‘Flabbergasted’: Gym owners not happy with added PST on memberships

Desiree Hesson is the owner of The S2DIO in Prince Albert and confirmed the PST will be added to memberships starting October 1.

She said she’s lost for words as to why the government would put an extra tax on something that benefits the health and wellbeing of those in Saskatchewan, adding the industry was already hit hard by pandemic restrictions.

“Many of us in the fitness industry took the hardest hit out of any small business over the last two years. So, to come out of all the restrictions and all the COVID and everything, and then a month later basically be slapped with an extra six per cent rate for PST, I know I’m not happy about it.”

She believes fitness studios and instructors are doing more to help the province’s health care system and believes they should be subsidized, not penalized.

“I think if anything health, wellness, and fitness should be given some form of subsidy or kickback or something on it, because now you’re just penalizing the extra few dollars on anyone who’s trying to keep themselves healthy and well, so I just don’t get it. I guess I’m flabbergasted more than anything.”

Hesson isn’t the only business owner feeling this confusion. GoodLife Fitness, which has a gym in Prince Albert is also not happy with the government’s decision on adding PST to its memberships.

In a statement sent to paNOWthe company said it is “deeply disappointed and bewildered” by the province’s move.

“Members know all too well that the gym was one of the most heavily restricted places throughout the pandemic,” the statement reads. “The impacts of those restrictions are being felt and will continue to be felt, for a very long time through permanent closures across the fitness industry, the personal financial burden being placed on our Members and Associates, and the documented deterioration of physical and mental health among the general population.

“In its budget, the province is seeking to justify the sales tax by saying it would help offset the cost of the backlog of surgeries caused by the pandemic. If the goal is to reduce the burden on the health care sector, then taxing access to exercise and discouraging healthy habits makes the situation far worse, not better. We strongly believe the Saskatchewan government should have proposed a tax credit, not a sales tax, on exercise to align with their goal.”

The statement ends with GoodLife saying it is requesting meetings with provincial government decision-makers to share the concerns and advocate on behalf of the thousands of gym members and employees in Saskatchewan who this tax will immediately and negatively impact.

Provincial Finance Minister Donna Harpauer has defended the expansion of the PST, telling reporters at the time of the budget’s release, the $20 million annually the expanded PST is expected to bring in will significantly help to reduce the surgical waitlist.

“If I said to a Saskatchewan resident, ‘Would you be willing to pay this for maybe two concerts and a Rider ticket in order for us to address the very critical surgical waitlist?’ — because if we’re not that someone, we all know someone in our family that their quality of life isn’t what it should be because they need a hip or knee replacement — I think Saskatchewan people will support that.”

With files from 650 CKOM

derek.craddock@pattisonmedia.com

On Twitter: @pa_craddock

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