the midst of turmoil as their Republican governors attempt to rein in spending by checking the growth in public employees' benefits.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s budget bill, for instance, would make civil servants – excluding local police, state troopers and firefighters – pay substantially more for pensions and benefits, and would, since it hopes to subject salary increases for government workers to a state-wide referendum, likely cripple public service unions as a force in both collective bargaining and politics.

Under the bill, state agencies would also no longer deduct union dues from workers’ paycheques, forcing unions to collect them on their own. And the legislation would also require unions to hold recertification votes annually.

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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...