Of butter tarts and election signs

It’s election season in this neck of the woods, with a federal election in May and a provincial one in the fall. I was trying to explain it to my 6-year-old in the car last night, and getting him to count the signs of the various parties.

“The oranges are winning, mommy!” he said as we neared our downtown Toronto home. (Which is sort of funny, because considering the current political climate it’s rather unlikely the oranges—the New Democrats (NDP)—are going to be winning in too many other places.) Then he added, “I don’t know what it’s all about though. What are they winning?”

Good question.

Right now, it’s all about staking out territory. I was glad to read in the Star that Rosario Marchese,  provincial MPP and NDPer—is putting his stake in the ground against fast food ads aimed at children. He’s putting forth a private member’s bill that would ban junk food marketing directed at kids under 13. It’s not exactly radical—the province of Quebec outlawed it in 1980—but you wouldn’t know if from the kinds of sputtering, outraged reaction you get when you start suggesting such bans.

Like say, city councillor Doug Ford, brother to Toronto mayor Rob, who responded to a proposed ban on pop in city ice arenas with this old saw:

“Once you get rid of all the sodas and the water, are you going to go after my butter tarts downstairs, too?” he asked members of the government management committee. “I’m not being sarcastic. And the next step would be let’s dictate what we should eat, what we can drive. Should we take the bus because it’s not healthy to drive a car. Where does it stop? Where does the socialism stop?”


But if governments don’t take a stand for the health of their citizens, who will?

According to Michele Simon writing on grist.org—she’s the author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back—when food companies voluntarily agree to limit the kinds of foods they market to children, the self-regulating tends to be “weak and self-serving.” She recently attended a conference in Brussels about the European situation and emerged feeling even more disillusioned than before.

“I left … with the impression that the food industry is engaging in the same charade all over the world: setting …voluntary guidelines designed to ensure companies can keep right on marketing their unhealthy brands to children while mollifying regulators and distracting researchers with evaluating their useless pledges, commitments, and initiatives.”

Clearly, governments standing up for their children—and the future health of their nation—rather than leaving the regulating to the companies themselves is the only way to effect real change in this matter. Is that socialism or just democracy? (I say we go after Ford’s butter tarts, too.)


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